The New Orleans Saints supplemented their roster with a six-player draft class chosen over a three-day period. With the selections depth was increased offensively at running back with the addition of 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, while the defensive line, linebacker corps and defensive backfield all were beefed up. In addition, the club's special teams coverage and return units should also benefit with the defensive picks. The five defensive additions were the most in a Saints draft since 2002, when five defensive players were also selected, both being highest number of defensive selections since it was reduced to seven rounds in 1994. Below is a rundown of the club's 2011 picks.
Pick No. 1 (24th overall), DE Cameron Jordan, California – Jordan was the 44th first round draft pick in franchise history, the ninth defensive end taken by the club in this round and the first since Will Smith in 2004. As a defensive end in a 3-4 alignment for the Bears, Jordan managed 16.5 sacks and 34 tackles for losses. Jordan is the first player from California to be drafted by New Orleans since WR Chase Lyman in 2005. He's coming off a standout senior campaign where he was voted defensive team captain and ranked fifth on the team with 62 stops, and finished second on the Bears with 5.5 sacks, also forcing three fumbles and recovering another, returning it 21 yards for a touchdown. He was named an All-Pac-10 Conference first-team selection. This came off a junior season, where he was a Pac-10 honorable mention selection and finished with six stops. The 6-4, 287 pounder who has outstanding football bloodlines as the son of former Minnesota Vikings tight end Steve Jordan possesses the versatility to play several positions in the front seven.
Pick No. 2 (28th overall), RB Mark Ingram, Alabama – Ingram was the 45th first round pick in franchise history. With his selection and the choice of Jordan, more running backs and defensive end (9) have been selected in the first round by the club than any other position. The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner is the first runner selected in the first round since Reggie Bush in 2006. He's the first member of the Crimson Tide to be selected since S Roman Harper was chosen in the second round in 2006. Ingram's father, Mark Ingram Sr., was also the 28th pick in the NFL Draft by the New York Giants in 1987 and enjoyed a ten-year NFL career, the highlight being a Super Bowl Championship in New York. Even though Ingram appeared in only 39 games with 24 starts at the college level, he ran for 3,261 yards on the ground and ranks seventh among NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision performers with 42 rushing touchdowns. As a sophomore in 2009, Ingram took the nation by story, setting a Crimson Tide season-record with 1,658 yards rushing with 17 touchdowns as he captured the Heisman Trophy and sparked his team to the BCS National Championship. As a junior in 2010, Ingram missed the first two games of the season following knee surgery, but carried 158 times for 875 yards (5.5 avg.) with 13 scores.
Pick, No. 3 (72nd overall), LB Martez Wilson, Illinois – Wilson joins the Saints and is expected to increase depth both at the outside linebacker position and on special teams. He's the first player picked by the Saints from Illinois since S Keith Taylor was a fifth round pick in 1988. The Chicago native earned All-Big Ten Conference first-team honors in 2010 as he made a successful move to the middle and led the Illini with 112 tackles (47 solo), and added four sacks, three forced fumbles, one interception and four passes defensed. This was a successful return from a neck injury that forced him to miss the entire 2009 campaign. Brought to the Champaign campus by former Saints defensive coordinator Ron Zook, Wilson originally started out at the strongside, becoming a part-time starter as a sophomore in 2008.
Pick, No. 4 (88th overall), CB Johnny Patrick, Louisville – A four-year starter, Patrick possesses the ability to play on every special teams unit. He was instrumental in helping turn around a Louisville secondary that shaped itself into one of the nation's elite units by the time he was a senior. In his career, he's managed to deflect 22 pass attempts and notch nine interceptions. Patrick entered his senior season as a member of the Jim Thorpe Award Watch List (top college defensive back) and saved his best for last with a breakout campaign in 2010. The cornerback earned first-team all-conference honors, starting all 13 games and tied for first in the Big East and fifth in the nation in passes defended (1.31 per game), as he returned five interceptions for 99 yards (19.80 avg.) and a touchdown while adding 12 pass deflections. He finished with 49 tackles (43 solos), including one sack for minus six yards and 6.5 stops for combined losses of 19 yards. He also notched a blocked field goal and a forced fumble.
Pick, No. 5 (226th overall), DE Greg Romeus, Pittsburgh – The Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, Romeus will compete for playing time on both defense and special teams following recovery from a knee injury. In 2010, back and knee ailments limited him to one game, but the year before, he was an All-American as he posted 43 tackles (22 solo), caused three fumbles, recovered another and blocked a kick. The Panthers' defensive leader with eight sacks, he placed second on the team with 11.5 stops for losses and eleven pressures. He also deflected five passes and recorded his only career interception. For his career with the Panthers, Romeus played in 40 games, starting the last 28 games he appeared in at right defensive end. He finished with 142 tackles (77 solos), 19.5 sacks for minus 129 yards, 38.5 stops for losses totaling 186 yards and 18 quarterback pressures. Romeus also caused five fumbles with three recoveries, deflected 12 passes and had an interception. Showing an aptitude for special teams, he blocked four kicks.
Pick, No. 6 (243rd overall), LB Nate Bussey, Illinois– Nate Bussey joins Martez Wilson as the second University of Illinois linebacker selected by the Saints in the 2011 NFL Draft class, doubling the all-time number of players picked by the Saints out of Champaign. He moved into the starting lineup midway through his junior year and excelled as a senior at the strongside position, when he finished with 83 tackles and one interception. He posted 156 stops, 1.5 sacks, one interception, five pass defenses, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one blocked punt for the Illini, starting the final 18 games of his career.