Connect with us

2018 NFL Draft

A Few Draft Prospects Saints Fans Should Watch at the NFL Scouting Combine (Part 1)

For the truly "die-hard" fans of the New Orleans Saints, it's that time of the year once again.

The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine gets underway beginning today, as the New Orleans Saints will join all of the other NFL scouts, General Managers, and front office personnel from all of the League's 32 teams, to evaluate a total of 336 Draft-eligible college players with on-field workouts (starting this Friday) and sit-down interviews that will determine their statuses for the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft in late April.

The annual event held every year in Indianapolis, gives scouts and general managers an up-close chance to closely observe players' physical performances via their work on the field, while also interviewing them away from the field to gain a sense of their understanding and overall knowledge of the sport's concepts and its various schemes and game-planning.

Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated

This morning, Saints News Network is presenting the first part of a 2-part series (this morning and again tomorrow morning) of a few players that Saints fans who follow the events of the Combine and the NFL Draft every year, should be watching over the course of the next few days, via the NFL Network.

Saints News Network is honored once again this year to be joined by our good friend Mike Detillier; who most (if not all) Saints fans know is the renowned and well-respected NFL and college football analyst with WWL New Orleans TV and Radio.

Mr. Detillier has been covering and evaluating NFL Draft prospects for over 35 years (since the early 1980's) and appears nationally every day on a variety of syndicated radio and television programs such as ESPN and FOX Sports among others.

Photo courtesy of WWL TV New Orleans

Mike will give us some of his expert analysis on a few of the players profiled this morning and again tomorrow, as we take a closer look at just who the Saints could likely be targeting to fill their team needs once the 2018 NFL Draft gets underway in Arlington, Texas (suburban Dallas) on Thursday Night, April 26th.

And we begin first with........

 

LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH, LINEBACKER, BOISE STATE

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

WHY SAINTS FANS SHOULD WATCH:

Vander Esch is one of this year's Draft's "biggest risers" at the LB position, which many experts feel is the one biggest remaining "missing pieces" for the much-improved Saints defense.

ANALYSIS (via WWL New Orleans Draft Analyst Mike Detillier): 

I wrote a story about Leighton Vander Esch the week he declared and in January, so he is someone I have watched and knew about quite a bit. Former QB in high school, walked-on to Boise State and he has grown into that skinny frame. Has added 50 pounds of weight and muscle since HS.

Good size, still thin-based, but he plays strong at the point of attack, very sharp young man, instinctive, Moves very well from side to side and he plays the run very well. But what jumps out at me is his ability to play in reverse. He is a natural dropping back in coverage and he has smooth "drop" skills. Takes good angles of pursuit and he is a sure open-field tackler.

He's had some injuries and last year was the first time he made it through a full season and he does need to physically get stronger, but he is a 3 down linebacker. Could project to a "Will" linebacker or in the middle. Athletically he will do well, but he will interview well and he has a passion for the game. He's a late 1st round pick guy and he plays the game on his feet and he can cover, which is super important.

THE LATEST BUZZ:

If Vander Esch can run faster than a 4.6 40-yard dash, and show that he can also test well in other skills such as the vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle, then he will be a "lock" for the end of Round 1 where two NFL teams — the Saints picking at #27 and the Steelers at #28 — need a player with his talents to fill their holes as an off-the-ball linebacker.

 

ARDEN KEY, DEFENSIVE END / EDGE PASS RUSHER, LSU

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Times-Picayune

WHY SAINTS FANS SHOULD WATCH:

Besides the fact that Key played at nearby college-powerhouse LSU in Baton Rouge for the past 3 seasons, he's also one of the top pass rushers at the defensive end position in this year's class; which makes him a possible pick for the Saints among other NFL teams.

ANALYSIS (via WWL New Orleans Draft Analyst Mike Detillier): 

Key is long, lengthy, quick off the snap, he has sharp edge cut the corner skills, athletically he is good when asked to drop in coverage and he has excellent closing speed to the QB.. Not many athletes like him and he was a really good player as a sophomore.

