Today we continue pre-emptively bitching about our anticipated kneejerk disappointment with any number of potential consolation prizes the Saints are likely to end up with once Mark Ingram goes off the board next Thursday.

If I were a Real™ Sportswriter like Jeff Duncan, it would have occurred to me to split these up into a full-blown series of teeny tiny little mini-articles on each player individually that I could bang out in a half hour and post daily to keep that traffic flowing. Maybe do half of 'em in video form. People apparently love that kind of thing. Damn my lack of business savvy!

Hell, I'm not even sure I qualify as a bona fide "idiot blogger" these days. After all, this might very well be the only blog on the planet (and that includes nola dot com slash saints) that hasn't done a top 10 best/worst draft picks countdown series. Let's go ahead and remedy that glaring oversight right… … … … NOW!

Worst: Les Kelley, Kevin Hardy, Rick Middleton, Larry Burton, Russell Erxleben, Lindsay Scott, Alvin Toles, Shawn Knight, Alex Molden, Jonathan Sullivan.

Best: Paul Dongieux, Cephus Weatherspoon, Mr. #1derful Paul Orndorff(!!!), Elois Grooms, Toussaint L'Overture Tyler, Jitter Fields, Barry Word, Mercury Hayes, Adrian Arrington, and of course Thomas Morstead.

So there.

We've also only done a paltry two mock drafts so far, when we really ought to be well into the double-digits by now. Worse yet, I put both of them into a single post. Shit! Furthermore, they both sucked. The first one had the Saints taking two tailbacks, and the second had them taking six guys from LSU. How am I supposed to maintain credibility pulling stunts like that? Maybe I'll do a couple more once I figure out which one of these non-Mark-Ingram dudes will leave me the least underwhelmed.

Meantime, let's continue the pre-emptive airing of grievances. With any luck, by the time Thursday night rolls around, I'll already have gotten over it and I can commence with trying to get on board with whatever ends up happening.

Muhammad Wilkerson — DT — Temple
Gut reaction: Since when did the Saints put Dell Demps in charge of their draft?
Hot damn, it's another basketball player! Clearly this guy is the Jimmy Graham of 43-DT/34-DE tweeners. And yet another specious Loomis Legend is born. Small-school gems, 7th round wideouts, undrafted tailbacks, and now basketball guys.

Wilkerson would be great if the Saints ran a base 34 defense and needed a 5-tech. But they don't. Wilkerson's too tall and light to play the nose, and too slow to be an effective pass rusher as a 43 DE. He might make a hell of a 3-tech DT in a 43 eventually, but the Saints already have one of those, who happens to be a first rounder still playing on his rookie contract. And while I'm all for rotating DTs as a general principle, I'm not sure having two first rounders splitting time at a single position is an efficient use of resources.

Unless the Saints are secretly planning to switch to a 34 base defense anytime soon (and before you go getting all excited, they're not) it's just a poor fit. There's a fine line between "versatile" and "tweener without a true position." And let's not forget that those 16.5 sacks and 23 tackles for loss over the last 2 years came in the MAC. Just sayin'.

Phil Taylor — DT — Baylor
Gut reaction: Watch out, @MVBurger!
Now this guy is a freakin' nose. Massive, strong, mean, and violent. Physically, he's damn near a clone of Shaun Rogers. He's a bona fide run-stuffer as-is, and while he won't give you the kind of pass rushing impact Rogers does (at least not right away) he does have a knack for collapsing the pocket, even against double teams. Splitting time with and learning from Rogers for a year or two sounds like a hell of a plan to me.

I'm far less bothered by using a first round pick on a "part time player" when he's a nose, because it's the big fat guys you want (and usually need) to rotate anyway. And it's not like the guy he'd be splitting time with is a young first rounder entering his prime, he's a veteran on the back side of his career who was signed off the street. So the "too much invested in the position" objection doesn't apply.

The main concern is the same it is for any other big fat guy. How do you know you'll be able to keep him south of 400? He's got "character concerns" too, having been kicked off Penn State's team back in 2007. (Oh what I wouldn't give for the opportunity to actually hear Joe Paterno say "How about you go fuck yourself?" or something along those lines. I bet that would be glorious.)

But as far as I can tell, Taylor has the best kind of "character concerns." The ones that seem like they're probably mostly overblown bullshit. Let's call it "Carl Nicks Syndrome." He got into a scuffle at a frat party three and a half years ago, the charges were eventually dropped, and all indications are that he's been a model citizen ever since. The temptation is to believe that there had to have been more to it than that to result in his getting kicked off the team, maybe he clocked the dude with a bottle or something. But keeping out of trouble for two years at Baylor has to count for something, right?

Dammit, much as I hate to say it, I think I actually like this guy. Apparently, back in 2007, he had been penciled in as the starter at Penn State as a true freshman (over 2010 first rounder Jared Odrick, no less) until he came down with a knee. And 62 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and 2 sacks as a 350 pound nose while playing for the Big 12's answer to Vanderbilt is pretty damned impressive.

