Ranking Saints draft needs: No. 9 nose tackle

A position-by-position look at the New Orleans Saints' draft needs, ranked in order of importance from 1-14:

Current depth chart:

Brodrick Bunkley. Age 31. Signed through 2016.

John Jenkins. Age 25. Signed through 2016.

Lawrence Virgil. Age 24. Scheduled to become exclusive rights free agent in 2016.

Draft possibilities: We’ve now reached the point on this list where I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Saints draft a player from any one of the top nine positions as high as the No. 13 pick.

I don’t think nose tackle is a “must have” in the draft because the Saints have decent depth. But they could certainly look to upgrade if they love Washington’s stout Danny Shelton or Texas’ versatile Malcom Brown, among others. Based on various mock drafts, those two players could both be among the highest-rated players available when the Saints pick at No. 13.

Some analysts rate Shelton as high as a top-10 pick or as low as a late first-rounder. The 6-foot-2, 339-pounder projects as a true space-eating, run-stuffing nose tackle. But he also has decent athleticism for his size to rush the passer or chase down plays around the edges on occasion.

Brown (6-2, 319) has been consistently projected as a mid first-round pick. He’s also a standout run defender with some pass-rush ability, and teams should like his versatility after he played all across the line in college.

As for the Saints’ current depth chart, Bunkley has been solid as a run defender when healthy, though he doesn't add much as a pass-rusher. And Jenkins has shown flashes of very good potential as a run-stuffer and pocket pusher with his great size though he's also shown inconsistency through his first two NFL seasons.

The Saints can “get by” with that duo for another year. And Jenkins still has the potential to be even better than average. This will be an important year for the big, 6-3, 359-pounder to prove he has the chance to be something special. Otherwise this position will be an even higher priority next year.

Previous entries:

No. 14 Fullback

No. 13 Specialists

No. 12 Running back

No. 11 Safety

No. 10 Quarterback