It was obvious early on that the season would be a wash for New Orleans in 2012 after Commissioner Goodell ruled that “Bounty-gate” actually did exist and players in past years (under the regime of head coach Sean Payton & defensive coordinator Gregg Williams specifically) received monetary compensation for injuring players on other teams during games. As a result Williams was suspended indefinitely by the NFL and Payton received a year penalty where he couldn’t contact the team. And so began the short head coaching reigns of Aaron Kromer and Joe Vitt. The offense was its usual 28pts-per-game self, while the defense was ranked 2nd to last in points allowed.
A 7-9 record was actually a positive for the Saints after they started the season in shellshock by losing their first 4, including RG3’s coming-out party in week 1 and a week 3 overtime loss to Kansas City (in the Superdome no less)….who only won TWO games ALL SEASON.
Positions of Need
It all begins and ends with the line on both sides of the ball for the Saints. LT Jermon Bushrod is an unrestricted free agent but the Saints want to keep him if possible. The defensive line needs help after ranking near the bottom in sacks, 2nd-to-last in passing yards allowed, last in rushing yards allowed. NT is a key spot with the switch to the 3-4 defense also.
First Round Target(s)
At #15 the Saints are actually not in a bad spot. Several players will be there for them to choose from that could help them immediately. OLB Barkevious Mingo would be a good fit here given his LSU background and the Saints’ need for another rusher. But guys like Lane Johnson (Oklahoma) and DJ Fluker (Alabama), both huge OT’s from big-time programs, would also be good choices.
Teams To Keep An Eye On (Vultures)
The problem with Mingo is a typical one. He’s seen as explosive and as having huge potential, but his work ethic and strength level are in question. What this means is that it would be no surprise if a team like the Jets jumped on him at the #9 spot, or if a team like Pittsburgh were to trade up a couple of spots and work him in the mix with their veterans as mentors. The other guys like Fluker or Johnson will most likely be there to select from.
Due to the Bounty-gate scandal the Saints also forfeited this year’s 2nd round pick, which is huge as that is typically thought of as the round with the most value. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they traded that #15 spot for additional picks later in the draft since they really have several areas of need.
After having drafted very well over the last 5 years under Payton, the Saints were left without a first round pick in 2012. Their only real contributor from last year’s draft was DE Akiem Hicks who played in 14 games and had 10 tackles as part of the rotation.
2012: no first round picks
2011: DE Cameron Jordan & RB Mark Ingram
2010: DB Patrick Robinson (TE Jimmy Graham – 3rd Rd)
2009: DB Malcolm Jenkins
2008: DT Sedrick Ellis (DB Tracy Porter – 2nd Rd, T Carl Nicks – 5th Rd)