Corey Liuget — DT — Illinois
Gut reaction: I ask again, do the Saints really need two Sedrick Elliseses?
On the plus side, his first name does rhyme with "allegory." And there are about three Saints fans who will be able to consistently spell his last name correctly, which is always good for a chuckle. He was damned productive last year (63 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks) and is versatile(!!!) having played 3-tech, nose and 5-tech at Illinois.

Problem is, he's not big enough to play nose in the NFL. And the Saints don't run a 34 base defense, so his ability to play 5-tech is all-but-irrelevant. Which basically makes him Sedrick Ellis, and the Saints already have one of those. He's also raw, the general consensus seems to be that he lacks instinct and needs plenty of work on technique. Some have even gone as far as to call him a "project." Uh oh.

Meantime, hasn't the go-to excuse for Ellis (not that Ellis really needs any excuse, he's a damn fine player) always been that he hasn't had the opportunity to really shine and be as productive as he could be, because he hasn't had a real live legit big fat nose lining up next to him? Liuget does little to solve that problem. Ellis would be the heavier of the two, for crying out loud.

Fortunately, it's looking like it's all academic at this point anyway, as he's likely to be off the board long before 24. And, much like with Ellis, whoever ends up with him is probably gonna look back after three seasons and be damn glad he's on the team, but at the same time they're not gonna be able to help but to think they might have overdrafted him by about a half a round.

Marvin Austin — DT — Any number of VIP rooms at da club
Gut reaction: Guh
No fuckin' thank you. This dude has Jonathan Sullivan written all over him. Just a complete knucklehead. Worse yet, he's proud of it. It's not that he accepted "improper benefits" from an agent, because that's just the NCAA being assholes, as usual. But it doesn't take more than a quick Google search to have you backing away slowly. You'd be tempted to turn and run away as fast as you can, but it's hard to do that while rolling your eyes and laughing uncontrollably at what has consistently been a legendary level of public douchebaggery. Plus, HE MIGHT SHOOT YOU! Or at least tell a bunch of people on Facebook that he did.

Look, I try not to be a prude when it comes to "character concerns." But this guy's got 'em shooting out of his ass. What's he gonna do when he actually has a few million in the bank to fund the kind of lifestyle he's already been bragging about as a "student athlete" in friggin' Chapel Hill, North Carolina for crying out loud? This dude will be lucky to last long enough for anyone to still care when he inevitably gets himself stabbed in the neck. Meantime, he had already gotten himself a strong rep as a "selfish" "me-first" player pretty much from day one, even before all the other shit hit the fan.

He's got big time talent, no doubt. But he's also pretty clearly got his head up his ass. And the latter has a way of trumping the former. Seriously, stay far away from this dumbass.

An Outside Linebacker in General
Gut reaction: Holy shit, they really have put someone else in charge of their draft!
Hey, I've got nothing against an outside linebacker in the first. But the Saints do. This particular Loomis Legend is the only one that's supported by enough evidence to legitimately accept it as truth. Since Sean Payton has been here, the Saints have drafted precisely two linebackers, Marvin Mitchell in the 7th and Stanley Arnoux in the 4th. The Saints drafted 5 other linebackers from 2002-2005 under Loomis/Haslett, but only one (Courtney Watson) as high as the 2nd round. Alfred Fincher, Cie Grant and James Allen were 3rds, and Colby Bockwoldt was a 7th. This will be Loomis's 9th draft as the Saints GM (my, how time flies) and we're still waiting for the Saints to take a linebacker higher than the 60th overall pick.

By the way, I find it hilarious that after the Saints took a tailback with the #2 overall pick in 2006 (sure, we know now that he's not really a tailback, he's an "athlete" and by golly the best "athlete" the Saints have ever had(!!!) but at the time, he was supposed to be a tailback) and then tried to trade back into the first for another tailback just three years later, the Loomis Legend is that "THE SAINTS DON'T DRAFT TAILBACKS IN THE FIRST!" Yet after 8 years and zero linebackers in the first round, Saints fans still get pissed every year when the Saints don't draft a linebacker in the first (if they even draft one at all) and simply refuse to accept that this is a bona fide "thing" with the Saints.

Anyway, Payton, Loomis and Gregg Williams have all publicly stated at one time or another that they simply don't think the OLB positions are all that important. Hey, maybe that changes this year. Maybe they change their minds and conclude that they've been undervaluing the positions in general, or maybe they really love one of these guys, or maybe it just so happens that the BPA(!!!) when the Saints are on the clock ends up being an OLB. I'm just saying, don't hold your breath.

Furthermore, they've consistently maintained that they're excited about Jonathan Casillas, so any potential linebacker pick would probably be confined to a strongside linebacker. They don't run a 34 base and don't use an "elephant" or "buck" linebacker. Hate to break it to ya but once again, for the umpteenth straight year, they won't be looking for The Next Pat Swilling. And to whatever extent they might dabble in a 34 alignment on obvious passing downs with a buck or elephant standing up at the line of scrimmage and rushing the passer, they've already got that guy on the roster in Junior Galette, who Gregg Williams has been very publicly excited about.

