A fairly full, post-draft mailbag. Let’s dig in.
@bwalk_22: Do you think Vonn Bell will have the starting free safety job before midseason?
JD: No, I don’t. But that’s not the same as saying I don’t think he’ll start – he could open in some of the sub-packages, and I think he’ll play a lot of snaps that way. The truth is, we still haven’t actually seen the Rafael Bush that the New Orleans Saints signed as a free agent; he’s been injured and simply hasn’t been himself. But I don’t believe Bell will beat out Byrd as a starter at free safety if Byrd is healthy (unfortunately, a big “if”), although I do believe Bell will play a lot because of his coverage abilities and his ball skills.
@thegutsysleeper: Which undrafted free agent intrigues you the most, and why?
@thnikaman89: Which three of the 19 undrafted free agents are you most excited about, or that you expect the most from?
JD: I’ll combine these two, since they’re so similar. The names that stand out for me are offensive linemen Jack Allen of Michigan State and Landon Turner of North Carolina, and defensive back Trae Elston from Ole Miss. Allen (6 feet 2, 296 pounds) and Turner (6-4, 325) weren’t just All-Americans in college, but they are All-Americans who can play offensive guard, a position the Saints weren’t able to address in free agency or the draft. So they’ll get a good, long look. Allen, who primarily was a center, started 42 games at center and five games at left guard, and Turner was a four-year starter at guard. They could be among the recent undrafted rookie finds that the Saints have made, and the team has a history under Coach Sean Payton of going by what they see on the field, rather than press clippings and draft positions. Elston also was an All-American for Ole Miss, but just as intriguing as his 34 passes defensed and four interceptions is that he’ll be a special team addition. He’ll have to make his mark there, but it won’t hurt that he has skills as a defensive back.
@SaintPelican225: How many undrafted free agents do you think will stick?
@nola2rva: Which of the undrafted free agents do you see making the final 53-man roster?
JD: Unless my numbers are off, the Saints have averaged keeping about five undrafted rookies per year the last three years. I’ll stay with that average, and say four or five will make this year’s roster, headlined by Allen and Turner.
@tmite504: What are you expecting from the Saints and their defense this year?
JD: Gonna stay consistent with this answer: The defense will be better (it will improve from last in points allowed and next-to-last in yards allowed per game, and it’ll force more turnovers than the 19.5 it has averaged forcing the last two seasons). And since the offense will do what we’ve come to expect from it (finish in the top 10 in points and yards per game), that combination will be enough to have the Saints in playoff contention.
@whodatnation96: Do you think Drew Brees is a better quarterback than Tom Brady? Don’t include Super Bowls, please. And how do you feel about the Saints draft? What grade do you give the Saints?
JD: I’m guessing that Brees would include Super Bowls in such a comparison, so it sounds like you’re a Brees fan and you want to tilt the comparison in favor of the Saints’ quarterback. I have no problem with that, because Brees’ numbers stack up favorably against any quarterback in NFL history. But I don’t believe you can pick and choose which accolades you want to exclude when you’re debating all-time greatness. Both are first-ballot Hall of Famers, and I believe both franchises are pretty happy with the quarterbacks they have. As for the Saints’ draft, they were able to address several specific needs except offensive guard, and perhaps they were able to do that with their undrafted rookie class. But I’m not one for grading a draft before a season has been played. It’s great conversation and I understand why everyone loves it, but I want to see these guys actually play an NFL game or 20 before singing praises or declaring concern.
@datwhodat1965: Would it be a good idea to sign Jahri Evans to solidify our offensive line?
@NotChrisCiaccio: Do the Saints give Jahri Evans a call for a one-year contract, with no definite answer at guard right now?
JD: I’m guessing that if a contractual accord could’ve been reached, it would’ve and Evans wouldn’t have been released. So, based on that, I believe a Saints-Evans reunion is unlikely. I’d never say that it couldn’t happen because anything is possible. But it appears that both parties have moved on, with the Saints looking for an answer in-house or via their undrafted rookie class, and Evans searching for another franchise.
@DaRealRonMexico: How committed are the Saints to grooming Garrett Grayson as the future No. 1 quarterback?
JD: They drafted him in the third round in 2015, didn’t draft a quarterback this year and didn’t pursue one in free agency other than trusted backup Luke McCown. Now, is Grayson’s job secure? No. Only the privileged few enter a season without competition in the NFL. But Grayson is entering Year 2 of his career, and he’ll have even more of a chance to establish himself as the Saints’ future quarterback.
@dray_warner: What is the weakest position on the roster moving into the season?
JD: Offensive guard. It’s the one area the Saints weren’t able to address in free agency or in the draft, but they may have helped themselves via the rookie free agent class. Also, there are options already in the building (Senio Kelemete, Andrus Peat), but it was an area that General Manager Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Payton said they would continue to look to bolster.
@ac_malone: Why is it so dang hard to find a Steve Gleason or Scott Fujita youth jersey?!
JD: Those probably were a lot easier to find when Gleason and Fujita were active Saints players. If they’re not in the team store – and I’m guessing that was the first place you checked – one solution could be to special order it through the team store or the NFL store.
@ericmo77: Why do people grade players who haven't played yet, and seldom do they ever grade previous year’s drafts?
JD: One word: Immediacy. If you’ll bear with me while I hop on my soapbox for a few minutes, what I mean is this: It’s sexier to make a knee-jerk, loud conclusion than it is to take a measured, logical approach. There’s no glamour in waiting until after something has happened and then taking stock of it; all the shine and attention goes with predicting what will happen, then judging it immediately. So, people assign grades hours after a draft has concluded, rather than assigning grades three years later, when those players actually have had a chance to contribute to a franchise. That’s my take on it, for what it’s worth.