METAIRIE, La. -- A wrap-up of the New Orleans Saints' draft:
Best move: My favorite pick was Washington edge rusher Hau'oli Kikaha in Round 2. Although he doesn't have elite speed, he had 19 sacks last year -- the third-most of any FBS football player since 2000, after Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Mostly, I'm just excited to see what a player of Kikaha's style looks like in the Saints' defense. The 6-foot-2, 253-pounder projects as someone who will line up as an edge rusher from the "Sam" outside linebacker position across the field from "Jack" outside linebacker Junior Galette in passing situations. We've never really seen that double-edged look from New Orleans' defense in 10 years under coach Sean Payton, mostly because they used to run a 4-3 base defense and never had a vision for "tweener" edge rushers such as Kikaha. Now they have that vision in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's more versatile 3-4 defense. I also like the picks of fellow linebackers Stephone Anthony in Round 1 and Davis Tull in Round 5 for a unit that badly needed young reinforcements.
Riskiest move: Technically, drafting quarterback Garrett Grayson in the third round isn't a risk -- it's insurance in case Drew Brees needs to be replaced in the next few years. But it will become a risk if this leads to the Saints pushing Brees out the door before his time is up. Brees, 36, has just two years remaining on his current contract, which makes next offseason the natural time for an extension. Do the Saints still do that, now that Grayson's in the building? Would Brees be reticent to sign an extension if he thinks New Orleans has an expiration date in mind for him? There's no quarterback controversy yet, but for the first time in the Payton-Brees era, that can of worms might be open a crack. It's also worth noting the Saints didn't use any of their nine picks on an offensive playmaker to help replace departed tight end Jimmy Graham and receiver Kenny Stills.
Most surprising move: At least we anticipated the QB pick coming. The bigger surprise was the Saints' decision to draft offensive tackle Andrus Peat with the 13th pick in Round 1. There's nothing wrong with Peat, a big, athletic specimen with the potential to develop into the best left tackle in this year's draft class. It just didn't rank among the top priorities for a Saints team that already has a young left tackle in Terron Armstead and a solid veteran right tackle in Zach Strief. Payton said none of them are expected to move to guard, so one of those three tackles will be sitting and watching from the sideline this year.
File it away: This draft had some sleeper fantasy implications, as the Saints didn't draft any receivers or tight ends. That means young incumbents such as tight end Josh Hill and receivers Nick Toon, Seantavius Jones and Brandon Coleman all have a chance to play much bigger roles in this offense now that Graham and Stills are gone. Payton mentioned how much he liked Hill, Coleman and Jones after the trades, and he continued to talk up Jones and Coleman on Saturday. This draft backed up his lofty praise.
My take: It was more solid than spectacular, but it's hard not to like a draft that included a total of nine picks, two first-rounders and three in the top 78. I'd be even more excited if the Saints addressed more of their glaring short-term needs, instead of going with an OT and QB in the first four picks. But they did restock the defense with six of their top eight picks. Thumbs up.