There’s always excitement this time of year.
People want to believe that the next Adrian Foster, John Randle or Wes Welker were picked off the scrap heap by their favorite team. They want to believe those players will make a difference and fill the holes their team wasn’t able to address in the draft.
It’s a nice thought, and sometimes it happens. Sometimes those players come in and make an immediate impact. Most times, though, most undrafted players are lucky to make the team and carve out a niche during the first year.
The Saints are better than most teams at scouting out and developing undrafted gems. The list of very productive players is long. Lance Moore. Khiry Robinson. Junior Galette. Pierre Thomas. Chris Ivory. It goes on and on.
So, it makes sense there’s curiosity and excitement about this year’s crop. The organization is likely just as curious to start finding out what it has in this year’s group of undrafted players. That process begins this week and carries on through the weekend with rookie minicamp, though we’re still a long way from finding actual answers.
The Saints likely aren’t banking on anyone emerging as an immediate impact player -- your roster is in serious trouble if you need that to happen -- but it would help if a couple guys hit.
It’s clear the team sees trouble areas in the same spots that most others see trouble: on the offensive line and in the front seven. Ten of the 19 players New Orleans signed after the draft fit into these spots, some with more name recognition than others.
The two headliners of the UDFA class are Landon Turner, a guard out of North Carolina, and center Jack Allen, a center from Michigan State. Both were expected by media outlets and internet scouts to be drafted in the middle rounds. Neither were selected.
That could mean New Orleans stole both players, that the other 31 teams were caught sleeping, and the Saints ran their pockets. It could also mean that the media and internet scouts were too high on these players and they have something to prove and overcome to make the team.
Those are the things that need to be found out. The same is true for the other offensive linemen, such as Ryker Mathews, Avery Young, Joe Cheek and Marcus Henry.
If any of those players are good, with depth lacking on the line, especially at guard, there is opportunity to make the team. And even the assumed starters at guard, Senio Kelemete and Tim Lelito, will have to work to earn their roles. Opportunity exists for these players.
But expecting one of them to come, earn a roster spot and knock off a starter is probably unreasonable, even if the opportunity to do so exists.
The more reasonable expectation for any guy who ends making the team is to serve as a contributor at first.
And that’s really what the Saints need this season. They only drafted five players. There are depth issues at various spots on the roster that could be shored up. There might be more of a premium being placed on finding more bodies on the offensive line, but the rest of the players are here to show the rest of the league made a mistake by overlooking them.
By doing so, they can provide depth at areas that could need a body or a shakeup. Wide receiver Jared Dangerfield, TommyLee Lewis and Jordan Williams-Lambert are here to show they deserve one of the roster spots after the first four guys.
Trae Elston could be an intriguing name at free safety, and De-Vante Harris, the Texas A&M cornerback, played first-round pick Laquon Treadwell tough in the past. Maybe he can hook on somewhere.
But the biggest goal for these undrafted players is to survive this camp, not lose a spot to a player in town on a tryout and get invited back to camp.
This camp is more about getting settled in, showing that you can actually play, and not screwing up.
The real work begins at training camp in July.