The Saints rededicated themselves to setting prototypes for draftable players a few years ago.
These requirements won’t stop the team from drafting someone if the profile doesn’t get met. The prototypes are simply guidelines, a best practice. But New Orleans has made enough picks starting this process that we can now begin to create a profile of what the Saints are looking for at each position.
Here is a look at the players who participated at the combine who might fit the Saints’ prototypes (offense study is here).
The Saints almost certainly made an exception during Jeff Ireland’s first full season with the team by selecting Sheldon Rankins.
Doing so is likely a lot easier when the best defensive tackle in the NFL, Aaron Donald, is also an exception, and it probably didn’t hurt that Rankins was a relatively safe prospect who checked all of the other boxes. But there are examples all over the place of New Orleans bending the rules a little bit for the right players. Most of the time, when they do, things pay off – except for one instance, which we’ll address in a little bit.
Most of the players the Saints have drafted on the interior defensive line fit a specific profile. Those playing the three-technique position (the pass rushers) need to be a little bit lighter than their interior counterparts who do a bit more run stuffing. For instance, Rankins (299) and Shy Tuttle (290) are a little bit lighter than Tyeler Davison (316) and Taylor Stallworth (312).
But most everything else is similar between the two positions here. The players need to be 6-foot-1, weigh at least 295 pounds (Tuttle is an exception), run a 5.20 (faster for the three-techniques) 40-yard dash, and have arms that are 32 inches long.
One of the things that helped Rankins make up for his lack of height was that his arms are 33.4 inches long. He has more reach than David Onyemata (33.25 inches), who is two inches taller than the 6-foot-1 Rankins.
Here are the players who worked out at the combine and fit the bill:
- Leki Fotu, Utah: 6-foot-5, 330 pounds, 5.15 40-yard dash, 34-inch arms, 10.6-inch hands
- Derrick Brown, Auburn: 6-foot-5, 326, 5.16, 34, 9
- DaVon Hamilton, Ohio State: 6-foot-4, 320, 5.14, 33, 9.8
- Carlos Davis, Nebraska: 6-foot-2, 313, 4.82, 32, 9.6
- Raekwon Davis, Alabama: 6-foot-3, 311, 5.18, 33, 9
- McTlevin Agim, Arkansas: 6-foot-3, 309, 4.98, 33, 10
- Raequan Williams, Michigan State: 6-foot-4, 308, 5.04, 33, 9.4
- Rashard Lawrence, LSU: 6-foot-2, 308, 5.07, 34, 11
- Khalil Davis, Nebraska: 6-foot-1, 308, 4.75, 31, 9.8
- Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma: 6-foot-2, 304, 4.79, 32, 9.6
- Marlon Davidson, Auburn: 6-foot-3, 303, 5.04, 33, 10
- Jordan Elliott, Missouri: 6-foot-4, 302, 5.02, 32, 10.3
- Larrell Murchison, North Carolina: 6-foot-2, 297, 5.05, 32, 10
- Malcolm Roach, Texas: 6-foot-2, 297, 4.84, 31, 9.6
Holding the 2015 draft against Ireland almost seems unfair considering that he joined the team in January of that year, a couple of months ahead of the draft. Was he able to integrate his system that quickly? Had he set the board? Was he driving the bus at the time?
Hard to know, but he was, theoretically, in charge and wasn’t that far removed from having set his prototypes in Miami. There is no way that he had set the minimum requirement for a pass rusher’s 40-yard dash time at 4.93 seconds. But the Saints decided to take Hau’oli Kikaha that season due to his high level of production in college, and it backfired. Some of that was due to health, but the Washington product never quite delivered.
Outside of the 40 time, Kikaha fits the profile of the pass rushers New Orleans has drafted under Ireland. Davis Tull, Marcus Davenport, Trey Hendrickson and Al-Quadin Muhammad are all 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3, weigh between 246-266 pounds and had 31- or 32-inch arms. All of them have 40-yard dash times under 4.75 seconds.
So, we’re going to set the minimum requirements at the bottom end of each of those marks. Weakside defensive ends would need to be a little bit faster than their strongside counterparts, so the 40-yard dash time is getting bumped up to 4.8 seconds.
Here are the guys from the combine who fit the bill:
- Derrek Tuszka, North Dakota: 6-foot-4, 251, 4.79, 31, 9.9
- D.J. Wonnum, South Carolina: 6-foot-5, 258, 4.73, 34, 10.5
- Alton Robinson, Syracuse: 6-foot-3, 264, 4.69, 32, 9.25
- Jabari Zuniga, Florida: 6-foot-3, 264, 4.64, 32, 10.4
- James Smith-Williams, North Carolina: 6-foot-4, 265, 4.6, 33, 9.3
A lot of the better pass rushers in this draft class did not run 40-yard dashes at the combine. Chase Young, Julian Okwara, Trevis Gipson, Yetur Gross-Matos, Khalid Kareem, K’Lavon Chaisson, and Terell Lewis are among them.
The lack of information shouldn’t hurt too many of the better players in this draft class since their film will do the talking, but it does make it a little harder to prototype players or check off concerns if any exist.
Last year’s seventh-round pick, Kaden Elliss, certainly changed the profile at this position. Before his addition, regardless of the linebacker position, it looked like the Saints preferred players who have 4.65 speed at these spots.
Elliss clocked in at 4.7 seconds. He could be an exception, or maybe that’s where the bar exists. Either way, it seems doubtful that New Orleans would take someone with his measurables in the earlier rounds since he isn’t a three-down linebacker. Everyone else New Orleans has brought in recently is considerably faster, outside of Kiko Alonso.
