There's not a whole hell of a lot about Malcolm Jenkins not to like. He's a veteran leader and a defensive captain at only 26 years old. He plays a shit ton of snaps, and grading on the Saints defensive back curve, he's been uncommonly durable. He works incredibly hard, he's the epitome of an "effort guy" and he's made a handful of "clutch" hustle plays over the last five years — the most memorable examples of course being running down Vincent Jackson at the 1 on a 95-yard reception in 2012, and the Jenkpalm™ against Dallas on Thanksgiving Day 2010 — both of which saved those games. By all accounts, he's a smart, high-character guy, and just an all-around righteous dude. If you wanted to nitpick (and we're fans, so of course we do) there's really only one thing you could point to as a "problem" with Jenkins:

He's just not very good at football.

Not in this league, anyway. And it's a damn shame. I take no pleasure at all in concluding that Jenkins simply hasn't earned a second Saints contract, and that Mickey Loomis should refrain from offering him one. He's one of those guys who's really easy to root for. And at only 26, it's easy to convince ourselves that maybe he's just a late-bloomer and that there's still "upside" there. Hell, that might even be true. Don't take my word for it, just ask Mike Triplett.

It's awful tempting to give him a pass based on the fact that he's had three defensive coordinators (not to mention three defensive backs coaches) in five years. Gregg couldn't figure out how to use him, Spags couldn't figure out how to use anybody, and his play did (marginally) improve in 2013 right along with everybody else under the tutelage of Crime Dog and The Dude. He's had to switch positions, adjust to three different schemes, and until recently he hasn't exactly been surrounded by exceptionally talented teammates in the defensive backfield.

And it's not like he's ever been "Tebucky Jones Bad" or anything like that. He's generally regarded as perfectly "serviceable" and at least theoretically there's still plenty of time for him to "put it all together." Continuity, experience, leadership, bird in hand, can't have 22 Pro Bowlers… all perfectly reasonable arguments for giving Jenkins a second contract.

Unfortunately, those arguments aren't nearly as compelling as the arguments against it.

PFF [insert disclaimer here] rated Jenkins 50th of 67 safeties who were on the field for 50% or more of their teams' defensive snaps.

Which, to be fair, is up from dead last out of 58 last year. High five?

PFF also rated him as the third worst player overall on the Saints' 2013 defense. (Ahead of Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne, but I happen to disagree with their ratings on both of those guys. Yes, I know that's kinda talking out of both sides of my ass. Don't know what to tell ya.)

His ratings were negative across the board, and his pass coverage rating was worse than Roman Harper's(!!!) for crying out loud.

Think PFF is full of shit? Fine, forget their ratings for a second. League-wide, among safeties on the field for 50+% of team's defensive snaps:

  • 103.3 passer rating against: 43rd out of 67
     
  • 4 penalties: Tied for 12th most
     
  • 16 missed tackles: Tied for 5th most, and everybody with more played (a lot) more snaps
     
  • 36 completions allowed: Tied for 7th most, and everybody with more played (a lot) more snaps
     
  • 75% completion percentage against: 11th worst
     
  • 486 receiving yards allowed: 2nd most (only 26 fewer than the single worst safety in the league, Major Wright)
     
  • 199 yards allowed after the catch: 8th most

And just for shits and giggles, back to PFF and their "Signature Stats" (safeties, league-wide, 50+% of team snaps)

  • Run Stop Percentage: Tied for 12th worst
     
  • Run Stop Percentage when in the box: 8th worst
     
  • Combined Tackling Efficiency: Tied for 5th worst
     
  • Yards Allowed Per Coverage Snap: 2nd worst
     
  • Coverage Snaps Per Receptions Allowed: Dead fuckin' last

So besides leadership, experience and being an all-around swell guy, what exactly is Malcolm Jenkins bringing to the table?

I hate to say it, but Josh Bullocks got run out of town for less than all that. Matter of fact, while we're on the subject, let me go ahead and caution you to resist the temptation to go looking up Josh Bullocks's stats and comparing them to Malcolm's. Because… um…

A couple weeks ago, ESPN "Scouting Insider" Matt Williamson told Triplett that if Jenkins had been a 5th rounder out of Northwestern, people would be happy with him. I disagree. If he had been a 5th rounder out of Northwestern, nobody would give a shit because he'd have been benched a long time ago, and he would be an afterthought as an impending free agent.

