After Further Review: Saints pre- training camp 53-man roster projection

After Further Review: Saints pre- training camp 53-man roster projection

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It's too early, way too early, for a roster projection. This group hasn't even put the pads on and several players are bound to turn heads while others will utterly disappoint from what we saw in May and June. It's always a good reference to have to see where the mindset was before training camp and how much it all changes by the end of it.

Here is my first 2016 roster projection:

Quarterback (3)

  • Drew Brees
  • Garrett Grayson
  • Luke McCown

In a perfect world, Grayson emerges as the clear-cut number two quarterback behind Brees. Right now, Grayson is not there. However, unless Grayson seriously regresses, it's too early to move on from last year's third round pick. Thus, the Saints keep three quarterbacks.

Running Back (5)

  • Mark Ingram
  • Tim Hightower
  • Travaris Cadet
  • CJ Spiller
  • Marcus Murphy

This was one of the toughest groups to project. I left this year's seventh round pick off my initial 53, but Daniel Lasco could certainly work his way on to the depth chart or end up on the practice squad. Murphy is a return specialist but if he's inconsistent his spot could be up for grabs. Cadet can also return kicks and may be the best receiving running back on the team. Plus, I don't have a fullback on the roster but that could very quickly change. For now, it's solved in the tight end group.

Wide Receiver (5)

  • Brandin Cooks
  • Willie Snead
  • Brandon Coleman
  • Michael Thomas
  • RJ Harris

Cooks, Snead, Coleman and Thomas appeared to be the top four receivers during OTA's. Thomas, in particular, was very impressive. Beyond those four, there's likely one spot available. As of today, I'm giving that slot to R.J. Harris, but the race is wide open. This could be a spot where an undrafted free agent emerges or possibly the Saints could be in the market for a veteran not on the roster right now. In my current group, Cooks has the most experience as a third year pro. No one is older than 24.

Tight End (3)

  • Coby Fleener
  • Josh Hill
  • Michael Hoomanawanui

Fleener and Hill's contracts make their spots pretty set.  Hoomanawanui's ability to play fullback and be serviceable as a pass catcher gets him on the roster over fullback Austin Johnson.

Offensive Linemen (8)

  • Terron Amstead
  • Zach Strief
  • Andrus Peat
  • Max Unger
  • Senior Kelemete
  • Tim Lelito
  • Jack Allen
  • Landon Turner

So many variables here. Andrus Peat moving inside likely means Zach Strief will likely be around for one more season at right tackle. Lelito vs. Kelemete may be the biggest position battle of training camp. Both Allen and Turner got second team reps at guard and center during OTA's. However, this battle never truly begins until the pads come on in training camp.

Defensive End (5)

  • Cam Jordan
  • Kasim Edebali
  • Davis Tull
  • Obum Gwacham
  • Daryl Tapp

Pass rush is still the biggest concern on this roster. Can the Saints generate anything opposite Cam Jordan? Edebali, Tull and Gwacham will each get their chance. Kikaha's season ending injury really hurts this group. Tapp can be a serviceable backup or they could go with a younger player like Bobby Richardson who was on the roster last year.

Defensive Tackle (5)

  • Tyeler Davison
  • John Jenkins
  • Sheldon Rankins
  • Nick Fairley
  • David Onyemata

Jenkins needs a strong camp or he could be a veteran on the chopping block. Onyemata is an interesting case study. If he isn't ready and has to essentially redshirt, that would be another spot devoted to a player that won't be playing.

Linebacker (6)

  • James Laurinatis
  • Danell Ellerbe
  • Craig Robertson
  • Stephone Anthony
  • Nate Stupar
  • Michael Mauti

Mauti is clearly the wild card here. I think he has the makeup to be a special teams demon and  fan favorite cut from the Steve Gleason/Chris Reis cloth.  However, numbers are numbers and the Saints invested heavily in this position this offseason. Mauti will need a strong camp/preseason to assure himself a spot. I'll be curious who they ultimately end up keeping.

Cornerback (5)

  • Delvin Breaux
  • Keenan Lewis
  • Damian Swann
  • PJ Williams
  • Brian Dixon

Five cornerbacks seem awfully thin for today's NFL. However, right now I'm not comfortable adding one of the undrafted rookies to this group. That could certainly change but for now five is the number. On a side note, I think Kyle Wilson is an underrated loss for this position group. He was a solid third/fourth cornerback last season. The Saints could very well keep six cornerbacks and shed a linebacker.

Safety (5)

  • Jairus Byrd
  • Kenny Vaccaro
  • Vonn Bell
  • Erik Harris
  • Roman Harper

Even with the health issues of Byrd, this appears to be a pretty deep group. Harris was a nice surprise during OTA's. One variable could be if Byrd is injured into the season and the team would be forced to keep an extra safety for the weeks he is gone. Fortunately, the Saints have experience doing that.

Specialists (3)

  • Kai Forbath
  • Justin Drescher
  • Thomas Morstead

As we know, the kicker who begins the season is likely not the kicker that will end it. Nonetheless, I think Fortbath has the job at this point.

Copyright 2016 WVUE. All rights reserved.