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T-Bob Hebert

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Twitter: @tbob53
Email: tbob@3wl1350.com

 


5 LSU Tigers join the ranks of the NFL

This weekend’s NFL Draft saw five more Tigers join the ranks of the NFL.  Just like we previewed, Deion Jones was the first former Tiger selected in the 2nd round by the Atlanta Falcons.  So not only did Tiger fans not get to see Debo in the Black and Gold, but they saw the worst case scenario realized as now he will be playing for the Black and Red.  If Jones ends up being successful in the NFL, this creates a maddening situation for Saints fans in which twice a season you have to play two former LSU linebackers that you passed up on.  Kwon Alexander of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was NFC Defensive Player of Week 8 last season, along with ending up on the all-rookie team.

Next off the board was a bit of a surprise. I fully expected Vadal Alexander to be the first LSU offensive lineman selected but that was not the case as Jerald Hawkins was the next Tiger off the board in the fourth round when the Pittsburgh Steelers snagged him with the 123rd overall pick.  The Steelers love Hawkins' size and although he isn’t the best pass blocker yet; he shows the athleticism required to become one of the best.  Hawkins looks to shore up a tackle position that struggled for Pittsburgh in 2015.

After the Hawkins selection, the wait was on for both Jalen Mills and Vadal Alexander with many being surprised that the two had lasted this long.  The wait was just beginning, as both Mills and Alexander did not come off the board until the 7th round.  Mills was selected with the 233rd pick by the Philadelphia Eagles with Alexander hot off his heels going 234th to the Oakland Raiders.  Although I’m sure both players are disappointed, they have no reason to be.  Getting drafted is an honor, and now is when the real work starts anyway.  These two need to play with a chip on their shoulder and make teams regret passing on them. 

Imagine my surprise when I saw the San Francisco 49ers select CB Rashard Robinson in the 4th round with the 133rd pick (just ten spots behind Hawkins).  Robinson may have only started 8 games in his LSU career but he was a helluva lotta fun to watch.  Selfishly, I wish he could have remained on the LSU team (he was suspended indefinitely in November and eventually released), but I cannot wait to see this man play football again.  I think the 49ers got some great value here and if anyone can teach him how to handle his life both on and off the field its former Tiger and current 49er safety Eric Reid.  
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T-Bob: Saints take big risk for bigger talent with Onyemata

The Saints surprised many by trading away their 5th round pick from this year and 5th round pick from next year in order to move back into the 4th round and take DT David Onyemata, a young man originally from Nigeria who played his college football in Canada for the Manitoba Bisons.  This pick was met with negative reactions online as many people found themselves asking “who? From where? We traded up?!” And while these are valid initial reactions, it is my opinion that people are travelling too far into negative territory. 

Is David Onyemata a finished product? Absolutely not, but is he good enough to play on this level? Absolutely.  At the tender age of 18 Onyemata left sun scorched Nigeria for the frozen north of Canada in order to pursue his education.  Up to that point in his life, he had never watched American football, and he had certainly never played the game - yet once he arrived at college David said that he felt he had some extra time on his hands and so why not try out this football game everyone is talking about?  After all, at 6’4 300 pounds Onyemata certainly had the frame to play the game so what could it hurt?  Lets take a minute and think about this.  When you realize just four years later he has been drafted into the NFL not only is this a truly fascinating story but what does it tell us about the football potential of Onyemata?  

READ MORE: Saints move up to round 4 to add DT Onyemata

Imagine the culture shock that Onyemata must have experienced at the age of 18.  The young man enters a distant, frigid country that must’ve felt purely alien when compared to his Sahara Desert influenced home of Nigeria.  Think about the growing pains you experienced moving out of your childhood home and then multiply it a thousand fold.  Onyemata is in a new landscape halfway across the world, going to school, learning new customs, and on a whim decides to try out this “football” game he keeps hearing about. 

Although we don’t always notice (because most of us grew up watching the game) football is an incredibly un-intuitive sport.  What I mean by that is you can’t just sit down, watch a game, and understand what is going on.  Sports like soccer or basketball are much easier to grasp while football is overflowing with nuance.  Only 7 men allowed on the line of scrimmage, only the end man on the line is eligible, a touchdown is six points with the chance for an extra point yet a field goal is just three (but if you score another touchdown from the two yard line after scoring a touchdown you can get TWO points).  You will stop and start four times before giving the ball back to the opposing team unless you manage to travel ten yards then you get more chances.  The list goes on and on.  That’s not even including the technical challenges of trying to learn how to physcially play a position on the field.  

Now lets stop and think about the mental and physical capabilities of a person who in just a few short years can progress from being wholly ignorant of a sport to the point where he had never even held a football to being drafted into the highest professional league in the WORLD of said sport. With that in mind I think it becomes immediately apparent as to the amount of raw intelligence and physical talent that Onyemata possesses. 

FULL AUDIO: Hear David Onyemata's first interview on WWL

Is David a risk? Yes.  But as is the case with all the decisions during the draft we have to weigh this choice on a risk vs reward scale and with the raw skills that Onyemata possesses its easy to start salivating when thinking about his potential ceiling.  In just four years David went from having never held a football to being the best football player in Canada.  That is a HELLUVA trajectory and one that I am sure the Saints hope continues.

As a final note I will leave you with this.   If you found yourself filled with anger or upset with the pick when it came across your television set earlier remember this basic truth of the NFL Draft.  At this point literally NO ONE knows who is going to be good or and who is going to be bad.  We see players go Bust and Boom in the most unexpected manner each and every year.  With that much uncertainty you must realize that you can CHOOSE whether or not to be optimistic at this point.  As for me personally, not only am I enthralled by the story of David Onyemata but I think I’m even more excited about the football potential of David Onyemata. 

