By TPR Staff

As we continue the Team Needs series for the 2013 NFL Draft, we proceed to the team with the fifteenth overall pick; the New Orleans Saints. For some, the 2012 season for the Saints came as a surprise. For others, they exceeded expectations. Teams don’t usually just shrug off a major scandal like they did along with a nasty contract dispute with their best player.

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However, with the return of head coach Sean Payton, the Saints can finally begin to put the Bountygate scandal behind them and try to improve on a historically bad defense. The offense is Super Bowl level good, whereas the defense might not be able to stop a high school team. Here is where I think Payton will be targeting to make some key improvements this April.

Linebacker

With the move to a 3-4 defense starting underway with the hire of Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator, the need to upgrade and provide depth at the rush linebacker position is going to be a high priority. I expect to see numerous linebacker picks in this draft starting in the first round with a local guy like Barkevious Mingo.

Draft Possibilities: Barkevious Mingo, Dion Jordan

Offensive Tackle

The rest of this draft is going to be for all defensive spots, but protecting their millions and millions of dollars in investment in Drew Brees has to be considered as well. For what the offensive line did in run blocking last year, they did the exact opposite in pass protection and the Saints need to consider the immediate future and think about taking some successors on that offensive line. Menelik Watson is a kid they could look at in the third if they go this route.

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Draft Possibilities: Menelik Watson, Brennan Williams

Safety

To put it bluntly, Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper were about as bad as it got in coverage in the entire league last season. It was no coincidence that some wide receiver seemed to be having a career week against the Saints each and every game in 2012. I could see the Saints jumping on a safety in one of the first three rounds if some of the top tier talent begins to slide a little. I’d be surprised if a prospect like Bacarri Rambo isn’t on their draft board.

Draft Possibilities: Bacarri Rambo, J.J. Wilcox

Defensive Line

Again, with the switch to a 3-4, there is going to be a lot more depth needed at key positions. Even the spots New Orleans has some depth in will need to be upgraded. Sedrick Ellis is a free agent who might not be a scheme fit and they will allow him to walk. Cameron Jordan will fit in perfectly at defensive end and Akeim Hicks will fit in somewhere. A thumper in the middle like Jesse Williams could be a key addition and start immediately.

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Draft Possibilities: Jesse Williams, Sharrif Floyd

Cornerback

When you have someone like Corey White taking as many snaps as he did last year, you should know that you have a problem at the position. I wouldn’t be surprised to see New Orleans leave this draft with two or even three corners. The scheme switch will make the front seven a priority, so it’ll come mostly in the middle to late rounds starting with someone like Jordan Poyer in the third or fourth round.

Draft Possibilities: Jordan Poyer, Leon McFadden

After an 0-4 hole to climb out of, including a baffling loss to the Chiefs, New Orleans did go 7-5 the rest of the way and were in wild card contention late. There is certainly room for improvement and to think Sean Payton doesn’t have a plan would be foolish. But a good draft and this team could be right back in the thick of it with Atlanta in the NFC South next season.

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When you have one of the best quarterback’s in the league, you’re always going to be in position to win every week. But if your defense can’t stop anything, it’s going to make it next to impossible to string together consistent success. This can’t be turned around defensively in one offseason, but with this offense, they don’t need to. All they need is for their defense to be middle of the road to be considered contenders again.

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