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2018 NFL Draft

Would the Saints Be Willing to Trade Up to Select the “Next Pat Swilling” in the 2018 NFL Draft?

FLASHBACK: It's the year 1985, and on a warm and sunny early September Saturday afternoon in Raleigh, North Carolina, the home team North Carolina State Wolfpack football squad is hosting the visiting Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

A crowd of over 57,000 people, all dressed in red-and-white in honor of their beloved university; have jam-packed Carter-Finley Stadium to watch their favorite team's 1985 regular season home opener, but little do they realize that they're about to witness college football history take place.

Unfortunately for fans of the Wolfpack, September 14th, 1985 would end up being a day that they'd want to forget about, for the rest of their natural-born lives.

That's because the heavily-favored Yellow Jackets defense, known by their nickname of "The Black Watch" , is all over Wolfpack QB Erik Kramer, and literally has him running for dear life. Tech's stifling defense is led by the defensive end wearing jersey #99: a young man by the name of Pat Swilling.

Swilling sacked Kramer seven — count 'em, seven — times. The first came on the game's third play, when Swilling hit the QB from behind and sent his helmet flying.

Kramer, dazed and confused, very likely could already "hear the bells ringing" in his head by that point.

Sadly for him, he heard them all game long.

"I've never been in a game or coached a game where I saw somebody do that,"  then Yellow Jackets head coach Bill Curry said following the 28-18 victory.

"I really don't know why it happened,"  Swilling — who perfectly emulated his idol, linebacker Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants — said at the time of his school-record seven sacks.

"It just started happening. I'd look up and the quarterback was there. This is the best game I've ever played."

Swilling would go on to become a 1st-team All-American selection by the Football Writers Association of America, and an easy 1st-team All-ACC pick.

Photo courtesy of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution

He left Atlanta owning school records for sacks in a game (7) and a season (15, also recorded in the 1985 season), and tackles for loss. He was also 5th in Yellow Jackets history with 285 total tackles and 5th in career sacks (23).

And as it turned out, Swilling was just getting started,

In 1986, he was drafted in the 3rd round (the 60th overall pick) by the New Orleans Saints, the first Georgia Tech defensive player drafted since Al Richardson in 1980. It was there in New Orleans, that Swilling would go on to become even more "legendary", once he was switched to outside linebacker in then-brand new Saints head coach Jim Mora's 3-4 defensive scheme.

Playing with the Saints from 1986-92 as a part of "The Dome Patrol" defense, Swilling was named the 1991 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, when he set a team season record with 17 sacks. 

Photo courtesy of The New Orleans Times-Picayune

In his 12-year career, while wearing # 56 — his own numerical homage to Lawrence Taylor — Swilling was a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He also played for Detroit (1993-94) and had two stints with Oakland (1995-96 and '98). 

After his brilliant career as both a collegian and a professional, Swilling was later inducted into the Georgia Tech University Athletics Hall of Fame (1991), State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (2004), the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame (2000), and the College Football Hall of Fame (2010).

Now we go back from our "Flashback" to Present Day, April 15th, 2018 (this morning, obviously), with the 2018 NFL Draft only 11 more days away; which begins next Thursday Night, April 26th at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

The New Orleans Saints will be picking at #27 overall, and as of now it's uncertain as to who the team will eventually end up selecting, given the likelihood of "wheeling and dealing" that's expected to take place by all of the 25 other teams (the Cleveland Browns actually pick twice in the 1st Round ahead of the Saints, at #1 and #4 overall) picking ahead of them in the current draft order.


Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

If the Saints want to address one of the biggest team needs (or "musts' as they've been referred to as by current Saints head coach Sean Payton) at the EDGE pass rusher position, they'll actually have to get involved in a little "wheeling and dealing" of their own to do it.

As we've noted a few times in previous articles: the top 2 pass rushers in this year's class — North Carolina State's Bradley Chubb and University of Texas-San Antonio's Marcus Davenport — are expected to already be long gone by the time New Orleans is "on the clock". 

But the 3rd best (and arguably 2nd best) pass rusher in this class could be just within their grasp at #27, depending on how far he actually "falls' down the Draft Board, assuming that he falls at all. 

And if they really want to draft the "next Pat Swilling" to put with their rapidly-improving defense from last season, they're probably going to have to trade up to get him: defensive end / outside linebacker / EDGE pass rusher Harold Landry of Boston College.

Photo courtesy of The Boston Globe

As noted yesterday by our good friend, WWL New Orleans TV and Radio Football / NFL Draft analyst Mike Detillier

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton have shown that if they want a player in the 1st round, they will make a maneuver to trade up to select him.

They moved up to select USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis in 2008, traded multiple picks to draft Alabama halfback Mark Ingram in 2011 and dealt a first-round and third-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals to move up to select Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks in 2014.

Photo courtesy of WWL TV New Orleans

That's 3 different times — and as a Saints fan, you shouldn't be all that surprised if they decide to do it again.

Detillier says that Landry might be there when the Saints pick at #27 overall, but to assure themselves of that pick they may make a move up to select him.

And the reason why we told you the story about Pat Swilling up above?

Because Detillier says that in many ways, Landry reminds him so much of former Saints outside linebacker Pat Swilling when he came out of Georgia Tech.

But how so, many 'older' Saints fans who saw Swilling play with "The Dome Patrol", will want to know?

Detillier says that Swilling was taller than Landry, but that he was a good technician with his hands, had a super quick initial step up the field, had good leverage skills to get off of bigger blockers, and excellent closing speed to the QB..

That’s Harold Landry also.

Photo courtesy of The Boston Globe

For the Saints, it will simply come down to whether or not they feel that a player is WORTH making the move to trade up for.

The Pat Swilling comparisons aside, Landry would be a great addition to a defense that is only another "impact player" or 2 away, from becoming one of the League's very best defenses.

In all likelihood, it will cost the Saints a 2nd Round pick (and possibly a little more) in next year's 2019 NFL Draft to move up a few spots, or they could even try to package this year's extra picks in both Rounds 5 and 6, if they find a willing partner.

But whatever the cost ends up being should they actually choose to go through with it, it potentially would give them a player who could go on to become the PERFECT complement at weakside defensive end, to put on the opposite side of the Saints D-Line from All-Pro strongside defensive end Cam Jordan.

Landry fits both in a 3-4 defensive scheme as an outside linebacker; or the 4-3 as a pass-rushing end (which is how the Saints would use him if they end up with him) — where they could put Landry in a rotational role right away before developing him into the team's primary EDGE rusher. He actually played more in the 4-3 with his "hand in the dirt", while he was in college.

CBS NFL Draft Analyst Dane Brugler says: while Landry's a little undersized, the goal is to get after the quarterback, and  Landry is cut from the same cloth as players like Von Miller, Vic Beasley, that type of pass rusher.

Brugler adds that Landry has a first-step burst that gives him the flexibility to dip around the corner as well as any pass rusher in the 2018 Class, and emphasizes that he's very good at that.

Photo by Andrew Snook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good enough in fact, to willingly make Saints front office brass start making some phone calls. to do some "wheeling and dealing" of their own.

In 11 more days from now, we'll see if the Saints are willing to trade up if necessary to get the "next Pat Swilling" to add to their quickly-rising young defensive unit, in the 2018 NFL Draft.......



Big Easy Magazine contributing writer and Saints News Network columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer 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.....

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