The minimum requirement for the linebackers if including all three positions, is likely around 6 feet, 235 pounds and 4.7 speed. But, in reality, it would be hard to picture the Saints drafting someone to play in the middle or weakside with less than 4.6 speed.
- Casey Toohill, Stanford: 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, 4.62-second 40-yard dash, 33-inch arms, 9.5-inch hands
- Malik Harrison, Ohio State: 6-foot-3, 247, 4.66, 32, 10.3
- Azur Kamara, Kansas: 6-foot-3, 245, 4.59, 35, 10
- Willie Gay, Mississippi St.: 6-foot-1, 243, 4.46, 32, 10.5
- Logan Wilson, Wyoming: 6-foot-2, 241, 4.63, 32, 9.5
- Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma: 6-foot-22, 241, 4.52, 32.75, 9.5
- Jordan Brooks, Texas Tech: 6-foot, 240, 4.54, 32, 9.1
- Isaiah Simmons, Clemson: 6-foot-4, 238, 4.39, 33, 9.6
- Chapelle Rusell, Temple: 6-foot-2, 236, 4.69, 32, 10
- Carter Coughlin, Minnesota: 6-foot-3, 236, 4.57, 31, 9.5
- Shaun Bradley, Temple: 6-foot-1, 235, 4.51, 31, 9.5
There are a lot of players missing here, and some of them have gotten cut off due to size. Someone like LSU’s Patrick Queen misses the cut due to being 229 pounds. Seems unlikely the Saints would be scared away by that, but that is one of the many situations where the team has to decide to make an exception.
In this case, if they view him as a fit, all they’d have to do is buy him a few hamburgers to make up the difference.
The way the Saints add cornerbacks isn’t a mistake. Almost all of the players who have cycled in and out over the last three or four seasons look nearly the same on paper.
- Marshon Lattimore: 6 feet, 193 pounds, 31-inch arms
- Janoris Jenkins: 5-foot-10, 193 pounds, 31-inch arms
- P.J. Williams: 6 feet, 194 pounds, 31-inch arms
- Damian Swann: 6 feet, 189 pounds, 31-inch arms
- Eli Apple: 6 feet, 199 pounds, 31-inch arms
- Ken Crawley: 6 feet, 187 pounds, 30-inch arms
- Natrell Jamerson: 5-foot-10, 201 pounds, 32-inch arms
The only thing that really varies is speed, which ranges from 4.3 at the lower end and 4.57 at the higher end. Otherwise, you can bank on a minimum of 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, 4.52 speed and 31-inch arms. For the shorter guys, they might need to have longer arms.
Here are the players who fit the bill:
- Michael Ojemudia, Iowa: 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, 4.45-second 40-yard dash, 32-inch arms, 8.9-inch hands
- Jaylon Johnson, Utah: 6 feet, 193, 4.5, 31, 9.4
- Reggie Robinson, Tulsa: 6-foot-1, 205, 4.44, 31.5, 8.4
- Kindle Vildor, Georgia Southern: 5-foot-10, 191, 4.44, 32.25, 9.6
- Harrison Hand, Temple: 5-foot-11, 197, 4.52, 31, 9.1
- Jeff Gladney, TCU: 5-foot-10, 191, 4.48, 31, 9
- Jeff Okudah, Ohio State: 6-foot-1, 205, 4.48, 32, 9
- C.J. Henderson, Florida: 6-foot-1, 204, 4.39, 31, 9
- A.J. Terrell, Clemson: 6-foot-1, 195, 4.42, 31, 9
- Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn: 5-foot-10, 198, 4.48, 31, 9.4
- Stanley Thomas-Oliver, Florida International: 6 feet, 192, 4.48, 31, 9.6
The big thing here beyond having the right measurables is meeting all of the critical factors. Can the player play man coverage? Does he see the ball and have good ball skills? Is he fast and sudden? Is he mentally tough and like to compete? Finding good cornerbacks is among the hardest things to do in the draft.
The requirements at safety aren’t all that different from those at cornerback, except the players need to be a little bit heavier and a little bit slower.
On paper, Vonn Bell and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson are essentially the same player. Free safety Marcus Williams was a little taller than both players. But overall, it’s not hard to see the type of player New Orleans is after.
The general minimum profile appears to be as follows: 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, 4.6 speed. Those numbers were surprisingly limiting and cut a good portion of the combine participants off of the list.
Here are the guys who fit the bill:
- K’Von Wallace, Clemson: 5-foot-11, 206 pounds, 4.53 40-yard dash time, 31-inch arms, 9.1-inch hands
- Alohi Gilman, Notre Dame: 5-foot-10, 201, 4.6, 39, 9.3
- Josh Metellus, Michigan: 5-foot-11, 209, 4.55, 32, 10.3
- Kyle Dugger, Lenioir-Rhyne: 6-foot-1, 217, 4.49, 32, 10.4
- Terrell Burgess, Utah: 5-foot-11, 202, 4.46, 29, 9.3
- Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois, 6-foot-3, 221, 4.45, 32, 9.6
- J.R. Reed, Georgia: 6-foot-1, 202, 4.54, 32, 9.9
- Daniel Thomas, Auburn: 5-foot-10, 215, 4.51, 31, 9.3
- Tanner Muse, Clemson: 6-foot-2, 227, 4.41, 31.5, 9
- Brian Cole, Mississippi St.: 6-foot-2, 213, 4.52, 31, 10
- Kamren Curl, Arkansas: 6-foot-1, 206, 4.6, 32, 8.5