The Combine will not tell the whole story about him. His read and recognition skills need work, he physically needs to get stronger and he needs to add to his tool-chest some moves to get off of blockers quicker, but you can't see that at the Combine.

His interviews will be crucial and how he handles the questions about his 2017 season of leaving the team for the spring (off-field issues), having shoulder surgery, coming in overweight, playing in spurts, he had that one big game vs Alabama and then he had the back/knee issues and the finger operated on.

He's intriguing because last year at this time he was a top-3 guy on everyone's list. He's talented, but do you trust him now and you get paid and drafted for talent and availability. It's going to be either you really like him or you don't trust him, bottom line.

He looks athletically like Aldon Smith when he came out of Missouri and Smith was superb with the 49ers when he was clean, but he had issues too. I think he is the most intriguing player at the Combine because of his talent, a shortage of top edge people in the league today and the question marks off the field.

THE LATEST BUZZ:

If Key shows up to Indy today in shape, looks good in all or most of his on-the-field workouts over the upcoming weekend, and also interviews well, he could be taken as high as the late teens in Round 1, since there is a premium for players this year with pass rushing skills off the outside edge. When mentally and physically on top of his game, Key potentially could be a future NFL defensive superstar "waiting in the wings".

 

DALLAS GOEDERT, TIGHT END, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE

Photo courtesy of South Dakota State University Athletics

WHY SAINTS FANS SHOULD WATCH:

Goedert (the "e" is silent, so it's pronounced as GOD-ert) is considered by most analysts to be the #1 tight end in this year's 2018 Draft Class and has been linked to the Saints by a handful of Mock Drafts; which have New Orleans taking the "small school" superstar with their top pick in Round 1 at #27 overall (to address their lingering issues at the position and the future of current starter Coby Fleener).

ANALYSIS (via Pro Football Focus Draft Analyst Jordan Plocher): 

Goedert boasts a 79″ 5/8′ wingspan with massive 10″ 1/8′ hands, which automatically gives him an advantage as he is essentially larger than any NFL coverage defender. If a team puts a smaller quicker coverage player like a cornerback on Goedert, then he can use his basketball background to box out the smaller man and come down with the ball and quite often also break a tackle with his strength or powerful stiff arm.

Goedert is an incredible red-zone threat, with his ability to use his frame to box out smaller defenders and his huge catching radius. Goedert also possesses rare ability to pluck the ball out of the air with just one of his massive hands while keeping a defender at bay with the other arm.

Goedert excels at jumping and getting the ball at a higher point than the defender can. His long arms, explosive leaping ability and soft hands present a huge and reliable target area for his quarterback and often result in "highlight-reel" catches.

Goedert is one of the premier offensive mismatch weapons in the class, as he is too fast for linebackers to cover and too powerful for defensive backs to handle alone. Goedert’s size and unique ability make it possible for quarterbacks to just throw it up to him in the red zone with great success.

Goedert should be an immediate starter at tight end in the NFL and can be highly productive if paired with a creative offensive coordinator who will use him in a myriad of ways.

 THE LATEST BUZZ:

Goedert didn't play in the Senior Bowl due to a hamstring injury that he suffered during the initial practices for that game in late January, so a majority of scouts and personnel men still haven't actually seen him perform live yet. If he tests well and displays the tremendous athleticism that he's become known for, it should certainly make him the first tight end to be taken off the Draft Board by a tight end-needy team (and perhaps a team like the Saints — if they decide that Fleener isn't a part of their plans going forward).

 

D.J. MOORE, WIDE RECEIVER, MARYLAND

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

WHY SAINTS FANS SHOULD WATCH:

As of this moment, there are ZERO guarantees that the Saints plan on bringing back either #3 WR Brandon Coleman or #4 WR Willie Snead, and the possibility exists that the Saints will NOT offer a tender for either player. So what options are out there if the Saints move on from either Coleman or Snead, or perhaps even BOTH of them? That's an easy one: go out and get a WR that fits perfectly within the Saints offensive scheme, and no one player at the WR position in this class might make a better "fit" for New Orleans than Moore would.

