<span style="">It's in the books.
The 2008 New Orleans Saints Draft Class is complete and by all accounts, the team's six selections, in seven rounds, not only addressed some needs but also more importantly, infused the club with competitive players that will come to New Orleans in two weeks time for their initial foray into the National Football League when they take part in the team's rookie mini-camp.
The New Orleans Saints 2008 Draft Class
|1||7|| Sedrick Ellis ||Defensive Tackle|| Southern California|
|2||40|| Tracy Porter ||Cornerback||Indiana|
|5||144|| DeMario Pressley || Defensive Tackle || North Carolina State|
|5||164|| Carl Nicks ||Tackle||Nebraska|
|6||178|| Taylor Mehlhaff ||Kicker||Wisconsin|
|7||237|| Adrian Arrington || Wide Receiver ||Michigan|
The team started the draft by making a splash in the first round, trading up from the 10th pick overall to the seventh spot with New England and snatched powerful and high-effort defensive tackle, Sedrick Ellis, out of Southern California. Ellis, who was regarded as one of the top two defensive tackles in the draft, is known for his tenacity and pugnacious style of play in the middle of the line. The 6-1, 310-pound native of Chino, California gives the Saints a player that can play either of the two defensive tackle positions and gives the Saints a sizeable push along the interior.
"It's going to be great getting down there with those guys (Charles Grant and Will Smith) and get into that pro system and learn from guys that know what it's all about," said Ellis. "I am looking forward to the experience and I just want to learn. I want to pick things up as quickly as possible and those are some great guys to pick it up from."
Saints Head Coach Sean Payton was pleased the team was able to land one of the top prospects in the draft and a player the team clearly targeted heading into the draft. "He's an active player. He's probably more nose (tackle) when you watch the college film, but he's a guy who can play in a three-technique. He gives us flexibility in regards to the pass rush. One thing about him is that the guy plays with great intensity. We saw a lot of film on him and saw him at the Senior Bowl. He was one of the guys as the draft started that we held in high regard and I'm happy we were able to get up there and get in a position to select him."
The Saints concluded the first day of the draft by selecting a local athlete in the form of fleet-footed Tracy Porter, a cornerback out of Indiana University and Port Allen High School near Baton Rouge. The 5-11, 190-pound Porter became the first player in school history to return a punt, and interception and a fumble for a touchdown during his career, and toted a four-year starting spot on his collegiate resume for the Hoosiers and totaled an impressive 16 career interceptions and 24 passes defensed to couple with 212 career tackles.
"The Saints told me they liked my speed," Porter said. "They like my ball skills and they liked me, they like how I play and they like my style of play. I didn't know they were going to draft me."
"He's a guy that does fill a need," said Payton of Porter's selection. "He's a returner. He has good ball skills. He was the captain of his team. The staff there (at Indiana), I know very well. His prior head coach, the late Terry Hoeppner who passed away not too long ago was someone that I worked with for a number of years as well as Bill Lynch, the current head coach at Indian now and a number of assistant coaches. You scout this player from when he arrived at Indiana, all the way through his senior year; he's done a lot of things that we would look for in our corners. We were excited. When you get the end and you have two or three players in that round that you've kind of blocked off and you just hope they don't go in front of you, which can oftentimes happen, in this case, we were fortunate that it didn't."
Thus day one of the draft ended last night and the Saints had addressed two areas that they had targeted, knowing full well that the second day of the draft would begin on Sunday morning and the team wouldn't have a third round draft choice (traded to New England as part of Ellis trade) and a fourth-round pick, which was shipped to the Jets for former first round draft choice Jonathan Vilma, a tenacious and proven leader from the middle linebacker spot who is rounding back into top physical condition this spring.
When the fifth round of the draft rolled around near mid-day, the Saints were pleased to see that North Carolina State defensive lineman DeMario Pressley was still available. However the Saints, according to Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis, were uneasy enough with the Cincinnati Bengals sitting a spot in front of them, and thus the Saints felt the move up was worth the trade up. And lo and behold, the Bengals selected a defensive tackle from Fresno State with their selection.
"We like him as a player, clearly," said Loomis. "We felt like he had an upside. To be honest with you, we got a little nervous that he might go in the spot before us. The team in front of us we thought had a need at that position and in fact took a player at that position with their pick. We just got a little nervous that he might go. The cost to move, a seventh round pick, we didn't feel was very heavy, so we made the move and got the player we wanted to get. We may have been able to take him if we stayed at where we were, but we had a conviction on this player, so I think it was a good move for us.
The Saints then shifted their attention to their offensive line and with their second pick, #164 overall in the fifth round, and selected Nebraska offensive Carl Nicks.
Nicks who began his college career as a defensive lineman at New Mexico State and later at Hartnell Community College before heading to Nebraska. Nicks, 6-5, 343 pounds, played 23 games at Nebraska and made thirteen starts, including eleven at left tackle in 2007 and two at right tackle in 2006. He allowed just one quarterback sack and one pressure during his two seasons with the Huskers and despite his massive size, has quick feet and the ability to drive block in the running game.
"Nick is a big powerful man that we think has a lot of upside," said Loomis. "He needs some work and needs to be developed a bit, but we feel that the upside he has is very high and we will see whether either of the guard positions or the tackle spots are best suited to him."
With their pick in the sixth round the Saints took the first place-kicker taken in the 2008 Draft, Wisconsin lefty Taylor Mehlhaff. The 2007 Lou Groza Award semi-finalist, given to the nation's premier place-kicker, Mehlhaff also garnered All-American first-team honors as a senior. A three-year starter in handling field goals and conversions, he was a major reason the opposition has had poor field position the last four years. In handling kickoff chores, he had 123 of his attempts result in touchbacks and 160 of those kicks returned for a 19.75-yard average, as none of those runbacks produced touchdowns. In 51 games at Wisconsin, Mehlhaff handled kickoff duties in each of those contests and field goal/PAT chores in 39 clashes. He connected on 50-of-65 field goals (76.92%) and 145-of-148 extra point attempts (97.97%) for 295 points, the second-highest total on the school's career scoring chart.
"We have strong competition at a lot of positions, which pleases us," said Loomis. "Taylor is the only kicker, and we worked out quite a few of them, that we really considered drafting. He is a strong-legged guy and has been consistent and improved each season. We are happy to have him and think that the competition at kicker is going to be a positive situation."
The Saints' draft appeared to be over, but the Saints made a late trade with the Green Bay Packers and selected Michigan wide receiver Adrian Arrington, a fleet-footed and rangy receiver that declared for the draft after his red-shirt junior season in Ann Arbor.
Arrington was the recipient of the Desmond Howard Award in 2007, given to the team's top receiver. He started all thirteen games at flanker, finishing second on the team with 67 catches for 882 yards (13.2 avg.) and eight touchdowns. He also had a solo tackle vs. Florida and completed an 11-yard scoring pass on a reverse to Mario Manningham in the Notre Dame clash.
In 35 games at Michigan, Arrington started 18 contests. He collected 1,438 yards with sixteen touchdowns on 109 receptions (13.2 avg.), as he scored 96 points.
"We liked the potential that he has and the level of competition he has played against and think that there is something there that we can work with," said Loomis. "He has good size and ball skills and think that he'll benefit from the veterans that we have at the position and from the coaching that he'll get when he gets in our program."