2014 Depth Chart: New Orleans Saints

| June 6, 2014

2014 depth update NO

[Chart last updated 7/7/14]

Notes

•  Pierre Thomas rushed for just 549 yards last year but is a high quality starter? Well, yes an that’s because of his impressive all-around work, with the versatile running back finishing 2013 with 77 receptions and forcing 43 missed tackles from 224 total touches on offense. He’ll have competition at the position in 2014, but his overall performance should see him be a key part of the Saints’ offense this year.

•  Though they are set with most of their starters, there is a fair amount of uncertainty when it comes to the Saints’ depth heading into the new season, particularly on offense, where we’ve seen enough of just two players to get a true impression of their play. That’s not to say that some of these players won’t step up, just that we’ve yet to see them prove it. This only really becomes an issue if they have to deal with a few too many injuries on offense, but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

•  The Saints’ biggest problem defensively is at inside linebacker, where neither Curtis Lofton or David Hawthorne provide much of what you’d look for from your men in the middle. Both have had success at some point in their careers, but at this stage they are the only players on Saints’ starting defense that we have as below average or worse.

•  The one player to keep an eye on in New Orleans this year is outside linebacker Victor Butler. Picked up as a free agent last year after spending four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, he missed all of 2013 through injury. Yet when you look back at his career in Dallas, there is a real possibility for him to emerge as a breakout candidate in New Orleans when fully healthy. For now we’ve been precautionary and left him as an average starter, given that he hasn’t played too many snaps over the years, but his potential is definitely higher than that.

Roster Battles

With a team like New Orleans, a perennial contender, there aren’t likely to be too many roster battles, particularly for starting roles, but despite their talent there are still some areas to cover here.

1.  Running Back

Obviously given the category we have him in, we believe that Thomas is a very good player but, even with Darren Sproles heading to Philadelphia, it’s still a crowded backfield in New Orleans. Former first round draft pick Mark Ingram looked much more like the player the Saints thought they were getting when they drafted him late last year, while Khiry Robinson flashed potential in the playoffs.

2.  Outside Linebacker

As much as I like Butler, he does still need to beat out Parys Haralson to claim a starting spot in 2014, something Haralson will likely have something to say about given his solid play in 2013. He may not have been electrifying as a pass rusher, but he was stellar against the run and gave a good account of himself. Still, I like the potential of Butler too much to bet against him at this stage.

 

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Comments (30)

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  1. heyjoe says:

    Who Dat???????????

  2. Chris says:

    Can’t find much to argue with here.

  3. Pablo says:

    Jahri Evans is a 5 time All Pro. How is he not listed as a good starter or elite? Grubbs is another perennial pro bowler. The valuation of Lofton is also highly laughable, he’s the captain of one of the best defenses in the league.

    • Chris says:

      If you checked this year’s grades, you’d see Grubbs graded as the 5th best LG, and Evans was the 7th best RG. Neither of those qualifies for Elite. They also specified that this isn’t based on past performance, but how they played in the current year. They may have been Pro Bowlers, which in itself is a popularity contest and not a basis for skill evaluation, but they aren’t Elite at their position.

      Also, if you’ll look up Lofton you’ll find he graded as the 23rd best 3-4 ILB, in the red, and below average. Just because you call the signals doesn’t mean you play the position well – Rey Maualuga is Exhibit A for that.

      I thought they were generous with Hawthorne – I’d have grade him Red.

      • Pablo says:

        Evans is coming off his 5th consecutive All Pro season, meaning he is the best RG in the league. Not pro-bowl, but All-pro.

        • Chris says:

          All Pro is another popularity contest, only with the media instead of fans.

          Evans’ ranks since 2007 (overall, RG):

          2007: 4th, 2nd
          2008: 7th, 3rd
          2009: 1st, 1st
          2010: 31st, 15th
          2011: 11th, 6th
          2012: 8th, 5th
          2013: 16th, 6th

          In 2012 he may have deserved Elite as a top 10 overall guard. But last year he was 16th in a weak year for RGs, finishing just 6th at his position.

          • sir saint says:

            I don’t think he was elite. He holds at the most inopportune times and dealt with injuries last year. I thought he would be ranked high quality though.

  4. Hola Backgrinder says:

    I’m shocked Keenan Lewis, Akiem Hicks and Junior Galette were all rated as low as they were. All three were dominant players last year, particularly Keenan Lewis who could be argued is the best CB in the league right now.

    • sir saint says:

      I think all three of the rankings were perfect. Junior is a one dimensional pass rusher who does little else. I expect Hicks to take another jump this year into the very good/elite range. Kennan Lewis is not in the running for best cornerback. He is top 10 which is why they graded him as such.

    • Chris from the Cape says:

      The ratings aren’t simply a reflection of what a player did in 2013, but build upon the reputation already estalished. Lewis was very good, though not elite this past year, and before that a good, but far from extra-ordinary player, as his 1 INT in 4 years with PIT would indicate. You have every right for him to be your favorite corner, but sound a lot more sentimental than analytical.

  5. Jordan MacGeever says:

    Jarius Byrd an elite player? hmm I’m not sure about this. He’s an elite playmaker. But I don’t think he’s an elite football player well he deffo wasn’t last year.

  6. Tony says:

    LOL At Zach Strief being rated higher than Jahri Evans. What a joke.

    • Brett Vaccaro says:

      Zach Strief is a top 5 RT in the NFL and was the best at his position in 2013. Jahri Evans is a top 20 Guard in the NFL. I don’t think the two positions can be compared just because they are both O-linemen, so don’t think of it as Zach Strief being rated higher than Jahri Evans. Each is being rated among other players of their position.

    • Danny Smith says:

      Zack was the highest rated right tackle in the entire nfl last year

  7. Litework says:

    Colston is not a high quality starter. He looked really old last year. Champ Bailey was brutal last year. He’s average at best.

  8. Calvin Wasdyke says:

    I’m a Jets fan, but the Saints are my pick to win next year’s super bowl as of now. Brandin Cooks is my pick for OROY.

  9. JT says:

    Jairus Byrd considered elite for playing half a season and Luke isn’t considered a top 5 ILB yeah i’m pretty sure PFF just hates on the Panthers. Oh yeah and Kalil isn’t even considered a high quality center lol.

  10. Brett Vaccaro says:

    The Saints really nailed their 2013 draft. There is just so much potential there with Vaccaro, Armstead, Jenkins, and Stills.

  11. Brett Vaccaro says:

    I would say that Corey White and Patrick Robinson are roughly on the same skill level. That said, they should both probably be considered “below average.” The Saints would be in trouble if either were the number 2 corner.