Saints’ first round draft picks add breath of fresh air
They’ve done it again.
New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton addressed much-needed deficits on offense and defense, which plagued the team last year. The dynamic duo put together a first-round draft class that is receiving an “A” grade from experts and prognosticators. Both players should pay immediate dividends and help to take the sting out of the chaos – from salary cap excess to ownership squabbles – that has engulfed the team this offseason.
The Saints started the draft with nine picks, the most they’ve had since 2002, including two selections in the first round.
New Orleans selected Andrus Peat, an offensive tackle from Stanford, with the 13th overall pick, and Stephone Anthony, an inside linebacker out of Clemson with the 31st pick. If both aren’t opening day starters, expect them to see plenty of playing time immediately.
Peat, 6-foot-7, 316 pounds, started his last 27 games at left tackle for Stanford. He should be able to anchor the left side of the line and provide much needed protection to quarterback Drew Brees’ blind side on passing plays. The first-team All-Pac-12 selection was selected a first-team All-American by The Sporting News, SI.com and ESPN.com and earned second-team honors from the Associated Press.
In their history, the Saints have picked a linebacker in the first round four times. Anthony is the first linebacker taken in the opening round by New Orleans in two decades and will be expected to fill the hole left by Curtis Lofton. The 6-3, 243-pound linebacker is described as a prototypical inside linebacker whose talent and leadership could make him a team captain and impact player for years to come. He finished his collegiate career with 330 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, three interceptions, 13 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and one fumble recovery over 52 games, including 35 starts. As a senior, Anthony was a consensus first-team All-ACC selection, Butkus Award semifinalist and team co-captain, who had a team-high 90 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one interception, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles in 13 games.
I am an eternal optimist when it comes to the Saints, and this is the season for optimism. I’d like to think that maybe the Saints just added potential Pro Bowlers, the likes of the next Willie Roaf or Sam Mills, to the roster. Maybe that dark cloud that has hung over this team since losing to Cleveland in September is finally revealing a gold lining.
We’re roughly 10 weeks away from the start of training camp and four months from opening day. There will be a lot of financial ju-jitsu to fill the roster under the salary cap. But excitement is returning. Let’s hope the winning ways do too.
Pick No. 13 – Andru Peat, OT, Stanford
Pick No. 31 (from Seattle) – Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson
Pick No. 44
Pick No. 75
Pick No. 78 (from Miami)
Pick No. 148
Pick No. 154 (from Kansas City)
Pick No. 187
Pick No. 230