New Orleans Saints 2012 NFL Draft Review

Akiem Hicks

The Saints were left fighting in the 2012 draft with a short stick. The first round pick was traded away to New England for Mark Ingram in 2011. The league then forfeited New Orleans’ selection in the second round for the “Bounty-Gate” scandal. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks was the first pick at 89 overall in the third round. The defensive line was a priority in the draft with Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin jettisoned because of their lack of production. Unrestricted free agent Broderick Bunkley signed a five year $25 million dollar contract with $9 million guaranteed. Bunkley’s value is his ability to one-gap as a shade 4-3 nose tackle. He is solid stopping the run but he had only six sacks in his six years in the league. Left guard Carl Nicks signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs then the Saints immediately pounced on the Ravens’ Ben Grubbs to fill a priority position in the front wall that protects Drew Brees. Nicks and right guard Jahri Evans help keep the pocket clean so Brees can step up and step into his downfield throws. Grubbs was the best available option once Nicks decided on Tampa Bay’s offer. Grubbs signed a five year $36 million dollar contract that included a $10 million dollar signing bonus and $16 million guaranteed money. Robert Meachem signed with San Diego so General Manager Mickey Loomis countered by drafting Wisconsin receiver Nick Toon. The big receiver lacks Meachem’s vertical speed, but has the size that the Saints covet in their feature and complementary receivers. Corner Tracy Porter’s loss in free agency to the Broncos will give Jabari Greer, Elbert Mack, and fifth round draft choice Corey White an opportunity to start. White has corner skills and is physical at playing off blockers. Akiem Hicks confirmed suspicions about his speed and range over five mini-camp sessions. He is a big man with long arms and big hands for the position. Strong enough to push the pocket, he has explosive first step quickness. Hicks has the size to stay in and stack the block and has a good upside based on measurables. He will need pro physical development and consistent footwork to get leverage. Nick Toon left a positive impression on the Saints’ coaching staff after the rookie mini-camp in May. He demonstrated good speed and hands during drills. Talent is not a problem, but overcoming a history of injuries will be the only thing holding him back. Corey White is an outstanding athlete who may get a look as a cover-two corner, but is projected to play strong safety. He should make significant contributions on special teams while he’s learning Steve Spagnuolo’s defensive package. An ascending player, he has the ability to be a strong run support player and tackler. Andrew Tiller was coached by former Saints’ offensive line coach, now Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone. A big wide-bodied mauler, he looks to be a developmental player on the practice squad. Marcel Jones is a long-torso position blocker who uses his hands well. He has the size, arm length, and mobility to develop as a right tackle. He plays square as a pass protector and plays with balance. Jones is rarely on the ground. It’s not always pretty, but he’s effective – he can sit down in pass protection, slide his feet, redirect, and hustle downfield to make a block. He definitely has the desired measurables but needs to develop a higher position skill level. .

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