But the reality is that he was a 14th overall pick out of Ohio State, and five years in, he's at best a "serviceable" safety who's still trying to "put it all together." That's just not good enough. It's time to move on and aim higher.

Gotta use that first rounder on somebody, right?

Now might be a good time for our annual refresher on Wang's "Philosophy" of Drafting.

Of course you draft the (all together now…) "Best Player Available." That should go without saying, and it boggles the mind that people feel the need to say it over… and over… and over. Everybody drafts the guy they consider to be the "Best Player Available" every single time they're on the clock. Or at least they try to.

The problem is "Best Player Available" isn't an empirical thing. Everybody has their own idea of who the "Best Player Available" is at any given time. Sometimes they're "right" and sometimes they're "wrong." But they almost always disagree. One man's "Best Available" is another man's "huge reach." You need look no further than the innumerable "big boards" and mock drafts and positional rankings lists for proof of that. Same goes for actual NFL front offices and scouting departments. Ultimately, all you can do is to make the best, most educated guess you can make and hope it works out.

Furthermore, it should also go without saying that you draft the "Best Player Available" for your team. Taking into account your style of football and your own list of priorities for what you look for in a player and, yes, the current state of your roster. In other words, "need" is a factor, as it damn well ought to be.

Message Board Guy tends to use phrasing such as "Best Player Available… within reason" to tacitly account for need being a factor without actually having to admit it. Because of course it would be a waste of resources to drop a 1st on Pope Jonathan Paul Football I when you've already got Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick, even if he's fallen half a round for some reason and is "CLEARLY" the "BPA." Message Board Guy gets that, but holy shit does he hate to acknowledge it. Because "BPA IS RIGHT! and NEED IS WRONG! Quod erat demonstrandum, motherfucker!" Or something.

Which is why, when that kind of situation presents itself, MBG inevitably falls back on the all-purpose Plan B. (All together now…) "TRADE BACK!!!"

Because it's obvious that even though the player in question is "CLEARLY THE BPA" at that point, taking him simply doesn't make sense for this particular team. The "OMG VALUE!!!" just isn't there. And if there's one thing MBG loves more than the BPA, it's "value."

The dirty little secret that MBG can't bring himself to actually say is that "value" is relative, and it goes hand in hand with "need." If you already have a 10 quarterback, dropping a 1st on an 8 quarterback to ride the pine for half a decade isn't value, it's a waste. Even if he's the "obvious BPA."

At the same time, drafting a 7 at a position where you're currently sitting at 1 is better value than drafting a 9 at a position where you're already at 5. Because… you know… 6 > 4. MATH, bitches!

On the flip side of that coin, it could be argued that the Saints' single most glaring "need" at this point is a place kicker. But of course everybody would lose their shit if the Saints dropped a 1st on one. (Hell, we'd lose our shit if they dropped a 4th on one.) Because that would be not only wasteful, but downright stupid.

And that's what it really comes down to. "Drafting for need" isn't the problem, doing stupid shit is the problem. And front offices do stupid shit for the sake of "BPA" (Tony Mandarich, Fat JaMarcus, Lawrence Phillips, Aaron Curry, Vernon Gholston, Ricky Williams, and on and on) every bit as often as they do because of reaching to fill a need.

The whole BPA vs. need "debate" (such as it is) is stupid. It's both. It's always been both. It will always be both. And it's all subjective, speculative and opinion-based anyway. It's impossible to establish "right and wrong" until long after the fact. Best you can do is scout your ass off and take the guy you think can best help your team. I have no idea how or why this isn't universally regarded as self-evident.

Anyway… what about those needs? Let's run down the list…

Right tackle seems to be a popular one, but we here at moosedenied are already all over that one. MARCEL JONES, BITCHES! Done and done. Moving on…

Alright, fine. You haven't (yet) caught the throbbing Marcel Jones boner. You will eventually. Just a matter of time. But until then, I get it.

