Tom Savage vs. Taysom Hill. If you just happen to be among a large portion of Saints fans at the moment who aren't exactly "blown away" by what appears to be New Orleans' plans for their back-up / #2 QB spot later this year when the 2018 season begins, you're not alone.
Savage was signed by the Saints last week at the beginning of Free Agency to replace departed back-up Chase Daniel, who signed with the Chicago Bears. He was named the Houston Texans starting quarterback last year after the team traded Brock Osweiler during the last off-season, and Savage started Houston's 2017 season opener against Jacksonville.
But Savage struggled mightily and was "benched" for rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson at halftime and did not get the starting job back until Watson tore the ACL in his right knee during an early November practice. The 27-year-old started the next six games for Houston, and the team went (1-5).
In 7 NFL starts last season, Savage completed 56.1 percent of his passes for 1,412 yards, with five touchdowns and six interceptions. The Texans drafted Savage in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He has had season-ending injuries in all four years of his NFL career.
Bottom line on Savage: an injury-prone player with a "Big League arm", but prone to bouts of inaccuracy and often panics in the pocket when pressured. And DEFINITELY NOT 'the future' for the Saints at QB once Drew Brees retires.
Then of course, there's Taysom Hill; who as most Saints fans know was the #3 QB last season and who the Saints have high hopes for. But like Savage, Hill has also struggled with a series of injuries that derailed his college career at Brigham Young University (BYU) and caused him to go undrafted last year. He was eventually signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent.
Injuries slowed Hill in four of his five seasons at BYU, impacting his draft stock. But Hill, 27, performed well enough at last year's 2017 NFL Combine and then in the 2017 Pre-Season for the Packers; that the Saints want to give him a chance to develop.
A phenomenal athlete capable of playing multiple positions, Hill played on special teams in five games last season. The Saints, though, hope he eventually will become more than a special teams player for them.
“This off-season, he’ll get a chance to really dive into our system and get a lot of reps during OTA's, Mini-Camp and then into Training Camp, and we’ll see how it progresses,” Brees told NOLA.com beat writer Josh Katzenstein yesterday.
“Just knowing his work ethic, and his mentality, and his character, and toughness, and intelligence and his desire to be a great player, I think he certainly has all the tools and all the intangibles.”
While it's nice that Brees and the Saints coaching staff have a great outlook for Hill's potential, the reality is that he is UNPROVEN at this point.
And while Hill appears to be poised to surprise a lot of people (myself included), there's just as much of a chance that he could fall completely flat on his face.
That's the harsh reality of life in the National Football League.
Which then brings up this thought, which is: will New Orleans STILL target a QB in next month's NFL Draft, to take what they hope would be a player capable of becoming the next Saints starting / "franchise" QB?
Saints fans know that 2 of the QB's in this year's draft class so far have been "linked" to the Saints as possible picks, in Oklahoma University QB Baker Mayfield and University of Louisville QB Lamar Jackson. But Mayfield at this point seems destined to be a Top 10 pick and far out of the Saints' reach at #27.
Jackson on the other hand likely may still be there once the Saints get "on the clock" at #27; but it's just as likely that the Saints will target another position such as DE, DT, LB, TE, WR, or even an O-Lineman with their first pick.
But here's another option, which is that with an extra pick in both the 5th and 6th Rounds this year, New Orleans will have a total of six picks between Round 3 and Round 7 (remember: the Saints don't have a 2nd Round pick this year, which they used to take RB Alvin Kamara).
Could a QB be targeted by the Saints during Day 2 (Friday) or Day 3 (Saturday) of the event, which will be held at AT&T Stadium in Dallas later next month?
The answer is sure they could, assuming they'd want to.
In fact, some of the best QB's currently playing in the NFL right now were taken in the Draft's mid-to-late rounds, such as Seahawks QB Russell Wilson at #75 overall in 2012, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott in 2016 at pick #135, and then of course the most famous of them all: Patriots QB and 5-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady in 2000, with the #199th overall selection that year.
And so it's with that very thought in mind, that this morning we take a very quick look at 5 QB "sleepers" that should be available for the Saints, in the 2018 Draft's mid-to-late rounds later next month.
Starting with this young man.......
RILEY FERGUSON, UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS
A transfer from Tennessee, Ferguson thrived at Memphis in one of college football's most potent offenses. Ferguson threw for just under 8,000 yards along with 70 touchdowns in just two seasons. Even in a loaded quarterback class, few were as dominant on a weekly basis like Ferguson was with the Tigers.
In 2016, Ferguson put up 3,698 yards for 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Ferguson then followed that up last season with 4,257 yards for 38 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in 2017. Those are phenomenal numbers to be certain, so why would he still be there for the Saints in Round 3?
Bleacher Report NFL Draft Analyst Matt Miller says that Ferguson is a rhythm quarterback who needs time to develop as a passer and fill out his lean frame. He's almost 6'3" and weighed 196 pounds. That's a concern because he likes to move around in and out of the pocket. Gaining weight is perhaps the easiest thing for prospects to do, and Ferguson will need to bulk up some to handle the NFL beating.
But his production over those last 2 seasons is undeniable, and it's likely that a front office somewhere will probably consider him a one year "project" before being ready for a chance to earn a starting job. Could that team be the Saints with the 91st overall selection in Round 3?
