The morning links got benched a couple times because the breaking New Orleans Saints news earlier in the week altered the normal schedule. So I'll pack a lot of the week's highlights into an expanded segment of “Worth a click” today:
First of all, make sure to check out ESPN's Carolina Panthers team page. Panthers reporter David Newton has been click-worthy all week, including an entertaining feature on Carolina's Captain Munnerlyn, a short cornerback who plays big. And follow David on Twitter @DNewtonESPN.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay offered up his first mock draft for 2014 this week. For the Saints, McShay went with Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson. I don't know much about Roberson, but I'm perfectly fine with the idea of the Saints taking a corner. First of all, they won't get locked into any specific position (though I'd rank the offensive line, cornerbacks and pass-rushers among the top priorities). And they could use another young cornerback to develop into a future starter even if veteran Jabari Greer comes back strong from a major knee injury. Teams in today's NFL can never have enough talent at cornerback.
As for this year's current rookie class, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro third among NFL rookies this season. You'll get no arguments from me. In fact, I wonder if Vaccaro's done enough to warrant Pro Bowl consideration in his first year. Two of Kiper's Top 5 will be on the field when the Saints play at Carolina on Sunday (Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is also having a standout season).
Saints quarterback Drew Brees dropped down to No. 4 on Dan Graziano's weekly MVP watch for ESPN.com. I think if Brees plays well on Sunday he could vault back up to No. 2 by season's end. But I don't think it matters at this point. I'm not sure anyone will receive a single vote, other than Peyton Manning.
ESPN analyst Herm Edwards ranked his top 5 in a much more crowded race -- the Coach of the Year battle. Saints coach Sean Payton didn't make the top 5 -- probably because of the Saints' recent slump. If New Orleans finishes as the NFC's No. 2 seed, though, I think Payton would be a top-five candidate. I have no problem with any of the names on Edwards' list, though. Kansas City's Andy Reid is the heavy and deserved favorite. Carolina's Ron Rivera needs to win Sunday to be worthy of the No. 2 spot on the list. Miami's Joe Philbin and New England's Bill Belichick have handled different kinds of adversity well this year. And Seattle's Pete Carroll is obviously doing a great job.
One Saints player made Grantland.com's all-bargain team -- backup safety Rafael Bush. That's impressive considering he's the fourth safety on New Orleans' depth chart. But that shows how much Saints defensive coordinator values the position and finds ways to get guys on the field. Two Panthers defensive backs are also on the list.
Only two of 12 ESPN analysts picked the Saints to win Sunday. That actually surprises me. I picked the Saints to win, but I think this game is a toss-up, considering the home field.
The Saints do an excellent job of getting involved in the community on players' off days throughout the season. And that was absolutely the case this week with Christmas approaching. On Tuesday, a group of Saints teamed with Verizon to perform random acts of kindness around town. Several players handed out gifts at a local hospital. And players like Mark Ingram, Benjamin Watson, Lance Moore and Ben Grubbs hosted various charity events.
Times-Picayune columnist Jeff Duncan wrote about the Saints' need to start faster -- especially on the road.