Fortunately for you, they're probably just gonna sign Strief anyway. And that'd be fine, I guess. I'd be pissed, because I don't see the upside in putting off the beginning of the Marcel Jones Era™ for another year. But signing Strief would be the "safe" option, and Jones would still be there to go all Terron Armstead with it if need be.

Worst case, Strief wins the Scott Fujita Lottery and Bret Ingalls doesn't have the grapefruits to get on with it re: Jones. Still plenty of fallback options. The "safest" being Bryce Harris, I guess. That not working for ya? Popular sentiment seems to be that this is one hell of a deep draft (particularly for offensive linemen) and the Saints have a long and storied history of finding o-linemen in later rounds anyway.

Sure there's the occasional Matt Tennant or Charles Brown. That's inevitable. It's gonna happen. But in the meantime, Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks, Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief for that matter trump the occasional swing and a miss. I'm more than willing to take my chances that the Saints will be the team that plucks Morgan Moses in the 3rd or Billy Turner in the 4th, plugs him right in and never looks back. And if all else fails, there's still two in-house options.

Same goes for center. They're probably gonna sign Brian de la Puente anyway. And for whatever reason, the local Legits™ (and therefore, MBG) have themselves convinced that Plan B is Tim Lelito. And they seem to be just fine with that. Not sure how or why they've come to that conclusion, but whatever. Hey, I'm hyping Marcel Jones over here, so I ain't judging.

But again, worst case, there are highly-regarded centers in the mid rounds. A shitload of 'em, in fact. So as is the case at right tackle, there are options. Both in-house and in the mid rounds. I have to admit that I'm a little less comfortable at center than tackle, if only because the one time Loomis/Payton drafted a center, it was Matt Tennant. But hey, it's a sample of one, so whatever.

Bottom line is that I could live with an offensive lineman in the first, but I don't think it's at all necessary. Even as things stand right now (with Strief and dlP unsigned.) Marcel Jones and Travis Swanson/Tyler Larsen/Weston Richburg/Bryan Stork will do just fine, thank you very much. Until it fails, anyway.

Wideout? Hey, far be it from me to complain if the Saints end up with Odell Beckham or Jarvis Landry or Marquise Lee or Kelvin Benjamin or Allen Robinson or Jordan Matthews. We here at moosedenied are already on record as acknowledging the need for another wideout (or two.) And there's a big bin full of 'em to choose from. Take your pick.

But again, I don't think it's at all necessary to drop a 1st on one. Hell, for as much as we bitched about the wideouts in 2013, the fact remains that the Saints were still #2 in passing offense. Regardless of whether or not you think it's wise, fact is there's about zero chance Jimmy Graham won't be back for the next half decade or so. Kenny Stills is a budding superstar and for the time being Marques Colston is still more or less a thousand yard guy. They're not giving up on Nick Toon yet (you might have, but they haven't.)

Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Joe Morgan are the wildcards, but it's not at all beyond the realm of possibility that they just bring back all the 2013 wideouts, put it off for one more year, and get by just fine until then. That wouldn't be my first choice, but it might very well be theirs.

And if they do opt to go ahead and bring one or two more in via the draft (and they should) again there are plenty of options outside the first round.

Personally, I've kinda latched on to Donte Moncrief. He's a mid round guy.

Brandin Cooks, Devin Street, Martavius Bryant, Jared Abbrederis. Take your pick. Hell, for that matter, some of these "first round guys" in February (including but not limited to Beckham, Landry, Paul Richardson, Allen Robinson, Davante Adams, Jordan Matthews) are probably gonna end up still being available long after February projections have them going off the board. If only because there's just so damn many of 'em.

Linebacker? Maybe, but probably not. Sorry, bro. You've been paying attention for the last eight years, right? Remember last year when you went all David Robbins with it because they didn't draft a linebacker in the 1st? And the previous year? And the year before that? And the year before that? Good times.

Now maybe Rob Ryan puts a stop to all that shit come May. Maybe. Feel free to go ahead and hold your breath waiting for that to happen. It ain't gonna.

Where are you gonna put him? Regardless of what you think of it, Lofton and Hawthorne are the starters at ILB for 2014. Junior is the Jack, and there's no way in hell (barring further injury) they're gonna move on from Victor Butler without him ever taking a meaningful snap. They invested in him, they're high on him, and unless Mark Ingram takes him out in camp for a second consecutive year, he will be the other starting OLB in 2014.