ANALYSIS (via Setting the Edge Draft Analyst Ryan Keiran): 

Despite being listed at just 5’10”, Moore wins in the air with the ability of someone much larger than he is. He has an excellent vertical and times his jumps excellently to catch the ball at its high point. He gets his hands away from his body when he catches, and he has a “wow” play or two seemingly every game.

He’s both quick and fast, and if he were only used as a gadget player (which would be wasting his talent) he would still find success in the league. He’s young and flashes enough raw talent that the right coach could mold him into a monster in a couple years, and his skillset is diverse enough to fit any scheme.

At Maryland, Moore didn’t run a particularly diverse route tree. The vast majority of his routes were screens/go’s/crossers, and occasionally had some curls mixed in. He showed capability of running other routes when asked to, which leads me to believe it was Maryland asking him to do this more than a limitation on his part, but his route running needs to be cleaned up either way.

He wins with athleticism more than technique, so his NFL team will want to both expand his tree and tighten up his technique. Although he catches away from his body, he does have some frustrating drops mixed in. His hands aren’t a detriment, but they need some work. Height shouldn’t be held against him, but 5’10” is worth noting. These last two weaknesses are more nitpicks than anything, but they should be kept in mind.

 THE LATEST BUZZ:

Perhaps one of this year's most underrated players from a "big school", Moore is a guy that many are comparing to former Panthers and Ravens WR Steve Smith, while some others compare him to a "shorter version" of Lions WR Golden Tate and Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin.

The biggest question that remains is where exactly he will be taken, and with receivers like Calvin Ridley, Courtland Sutton, Christian Kirk, Auden Tate, James Washington, Anthony Miller and others projected ahead of him, there’s a decent chance that Moore could fall into the Saints' laps in Day 2 of the draft.

In what's considered to be a weak WR class, he’s a clear riser according to Draft Analyst Chad Forbes. If he tests well this weekend, he could go as high as the early part of Round 2. If he doesn't, he could fall as far as Round 3 (where the Saints pick at #91 overall). 

 

SAM HUBBARD, DEFENSIVE END / EDGE PASS RUSHER, OHIO STATE

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

WHY SAINTS FANS SHOULD WATCH:

As with Arden Key above: Hubbard is also one of the top pass rushers at the defensive end position in this year's class; which makes him a possible pick for the Saints — with the difference being that Hubbard is currently being linked to New Orleans in part because of the close relationship in the past few years (eventually leading to the picks of Michael Thomas, Vonn Bell, and most recently Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore) that's been shared by the Saints franchise and the Ohio State Buckeyes football program led by Urban Meyer.

ANALYSIS (via WWL New Orleans Draft Analyst Mike Detillier): 

I have Ohio State's Sam Hubbard as a 20's pick, but where in the 20's is the question mark or does he fall into the 30's? You could say that he's the "Ryan Ramczyk on defense" this year.

He has good height and he's lengthy. Instinctive and finds the ball quickly. Good technician. Plays hard and he's mature. Tough guy. Good pass rusher and he plays the run well. He has been well schooled at Ohio State with his hands. Does not give up on a play.

He's a good athlete, but some question just how athletic he is? Folks will want to see his quickness and his explosive nature in drills. Hubbard knows the game very well and he processes what is thrown at him quick.

He will test well and he will win over teams with his love for the game and his all-out play. I really like him. Has a knack for slipping blocks and getting into the backfield. Guys that can create pressure are a premium and so he is someone to watch closely.

THE LATEST BUZZ:

Hubbard is considered scheme-versatile and projects either as a base rush end in the 4-3 alignment (which the Saints run and where he'd potentially line up on the outside edge on the side opposite of All-Pro Cam Jordan) or as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Word has it that if he tests fairly well and knocks it "out of the park" in interviews, he'll be a safe late first-round pick, or will slide into the early 2nd Round (via Mike Mayock of the NFL Network)......

TOMORROW: Part 2

Loading...

Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

Advertisement
Shop the newest New Orleans Saints fan gear at Fanatics!

Please Support Saints News Network

Advertisement Become a Lyft Driver

Saints News Facebook

More in 2018 NFL Draft

Malcare WordPress Security