KYLE LAULETTA, UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND
Considered by many as this QB class's biggest "sleeper" of them all, the 6-foot-3-inch, 213-pound Lauletta was a three-year starter at Richmond (an FCS program located in Virginia) and threw for 10,357 yards and 71 touchdowns for the Spiders during his sensational 4-year career.
Lauletta has been compared to 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo (he has a similar "small school" background, comparable size and almost an identical quick release), and markedly raised his stock even further when he threw 3 second-half TD passes to lead the South team to victory in the Senior Bowl a couple of months ago.
With an athletic build, a "Big League" arm, a quick release and pin-point precision accuracy that improved every day in Mobile, Bleacher Report's Miller says that there is a lot of intrigue slowly building in the past few weeks about Lauletta as a developmental prospect late on Day 2 of next month's Draft.
Originally projected as a Day 3 pick (Rounds 4 thru 7), Lauletta's rise should put him into the late 3rd Round range, where New Orleans will be picking with the 91st overall selection. If there was ever a time for the Saints to get a draft-day "steal", Lauletta could provide them with that opportunity.
MIKE WHITE, WESTERN KENTUCKY
A high school All-American as a pitcher in baseball, White started his college career at the University of South Florida but wanted to start instead of being a back-up; so he transferred to Western Kentucky University where he finished his career with 63 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
White's production fell off in 2017 as he adjusted to life without former Hilltoppers head coach Jeff Brohm, who took the Purdue University job after creating an offensive powerhouse at WKU. But in spite of his drop-off in overall performance under new head coach Mike Sanford, White still possesses a "Big League" arm, a high football IQ, and precision-like accuracy that NFL scouts believe will serve him well as a team’s back-up QB and an eventual starter down the road.
The 6-foot-4, 225 pound White's biggest issue is a severe lack of mobility, as evidenced by the fact that he was sacked 45 times during the 2017 season, which averages out to nearly 4 times per game. That will unquestionably create issues for him at the next level, particularly with roll-outs, play action, and overall ability to scramble out of the pocket when pressured.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein gives White the eighth-highest grade among 2018 quarterback prospects with a 5.6 rating. By comparison, USC’s Sam Darnold is the highest-graded QB at 7.1, followed by UCLA’s Josh Rosen (6.1), Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield (6.0), Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (6.0) and Wyoming’s Josh Allen (5.9) rounding out the top five. Zierlein projects White as a 3rd-round pick, and as with Ferguson and Lauletta, could be there for New Orleans at #91 overall.
CHASE LITTON, MARSHALL UNIVERSITY
Litton, 22, leaves school a year early after playing in a total of 34 games while with the Thundering Herd, dating back to his freshman season in 2015; and was a three-year starter at Marshall, where he managed a 60.8 completion percentage during the course of that time for 8,335 yards,and 72 touchdowns, with 31 interceptions.
Litton completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,115 yards with 25 touchdowns last season, and his efforts were ultimately good enough to lead Marshall to an (8-5) record in 2018. He has an NFL body (6-foot-5. 232 pounds) and an arm that's more than strong enough to make NFL throws as well.
But he has accuracy issues, as he never completed more than 62.3 percent of his passes at the college level and he threw 14 interceptions as a senior. Nevertheless, a handful of scouts feel that with the right coaching staff and the right situation to nurture his talent, that Litton can be developed into a capable NFL starter in due time.
As of now, Litton is considered to be a 6th or 7th Round pick, and with New Orleans slated to pick 3 different times in that window (twice in Round 6 at #189 and #201 overall, and Round 7 at #245), Saints fans might want to keep that name in mind.
LOGAN WOODSIDE, UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO
Last but certainly not least, Woodside leaves Toledo as the school’s all-time leader in passing yards (10,514 yards) and passing touchdowns (93). In 2017, Woodside earned MAC Offensive Player of the Year and the Vern Smith Leadership Award as the conference’s top overall player after throwing for 3,882 yards and 28 touchdowns. During the last two seasons combined after redshirting in 2015, the Toledo product completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 8,011 yards, 73 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
In fact, Woodside led the FBS with 45 touchdown tosses in 2016. Bleacher Report NFL Draft Anayst Brent Sobeski compares Woodside heavily to Vikings QB Case Keenum (because of his smaller size at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds); and adds that Woodside is an outstanding touch passer and adept deep thrower to boot.
A slight downturn last season in 2017 is one of the reasons why Woodside isn't more highly regarded. That was due in part (Sobeski adds), to Woodside losing most of his surrounding cast (like former Toledo star and Chiefs rookie sensation RB Kareem Hunt) to the NFL. Nevertheless, Woodside still ranked 7th overall with 1,284 deep passing yards, per Pro Football Focus. He also finished his Toledo career ranked 12th all time in FBS history in career passing efficiency, too.
Sobeski cautions that Woodside needs to improve his overall pocket presence, but he's a pure passer who will be drafted late in the process only to become a reliable backup or potential starter if given a chance. For the Saints, it would be the true definition of a "low risk, high reward" situation; and it's one that could see him land in NOLA during the 7th and final round of the 2018 NFL Draft.........