With Nick Toon signing a 4 year contract yesterday, the Saints have now signed every outstanding player in limbo (Brees and Toon were the last two) and they will enter training camp with no contract disputes and every player under contract. The new CBA affords all teams the luxury of virtually set pricing for draft picks depending on where they were selected, so there is almost no room for negotiations. That leads to almost no hold outs and it makes the process infinitely easier on the Mickey Loomis’ of the world. It also prevents guys like JaMarcus Russell from being paid more than Peyton Manning. Now that all the rookies are under contract, I’d like to revisit who the Saints selected, and where they stand in their chances of making the roster.
3rd Round Pick – DT Akiem Hicks: Hicks was the Saints’ first selection after the NFL took away the 2nd round pick in light of the bounty gate fiasco. It’s well documented by now that the Saints took a bit of a flyer on Hicks. He’s a bit of an athletic freak, which is why the Saints felt he was worth the risk, but he’s extremely raw. Coming from Canada, it’s safe to say he’s gotten subpar coaching and he’ll need some time to get acclimated to the NFL. His career so far is pretty far removed from the transitional blueprint most players follow. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, 2012 is almost certainly a redshirt season for Hicks and I don’t see him playing any. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the Saints shelve him on injured reserve with a fake “sprained ankle” for the season. The Saints have Brodrick Bunkley, Sedrick Ellis, Remi Ayodele and Tom Johnson as veterans at defensive tackle, and I don’t see Hicks stealing any playing time from a single one of them – they are all way more polished. Based on the Saints releasing Al Woods last year, I wouldn’t be shocked if he was cut and then added to the practice squad if no one claims him off waivers. I just have this feeling he ends up on IR though, so I’m calling it now.
My odds of him making 53 man roster: 45%
4th Round Pick – WR Nick Toon: Like Hicks, Toon faces stiff competition. Unlike Hicks, he comes way more NFL ready. Toon can already do all the things you want out of receiver – catch, run, block and run good routes. Toon is as polished of a rookie as you’ll find, in part thanks to his father Al Toon’s tutelage, as he was a star NFL receiver in his own right back in the day. The only thing really missing is explosiveness. The top 3 receiver spots are locked down by Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson. The Saints traditionally keep 6 receivers with one spot going to Courtney Roby on special teams. So the way I see it, it’s Joe Morgan, Adrian Arrington and Nick Toon battling for two roster spots. If Toon can stay healthy, he’s got a terrific shot at being the fourth receiver. I believe the Saints would love to hang on to Morgan because of his speed, and with Robert Meachem gone they will need to replace him with another guy that can stretch the field. For that reason, I think Toon is more in direct competition with Adrian Arrington. Arrington has the advantage of having been around and knowing the system, but he’s been a chronic underachiever and he’s struggled to stay healthy. This is Arrington’s last chance to make an impression, otherwise the Saints will roll with Toon as the #4 receiver. I think it would be a pretty big upset if Toon didn’t make this team, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make some plays over the course of the season. I’m predicting between 15 and 20 catches for him in 2012.
My odds of him making 53 man roster: 80%
5th Round Pick – CB/SS Corey White: All signs point to White playing cornerback for the Saints, at least for now. The Saints are weak at depth at both cornerback and safety, so either way he’s got a good shot of making the 53 man roster if he can show the Saints anything. The main competition is Elbert Mack at corner for the dime back (4th corner) and Jonathon Amaya at strong safety. Neither of those are amazing by any means, but solid veterans who will have the advantage of familiarity. Even if White doesn’t beat out Mack, it’s likely the Saints would keep 5 corners, so if he shows any ability on special teams he’s a lock to stay. I think it’s highly likely he makes the team.
My odds of him making 53 man roster: 65%
6th Round Pick – G Andrew Tiller: He’s not going to start, that’s a given. Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans have that on lockdown. The Saints kept a shockingly low number of linemen reserves last year, sometimes as low as just two (Matt Tennant and Charles Brown). Tiller’s odds increase if the Saints decide to keep 3 or 4 reserves on the roster, but he’s another practice squad candidate. Matt Tennant is the top interior lineman reserve and he seems to have a spot locked up, so Tiller will be battling with Eric Olsen to try to prove to the Saints they should keep him.
My odds of him making 53 man roster: 40%
7th Round Pick – T Marcel Jones: Jones’ only real competition for a backup spot at tackle is Charles Brown. The Saints invested a high pick in Brown so you’d think they’re counting on him, but his play time last year before a season ending injury was a complete disaster. Don’t rule out Fenuki Topou surprising some people in training camp either. Jones is another guy that could end up on the practice squad, but I think he’ll turn some head’s and he’s my dark horse prediction to make the 53 man roster.
My odds of him making 53 man roster: 50%