08202017Headline:

Great players are slim pickings

By: Nick Ducote

 

In the 2014 draft, the talent pool dries up very quickly.  The same can be said about the top players at the cornerback position.  All of the top players come from great college programs that dominate defensively, and all players are great in their own way.  Sadly, a lot of the top tier players are overrated this year.  Just because a player plays for the University Alabama, LSU, or Florida doesn’t make them a must-have player for your team.

Many NFL teams love to draft a big program player, but many players often fail to make a big splash in the league.  They overshadow a majority of the talent that drafts scouts on ESPN love not to show.  The players that are considered “low-tier” players have better statistics than those of the players in the top five.  It’s a blessing in disguise, in a way, because a majority of the great players will fall to the Saints.  This year they are looking to get rid of several of their cornerbacks and to get younger players on the defensive side of the ball.

Two players that are definitely on their way out are Jabari Greer, and Patrick Robinson.  The reason for Jabari Greer’s soon departure is because he’s 31 years old and losing a step or two, while Patrick Robinson has not lived up to his draft potential.  Both cornerbacks have had different careers while playing for the Saints.  Greer has been a great player with multiple interceptions in each of his seasons with us, and Robinson has been one of the worst players in the NFL since we drafted him four years ago; so what should Mickey Loomis and the Saints do?

The Black and Gold have the twenty-seventh pick in the first round.  Should the Saints draft a CB in the first, second, or third round?  The class of cornerbacks this year just gets better the further down you go.  The second or third round can get the Saints a great player maker.  Hopefully they can see those few gems and snag them before another team does.

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2014 Underrated Cornerbacks

Stanley Jean-Baptiste/ University of Nebraska

He has the physical frame to dominate in the NFL and is great in coverage.  He stands at 6 feet 2 inches tall, 215 pounds and had a great season with Cornhuskers.  This season Jean-Baptiste had four interceptions, 12 passes batted away, and 41 tackles.  Many of the draft experts were afraid that he might be too big to play CB in the NFL, and that he might be too physical.

In the past, college players have had a rough time transitioning into the NFL.  Players are taught a certain way to play defense, and that being a physical player can make you a great one.  Sadly in the NFL, with the protection of players on high alert, a good physical play can be seen as a penalty.  Hopefully he can transition well into an NFL training camp to step up his big play ability without catching the negative-gaze of an NFL referee.

E.J. Gaines/ University of Missouri

He is the best CB in the draft that no one is talking about, literally.  He is the eleventh-ranked corner in the draft even though he played great in the SEC, and was the best CB in football this year.  He also played against the best receivers in college football every week and dominated.

This year Gaines had 68 tackles, five interceptions, and three passes batted away.  He has great coverage skills and can keep his eyes on the quarterback while maintaining coverage.  He has the uncanny ability to see a play developing and react.  He is always in position to make a play, which is something a lot of cornerbacks are lacking today.  He is a must-have player that any team would be foolish to pass on.  Gaines has the makings of a Pro Bowl player, and hopefully wearing black and gold.

Terrance Mitchell/ Oregon University

Mitchell has been a key contributer to the ducks defense for the past three years.  He has played well and stepped up for them every season.  This year he had 59 tackles, five interceptions, and seven passes broken up.  He has been a consistent player throughout his whole career at Oregon with multiple interceptions ever year.  The guy is a play-maker and can step onto the field without needing any time to develop.  Mitchell already has been groomed into his position since being recruited to Oregon.  He has had to practice day in and day out against one of the best offenses in college football history. The past three years has also made him more instinctive and a quick learner of intricate offenses.  A patient student of offenses is something a young NFL player will need to learn one day, luckily for Mitchell he already does that well.

Bene Benwikere/ San Jose State

San Jose State is going to miss this guy.  He alone, for the past two seasons, has been the x-factor in the secondary for the Spartans.  Benwikere has a combined-twelve- interceptions in two-seasons for San Jose and has played well against top tier receivers.