They do need a strongside linebacker, Shanle's not under contract (and Saints fans hate him anyway) and I'm pretty sure at this point that the shine has worn off JoLonn Dunbar. But I'm not sure any of these guys are a good fit as a conventional 43 strongside linebacker. If the Saints do end up with a linebacker in the first, I'm pretty sure that behind closed doors, they're not gonna be all that happy about it.

Akeem Ayers — LB — UCLA
Gut reaction: Woohoo! Clearly the Saints' greatest need is a 34 inside linebacker!
Wait, what I meant to say is "Fuck! The absolute last thing the Saints need is a 34 inside linebacker!" Oh I know, I know. He's "SCHEME VERSATILE!!!" He's Gregg Williams's answer to Reggie Bush! (Um… uh… high five? Guh.) He could play SLB in a 43, buck in a 34, he could even bulk up and put his hand in the turf as a 43 left defensive end. He's perfect!

No, he's yet another tweener. (Boy, there sure are a bunch of those running around these days.) Jack of all trades, master of none. And sue me, but I expect better than a jack in the first round. Versatility is great and all, but there are questions about whether or not he has the speed to effectively rush the passer -or- blanket tight ends -or- chase faster tailbacks to the sideline in the NFL. He has a rap for marginal instincts and biting on misdirection/play-action/etc. He's not particularly big, strong or fast. He also has a rap for not wrapping up and opting instead to get himself on Sportscenter with the "big hit." Great. Perhaps JoLonn can teach him the "I done knocked that chump plum craaazy" gesticulation.

Justin Houston — LB — Georgia
Gut reaction: Wait, so who's gonna play SLB on 1st and 2nd down?
Hey, it's The Next Pat Swilling! Too bad that the Saints still don't run a 34 base, and still don't use a buck. But hey, I'm sure they'll be making the switch any day now. All the cool kids are doing it.

But until then, this guy is undersized for a 43 LDE. He's super fast and one hell of a pass rusher, but that's pretty much all he does. Below average against the run and a downright liability in pass coverage. He only really burst onto the scene last year when Georgia switched to a 34 base and converted him from 43 end to a 34 buck. For the Saints, he'd be a 3rd down situational pass rusher and that's about it. Or, in other words, a super-duper-rich man's Junior Galette.

Brooks Reed — LB — Arizona
Gut reaction: Hey, it's The White Pat Swilling!
Sigh. Yet another DE/Buck LB tweener. And we all know how much the Saints love their cracker-ass CrackerBackers. Intelligence! Hustle! Leadership! Character!

Undersized as a 43 DE! Struggles against the run! Doesn't shed blocks very well! Struggles to cover tight ends! The Saints still don't run a 34 base! Maybe they'll have switched by the time this post is finished. Wait for it… wait for it…

Trading Down
Gut reaction: Fuck you for making me wait til tomorrow, but I suppose it's as good a move as any, so high five!
It would appear that the Saints are in a really good spot this year for potentially trading out of the first round and collecting a king's ransom (okay, maybe a jack's ransom) in the process. Depending on how you look at it, as many as 9 teams in the top 12 could be in the market for a quarterback. But by all accounts, only two of those teams are actually going to take quarterbacks with their top-12 picks. Somebody's gonna get Newton and somebody's gonna get Gabbert, and from there, it's looking like the supply and demand are going to converge again toward the bottom of the first round.

Meantime, conventional wisdom seems to suggest that Seattle at 25 is gonna be the next team really looking strongly at a quarterback, and the Saints are sitting right in front of them at 24. (Oh and by the way, eat a dick, Marshawn.)

So let's assume that Carolina takes Newton (high five!) and Gabbert goes to… oh, let's say Cincinnati at 4. You've still got Buffalo, Denver, Arizona, Tennessee, Washington, Minnesota and San Francisco sitting there in the first half of the 2nd and still looking for a quarterback. And Seattle is sitting there at 25 just waiting to scoop them out of whomever they've fallen in love with, be it Andy Dalton or Jake Locker or Christian Ponder or Ryan Mallett or Colin Kaepernick.

At any other position, you'd just stay put and wait for a guy to fall to you early in the second. After all, while there's plenty of demand, there's also plenty of supply. But it doesn't work that way with quarterbacks. You don't just wait and see who's left when you're on the clock. At quarterback, you decide on "your guy" and you go get him.

The Denver situation is particularly interesting. Evidently John Elway and Christian Ponder have a full-blown bromance going on at this point. Elway is gonna end up making the call, and Denver has the 4th and 14th picks in the second round. Just about everybody has Seattle taking the local boy, Jake Locker, at 25. But if you're Elway, do you roll the dice and risk Seattle taking Ponder instead? Or do you go get your guy? Especially considering that even if Seattle goes with Locker, Buffalo still looms large with the 2nd pick of the 2nd round, two picks in front of Denver.

And even if Denver doesn't bite, there's still a handful of teams in the top half of the 2nd who might. And if Ingram is off the board, this might very well be my personal favorite plan B.

Edited to add: Best performance of Mysterious Whisper and Darkened Corridors EVER! And by the way, if you can't recite every segment of Fingertips in order, right off the top of your head, I'm afraid we can't be friends anymore.

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