Indianapolis, In. - Coming off a season that set an NFL record in futility, the new look Saints defense led by Rob Ryan must now improve a unit that surrendered the most yards in NFL history. The 2013 draft is a great place to start.
With the 15th overall selection in the first round, the Saints could have several options available beginning with one of their biggest needs: an explosive pass rusher. BYU's Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah is big on potential but low on repetitions and only started playing football in 2010. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says Ansah may have the highest upside of any player this draft:
"This is an interesting defensive end and outside linebacker class because a lot of them, you're betting on the upside and Ansah is certainly one of them. Minimal amount of football, average practice week at the Senior Bowl which is important to me because he was only average and then he dominated the game so I think there are a lot of questions about the guy but you can't question his movement skills, his size, and his motor. When people try to compare him to [Jason Pierre Paul of the New York Giants] I take a step back. JPP was better and even though he was raw, he was further along. Ziggy Ansah has that kind of ability, but he's even more raw than Ansah so at what point do you pull the trigger."
Oregon's Dion Jordan could also be available to the Saints at 15 but there's a risk; Jordan has a torn labrum and reportedly may not be ready for three to four months. Georgia's Jarvis Jones is projected to go high but could fall to the Saints at 15. He was incredibly productive with 24 sacks in two seasons but he also has health concerns with spinal stenosis although he says he's healthy enough to give it a go "Everybody felt me and pulled me and yanked me," Jones said. "They understand where it's at and we haven't gotten any final word on what everybody thinks but I feel really good about today."
Florida State's Bjoern Werner and LSU's Sam Montgomery could also be available for the Saints, the question for both players, though, is one of identity. Are they 4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers? Both players insist they can flourish in both schemes:
"I did it at Florida State when Brandon Jenkins went down," Werner said. "He was our 3-4 outside linebacker and I replaced him and I think I did a good job."
"I could see myself in [the Saints'] system," Montgomery declared. "I think that Louisiana has done me very well in the past years and it will be a good networking base. I already have fans there from Baton Rouge so Louisiana just might be my state where I call home."