AFR: Saints add talent, impact and intrigue to '16 draft class - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

AFR: Saints add talent, impact and intrigue to '16 draft class

(David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) (David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

After months of mocking, scouting and analyzing, the Saints completed their 2016 draft with five players. It was a class filled with some surefire impact rookies and intriguing projects.  

PLUG AND PLAY PLAYERS

Sheldon Rankins, DT Louisville

There is simply no reason why Rankins should not be a steady part of the defensive line rotation. Rankins’ explosion along the interior will certainly be a welcomed addition to a team that desperately needs play makers on the front end. Rankins was the guy they coveted all along with their first round pick, and he should contribute right away.

Michael Thomas, WR Ohio St.

This is probably the player fans will enjoy the most. His size and catch radius will allow him to become a regular within this Saints offense. Like it or not, Thomas is Colston’s replacement and will have every opportunity to succeed. I truly think he will in this offense.  

MOST INTRIGUING SELECTION

David Onyemata, DT Manitoba

This is the pick that sent all of us deep into our draft guides. No one knew who Onyemata was before the Saints traded up to get from University of Manitoba in Canada. Onyemata didn’t play football until he moved to Canada to study environmental science four years ago and casually approached their head coach about playing ball because he wanted something to do in his free time. Some scouts call him a sleeper, but all seem to agree he is also a project that will need to time to develop. 

His story is fascinating, but if he doesn’t produce, he’ll be just another guy.

EVALUATING THE TRADES

True to form, the Saints stayed aggressive and traded up twice. The first was in the second round when they traded back in to take safety Vonn Bell at 61. The Saints actually got more value according to the draft points chart after they gave up their third (78th) and fourth round (112nd) picks. Bell is clearly the center fielder the Saints will have waiting in the wings when Jairus Byrd moves on. He may not have to wait that long given Byrd’s injury history. Either way, safety was a need and Bell made the trade worth a try.

The second trade was much more debatable. With no third or fourth round available, the Saints moved back into the fourth round with Washington to grab Onyemata (described above). They had to give up their fifth this year and fifth next year to get him.

Onyemate may or may not be ready right away. At that point in the draft though, several solid guards were still available who could compete immediately for a starting job. It would be interesting to know just how long Onyemata would have stayed on the board and if he would have been around in the fifth.

BIGGEST NEEDS UNADDRESSED

Guard

Are the Saints truly confident in Tim Lelito and Senio Kelemete as both of their starting guards? I have difficulty believing that. Maybe they will develop into quality starters, but they have done nothing to show they should be anointed the job. For the team to not grab an interior lineman at any point of the draft is the biggest disappointment of the class.

Edge Pass Rusher

Who knows how close they came to grabbing an edge player? Perhaps it was not as big of a need as many thought. However, with no edge pass rusher, the Saints confirmed that they still have faith in Hau’Oli Kikaha and Davis Tull. I know they might see Onyemata in this role, but he is far too raw to say if he will become that guy.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

  • The pipeline from Canada to New Orleans remains incredibly strong. Onyemata becomes the fifth player the Saints have acquired with Canadian connections. The others are Akiem Hicks, Marcus Ball, Delvin Breaux and Erik Harris.
  • Call it a smokescreen or just pre-draft due diligence. Whatever you want to call it one thing was for certain, the Saints were never going to take quarterback Paxton Lynch. A source told me, the Saints never had any contact with him after his visit or on draft day. Just keep this in mind the next time all of those quarterback visits and workouts get leaked pre-draft. Garrett Grayson is still the heir apparent to Drew Brees.
  • Time will tell who ultimately won the Saints’ two big trades. For Vonn Bell, the Patriots ended up getting guard Joe Thuney and Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell. For Onyemata, the Redskins got Temple defensive tackle Matt Ionnaddis and a player to be named next year.
  • A five player class does seem small but last season all nine draft picks made the team. 14 picks in two seasons averages out to seven players per draft. 
  • Besides his size and ability, one attribute Michael Thomas clearly got from his uncle, Keyshawn Johnson, was his confidence. It just the little amount we were able to talk to him, you can tell Thomas does not lack any belief in his ability.


DRAFT GRADE: B-

Rankins and Thomas should contribute right away and Bell won’t be too far behind. He will be difficult to keep off the field even if he isn't a starter.

However, Onyemata may not be ready to go and is still very raw. Running back Daniel Lasco goes into a very crowded running back room but will have a chance to make the team through special teams. 

All in all, it was a decent haul but significant holes still remain on this roster. 

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