Perhaps the Saints’ most underrated need, the defensive line could use some reinforcement.
Wrapping up our series on positions for need for the New Orleans Saints with perhaps the most underrated of them all, the defensive line.
More specifically, the interior defensive line. After losing Trey Hendrickson, the team lost a ton of sack production. But at least they were able to add Tanoh Kpassignon this offseason to assist on the edge. Along with Hendrickson, they also lost 2015 first-round selection Sheldon Rankins and undervalued free agent signing for a couple years ago, Malcom Brown.
Those three defensive linemen were among the six with the most snaps for the Saints in 2020. That’s a ton of production and a ton of snaps to lose. Now, they could look to the draft to help supplement.
Christian Barmore – Alabama
Barmore has been a fringe first rounder throughout the majority of this process and has the ideal size the Saints might look for at interior pass rusher. at 6’4” and just over 300 pounds, he’s very similar to the departed Sheldon Rankins.
You could say similarly of his speed at the position as well. Barmore ran a 4.98 at this Pro Day while Rankins ran a close 5.03 at his combine. While Rankins tested better in the agility scores, you can see what Barmore brings in that arena on the field. 10 sacks over his two-year career and 15.5 tackles for a loss, he’s been disruptive in both the passing and run game.
New Orleans puts an emphasis on the run game and Barmore fits the bill while offering upside as a pass rusher from inside as well. You’re unlike to see him kick out to the edge at any point, but he can play many of the necessary DT spots, which is key in the Saints’ rotation.
He’s been given some knocks throughout the process for character concerns around coachability. But his college coach Nick Saban has openly denied such claims.
Milton Williams – Louisiana Tech
Want someone who checks all the boxes when it comes to athleticism? Williams is your guy. Here’s his RAS chart from @MathBomb on Twitter.
Check off all your boxes and go in for Williams in the second round if this is your guy, because he’ll be a hot commodity on day two.
Williams is clearly ridiculously athletic, particularly his 4.67 40 at 280+ pounds. He had 10.5 sacks in three seasons at Louisiana Tech, but only appeared in three games his first year. Add 19 tackles for a loss to the list and he actually offers similar effectively and production in both the run and pass rushing game as Barmore. But Barmore’s consistent disruption against elite college talent puts him ahead.
If addressing defensive line is high on your priority list, but not a first-round need, Williams could be the perfect fit.
Osa Odighizuwa – UCLA
— Inside The Draft (@Jacobkeppen) January 27, 2021
With four years and 37 games under his belt, Odighizuwa is a very experienced player. Not as athletic as Williams, not as consistently disruptive as Barmore, but extremely versatile.
Odighizuwa can rush from the inside or off the edge, has a great interior spin move, high-character guy, and spent time at the Senior Bowl meaning he’s gotten face to face time with the Saints and other teams around the NFL.
He’ll likely be a third-round prospect, but one that would make sense for New Orleans who may want to maximize that selection and player by selecting one that can play multiple positions.
My Pick: Osa Odighizuwa
Really any versatile piece that can be had in day two, including local prospect Cameron Sample. Williams is very enticing and Barmore is one of the best in this class, but the needs at corner and linebacker keep me looking for candidates at this position outside of the first two rounds.
Maximizing that selection with versatility through a prospect that’s proven to be multiple in nature and contribution is important. The UCLA prospect brings that. He may be a bit undersized and might have to bulk up a bit at the next level, depending on his utilization. But at 6’1” and 282 pounds, he’s very similar to former Saints defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. who played a similar role.
Which defensive lineman do you like best in this year’s draft? Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC , “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @RossJacksonNOLA and subscribe to my daily Saints podcast, Locked On Saints.