The only reason why some draft scouts have put him so low is because he doesn’t play for a big program.  This season he had 55 tackles, 16 passes broken up, and five interceptions.  He is definitely a player no one has even mentioned nor talked well about.  He played well in the senior bowl against a lot of big time offensive players, yet had no recognition from the ESPN announcers.  Look for him to make an impact at the NFL combine and open some teams eyes to his talent.

Rashaad Reynolds/ Oregon State

He is an instinctive player with some great raw talent to make plays.  This year Reynolds had six interceptions, 61 tackles, four passes batted away, and two forced fumbles.  He isn’t high on a lot of team’s draft boards, mainly because he isn’t over six feet tall.  He is listed at 5-11, which shouldn’t be a problem since he is usually in front of receivers making plays.

NFL teams have been vocal about his height being an issue.  Luckily for Reynolds he will be tested early on in his career and is ready to play for an NFL team right now.  He, like many of the players on this list, doesn’t need any time to develop.  They have the skills to do well and play well in the NFL right now.  The CB played well against stiff competition this year. He smothered state rival Oregon University and gave the Ducks all kind of problems.  Hopefully he can do the same when put in the right defensive system in the NFL.

Andre Hal/ Vanderbilt University

Hal is one of those few players in the NFL draft that has been groomed and made for this position.  Like E.J. Gaines, he has played against the top teams and players in the nation for the past three years.  He has played well against all his SEC opponents, and has been a stand out defensive nightmare for some players.

Though his numbers don’t reflect his talent, he still shows great coverage skills for a young player.  This year he had 49 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions and 15 passes broken up.  Hal has a great knack for reading the RB well.  When teams try and throw off defenses to run the ball he was always there to make a play behind the line of scrimmage. Thus resulting in teams losing a lot of yards against Vanderbilt.  He should be a player teams can add depth with to their roster and will be a solid contributer to a team in the next season or two.

Ricardo Allen/ Purdue University

He was a solid play-maker for his team this year.  Allen is one of the biggest secrets in this year’s draft.  Even though Purdue had an up and down season, he was always there to make a play happen.  This season he had six interception, 50 tackles, three passes broken up, and four tackles for loss.

Allen has also been a starter from day one since his recruitment in 2010.  Even though the offenses he faced weren’t the best in the nation, he still played good football.  He was great at reading the quarterback and going up to over sized player to tackle them.  Allen can flourish in any system in the NFL, but if teams are worried about him and his height, then they can stick him at nickel-cornerback.  He brings speed and finesse to the field, which will help in more in the NFL when covering bigger receivers.  Hopefully he is still around when we are able to pick in the third round of the draft.

Ciante Evans/ University of Nebraska

Nebraska has had a long tradition of great cornerbacks.  The New York Giants starting cornerback Prince Amukamara and the New England Patriots starting cornerback Alfonso Dennard both are alumnus’ of Nebraska defense.  This year’s draft is highlighted by two outstanding players from the same school. Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Ciante Evans were a great defensive duo this year.  Both players are great physical threats mixed with raw coverage skills.

Evans this year’s has had four interceptions, 45 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, and three sacks. He has been a great team player. Evans has been the “tested” one on the defense for the past two seasons, while playing for Nebraska.  He was considered at one time to be the “weak link” on the strong defense.  Evans showed many offensive coordinators that his skills are just as good as his counterpart, Jean-Baptiste, leading many draft scouts to overlook Evans.  He needs time to grow and he needs to gain a few pounds, but something like that shouldn’t stop Evans from making an impact early on in the NFL season.

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The Saints have been putting together their draft board.  This off-season can be fun for the Saints.  They just need to draft the right guys at the right time.  The first round of the draft will be a trickle effect for not just other teams, but themselves.  The Saints are in desperate need for an offensive tackle, especially with the looming contract of Zack Streif in the mix with Jimmy Graham’s contract.

It is now uncertain if the Black and Gold will be able to retain Streif for another season, plus he turns 30 next season. Should the Saints address the glaring need for young player at the left tackle position or do we keep Streif for a year or two? Look for the next issue in two weeks at the upcoming draft prospects at the tackle position.

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