The Saints drafting a Notre Dame linebacker keeps me up at night.
I have a bias. I freely admit this fact. The New Orleans Saints go into this years draft once again needing a linebacker. Mock drafts around sports media have the Saints drafting Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah out of Notre Dame. This is where my bias comes in. Drafting a Notre Dame linebacker, much less in round one, feels like a complete waste of a pick. So let’s examine my bias and see if Owusu-Koramaoh can make me get over it for a potential high-end linebacker.
Saints and linebacker issues
The New Orleans Saints have drafted linebackers more often than any other position in the past decade. If you are struggling to remember any of these linebackers it is with good cause. The Saints linebacker drafting has been downright atrocious. Saying the name Stephone Anthony around Saints fans causes immediate groaning and need for a Bourbon Street Hand Grenade. Fans will also try to forget the name Courtney Watson. Watson, a second round pick in 2004, was a typical Saints linebacker pick, a wasted one. Watson’s college career was spent at Notre Dame, not helping my bias any. Watson spent two years with the Saints before being traded and ultimately being out of the NFL.
Notre Dame Bias
Notre Dame is a historical college football powerhouse. Too bad Notre Dame’s last national championship was in 1988. Since then, historical dominance is all the team can hold onto. This is my bias. No doubt Notre Dame has turned out great players over the past 20 years but linebackers? Since 2001, the Fighting Irish have had nine linebackers drafted. Three of these have been in the top two rounds. The aforementioned Watson was one. Jaylon Smith was one and Manti Te’o was the other. Smith has been the only player since 2001 that has proven to be an NFL-caliber linebacker. Te’o was a journeyman who never blossomed into a great player. He remains a free agent going into the 2021 season.
I use these facts to confirm my Notre Dame bias. Defensive Irish players have not passed the eye-test in my lifetime. Can Owusu-Koramoah prove me wrong? He is on the smaller side of linebacker, coming in at 6’1 and 221 pounds. Owusu-Koramoah is a new-school type linebacker with coverage skills and the ability to chase down mobile quarterbacks. His football IQ has been his brightest trait. It will not be his mind that fails him on the next level. If he is not asked to be a traditional “thumper” type linebacker and used more as a roaming tweener, Owusu-Koramoah could flourish in the NFL.
Looking at Owusu-Koramoah’s highlight tape shows an incredibly fast player. One highlight I want to bring up is this one. Owusu-Koramoah diagnoses the fullback out-route incredibly fast. If not for his tackle, this play likely results in a first down for Georgia Tech. Great awareness and understanding of what the offense is doing leads to a big stop. In the same video package, we see Owusu-Koramoah be able to chase down shifty running backs and receivers. One of the more impressive plays is this highlight. Owusu-Koramoah sheds a wide receiver block after seeing the Clemson running back screen developing. He attacks the block and goes right after Travis Etienne, a top college running back. Seeing Owusu-Koramoah make these kind of plays against Clemson might be making me rethink my bias.
If the Saints end up with him as their pick, I hope Owusu-Koramoah destroys my anti-Notre Dame bias. His highlights against perennial powerhouse Clemson has peaked my interest. Demario Davis has been having to do so much almost alone in his time with the Saints linebacker group. As one of the leagues best linebackers, Davis deserves to have someone help him in the middle of the field. Kwon Alexander filled this need for half a season last year. If Owusu-Koramoah falls to the end of round one, the Saints could very well pull the trigger on a needed position. Let’s just hope this Notre Dame pick ends up more like Jaylon Smith and not like Courtney Watson.
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