Everything should be about defense.
All seven draft picks. No exceptions.
That was the desire last year for many New Orleans Saints fans, and it remains unchanged leading into this year’s draft. The only problem with that logic: It probably isn’t the best course of action.
They say it takes three years to evaluate a draft class, and that’s often true, but it feels safe right now to declare that Michael Thomas has a strong shot at being the best player to emerge from the Saints' 2016 draft class. There would have been no shot at that if New Orleans had abided by the cries of "Defense, defense, defense!"
The Saints should take the same approach to this year's draft. An eye should be on the defensive side of the ball, of course. Hopefully, need and grade meet with each of the early picks and the decisions are easy. But New Orleans shouldn’t — and won’t — be afraid to go off-course with any of its early picks and add talent on offense.
This might not agree with the narrative, but look at the roster. You can justify a pick at almost any position on offense, save for maybe the interior offensive line or fullback. Investing in the future at tackle and quarterback would be smart, another receiver or tight end would be useful and running back is a legitimate need.
There’s a thought that the Saints could simply give running back Mark Ingram a bigger role in the offense and let him handle the bulk of the duties. There might be merit to that, especially considering he averaged 5.1 yards per carry last season. Maybe he could handle it and thrive. But it’s fair to want another option, considering Ingram has only played 16 games and logged more than 200 carries twice during his six-year career.
The level of need at running back depends on how the positioned is viewed internally. New Orleans has Daniel Lasco, Marcus Murphy and Travaris Cadet on the roster behind Ingram. The team was high on Lasco last year, but injuries derailed his rookie season and he remains unproven. Cadet and Murphy do not seem like options to back up Ingram.
Maybe the Saints are confident in what they have, but there’s a reason they met with Adrian Peterson. And, depending on the skills of the players acquired, you could make a case for adding two running backs.
The Saints need someone to back up Ingram, and if that player isn’t much of a receiver, like Peterson, there’s an argument to be made for a pass-catching option to compete with Cadet. While it didn’t work out, New Orleans showed how this position is valued internally when investing in C.J. Spiller two seasons ago.
Tackle is another spot where the team should think about adding on. Zach Strief has performed well and should continue to do so moving forward, but he’s 33 and closer to the end than the beginning. New Orleans was hoping Andrus Peat would eventually take over at right tackle, but it appears his future will be at left guard.
So it could be prudent to find someone else who can be brought in and groomed into an eventual starter at tackle. In the interim, there’s an immediate need for a swing tackle who can provide quality depth.
Every other spot on offense would be more of a want than a need or a must. The case for bringing in another quarterback has been made multiple times, but there’s no need at the position. Tight end and wide receiver fall under the same parameters. While drafting someone would be justifiable, the team is set at those spots if it stands pat.
All things being equal, the best draft would be one where New Orleans walks away from the first two rounds with at least one pass rusher and cornerback capable of competing for a starting job. But sometimes things aren’t equal, and it's not smart to force picks. Sometimes, the best player available isn’t one who fulfills a team's greatest need. If that happens, New Orleans shouldn’t be afraid to go off-course and address another spot.
That’s often the best course of action. When is the last time you saw a tweet about the players New Orleans could have drafted instead of Thomas? It hasn’t happened.
When you set forth with the goal of simply acquiring talent — and those players work out — the narratives usually melt away.