There's just no room in the starting lineup for a first round linebacker right at the moment, and you don't drop a 1st on a backup. You just don't. It's wasteful.

Ramon Humber and Kevin Reddick are the backup ILBs, Will Herring isn't going anywhere just yet, if only for special teams. They've already signed Keyunta Dawson. They're probably gonna sign Parys Haralson. And Rufus Johnson is The Black Marcel Jones!!!

Like it or not, they're pretty much set. (Personally, I like it.) Sure, there might be room for a rookie linebacker on the depth chart. Maybe they don't sign Haralson, maybe somebody beats out Reddick or Johnson or Herring. I don't doubt for a second that they'll bring some more linebackers in, just in case. But they'll be late round guys and UDFAs.

"Oh goddammit, Wang. Quit being a dick and get on with it already. Everybody knows it's CORNERBACK!!!"

Drunk Bobby: No.

No thank you. Fuck every last bit of that noise. At last check, Deion Sanders isn't eligible for this here draft.

Draft Rule #1 here at moosedenied is that rookie corners are only good for two things: riding the pine, and being set on fire by opposing wideouts.

First round corners who start from day one are for 4-12 teams. Teams that can afford to (or have no other choice but to) ride it out and wait for the guy to finally realize that he probably ought to go ahead and stop, drop and roll.

It's a bias, I admit it. And of course there's the occasional exception which proves the rule. Deion, Champ Bailey.

But I've got a hunch that if the Saints were actually in the position to draft Deion, they'd just pass on him anyway and go with Donnell Woolford instead.

Champ Bailey? Fuck that guy. Fernando Bryant, bitches!

Something along those lines. You know it's true.

By all means, draft a corner. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Keith McGill. And cross your fingers. Just don't depend on him to start right away and not suck. Hell, just don't expect him to not suck regardless. Because chances are, he's gonna. There's ample precedent.

Pop quiz, hot shot: What do the following guys have in common? Keenan Lewis, Jabari Greer, Mike McKenzie

Exactly. Come hell or high water, Mickey Loomis is gonna come up with a way to sign at least one veteran free agent from outside the organization. He always does. And that guy needs to be a corner. It doesn't have to be Brent Grimes or Aqib Talib or Alterraun Verner, and it almost certainly won't be.

But a rookie corner will almost certainly blow the 2014 defense all to hell. If worse comes to worst, I'd rather just roll with Kaare White™ and (if necessary) try to compensate some other way…

Which brings us back around to safety.

By all accounts, there's precisely two of 'em in this here draft. Ha'Sean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix, and Calvin Pryor (in no particular order.)

The Saints need one of 'em. Desperately. By any means necessary.

Because, as we demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt about 46 paragraphs ago, Malcolm Jenkins just ain't getting it done, and should not be brought back. As much as it pains me to say that, it's true.

I'm sure most people would say Kaare White (or, in a more general sense, "#2 corner") is the single weakest link on defense right about now, if not the whole team. I disagree. The weakest link is Malcolm. And the numbers support the assertion.

Now I don't want to give Rafael Bush the short shrift here. Should all else fail, he's a serviceable in-house option (assuming he's tendered as an RFA and re-signs, which is pretty much a no-brainer.) Hell, at this point, all indications are that he'd actually be a marginal upgrade over Jenkins. Still, at this point Bush should be regarded as a fallback option. A relatively appealing one, but a fallback option nonetheless.

If you're gonna aim higher, aim higher.

At all the other positions of need, the Saints can aim higher without necessarily having to do so in the first round. There are other options.

Not so at free safety. If you're gonna aim higher, and you want/need the significant, immediate upgrade, you're gonna have to go and get one of those two guys in the first round. That's your only option.

And if both of those guys are off the board by the time #27 rolls around, then welp. On to Plan B. Tackle, wideout, trade back, take your pick. We'll survive. (Hell, if I could survive Cleveland ganking us out of Barkevious last year…)

But Plan A has to be Pryor or Clinton-Dix, and they need to go all-in to make it happen one way or another.

Lowest baseline + greatest potential immediate upgrade + positional scarcity = Best Value

Math, bitches.

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