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T-Bob: Saints get big risk but bigger talent with Onyemata pick

The Saints surprised many by trading away their 5th round pick from this year and next year in order to move back into the 4th round and take DT David Onyemata, a young man who originally from Nigeria who played his college football in Canada for the Manitoba Bisons.  This pick was met with negative reactions online, as many people found themselves asking “who? From where? We traded up?!” And while these are valid initial reactions, it is my opinion that people are traveling too far into negative territory. 

FULL AUDIO: Hear Onyemata's first interview as a Saint on WWL

Is David Onyemata a finished product? Absolutely not, but is he good enough to play on this level? Absolutely.  At the tender age of 18, Onyemata left sun-scorched Nigeria for the frozen north of Canada in order to pursue his education.  Up to that point in his life he had never watched American football and he had certainly never played the game - yet once he arrived at college, David said that he felt he had some extra time on his hands and so why not try out this football game everyone is talking about?  After all, at 6’4, 300 pounds, Onyemata certainly had the frame to play the game so what could it hurt?  Lets take a minute and think about this.  When you realize just four years later he has been drafted into the NFL, not only is this a truly fascinating story - but what does it tell us about the football potential of Onyemata?  

Imagine the culture shock that Onyemata must have experienced at the age of 18.  The young man enters a distant, frigid country that must’ve felt purely alien when compared to his Sahara Desert home in Nigeria.  Think about the growing pains you experienced moving out of your childhood home and then multiply it a thousand fold.  Onyemata is in a new landscape halfway across the world, going to school, learning new customs, and on a whim decides to try out this “football” game he keeps hearing about. 

Although we don’t always notice (because most of us grew up watching the game) football is an incredibly un-intuitive sport.  What I mean by that is you can’t just sit down, watch a game, and understand what is going on.  Sports like soccer or basketball are much easier to grasp - football is overflowing with nuance.  Only 7 men allowed on the line of scrimmage, only the end man on the line is eligible, a touchdown is six points with the chance for an extra point, yet a field goal is just three (but if you score another touchdown from the two yard line after scoring a touchdown you can get TWO points).  You will stop and start four times before giving the ball back to the opposing team unless you manage to travel ten yards, then you get more chances... the list goes on and on.  

That’s not even including the technical challenges of trying to learn how to physcially play a position on the field.  Now lets stop and think about the mental and physical capabilities of a person who in just a few short years can progress from being wholly ignorant of a sport to the point where he had never even held a football to being drafted into the highest professional league in the WORLD of said sport.  With that in mind I think it becomes immediately apparent as to the amount of raw intelligence and physical talent that Onyemata possesses. 

READ MORE: Saints move up to round 4 to add DT Onyemata

Is David a risk? Yes.  But as is the case with all the decisions during the draft we have to weigh this choice on a risk vs reward scale and with the raw skills that Onyemata possesses its easy to start salivating when thinking about his potential ceiling.  In just four years David went from having never held a football to being the best football player in Canada.  That is a HELLUVA trajectory and one that I am sure the Saints hope continues.

As a final note I will leave you with this.   If you found yourself filled with anger or upset with the pick when it came across your television set earlier remember this basic truth of the NFL Draft.  At this point literally NO ONE knows who is going to be good or and who is going to be bad.  We see players go Bust and Boom in the most unexpected manner each and every year.  With that in mind, you can CHOOSE whether or not to be optimistic at this point.  As for me personally, not only am I enthralled by the story of David Onyemata but I think I’m even more excited about the football potential of David Onyemata. 

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T-Bob: Four LSU players hoping to get the call tonight

For what seems like the first time in years LSU, did not have a player get drafted in the first round yesterday.  However, that isn’t to say that there aren’t some very talented Tigers in this draft.  Throughout the 2nd and 3rd rounds tonight there are four players imparticular who will hope to hear their names called.  

Deion Jones, Vadal Alexander, Jalen Mills, and Gerald Hawkins will all be on the edge of their seats as they wait to see what their future holds.

The first Tiger to come off the board today will most likely be LB Deion Jones aka "Debo."  There’s a wonderful anecdote about the Debo nickname being a combination of Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson and although those are some mighty big shoes to fill, Jones’ unique mixture of speed, coverage, and tackling ability shows you why the nickname stuck.  Jones is an interesting case because when compared to his fellow potential LSU draftees he wasn’t always a starter in college.  

In fact, Jones had one start in his first three years at LSU, but that isn’t to say that he wasn’t productive.  During his 1st three years at LSU, Jones was a special teams monster and in a league like the NFL where the more versatile you are the more attractive you become, Jones’ special teams skill set is invaluable.  When Jones finally did get the chance to start, he dominated, leading the Tigers in tackles last year with 100 tackles and 13.5 TFLs.  Combined with his five sacks, two ints, and three pass breakups scouts have noticed that Jones is a player particularly well suited to the modern day linebacking position.  Which is maybe the most interesting thing about Jones is that if he had entered the league in any other era he would have been considered a tweener or too small.  However, in the modern day NFL where speedy LBs that have the ability to cover are all the rage, Jones represents a perfect fit.  I would be surprised to see Jones make it out of round two and I definitely don’t see him on the board come tomorrow.  

The next highest rated Tiger is former guard and tackle Vadal Alexander.  Alexander is the opposite of Deion Jones, as he literally played from day one at LSU.  Alexander was a four year starter for the Tigers and was a freshman all american, 2nd and 1st team all SEC through his career.  Although he played tackle at the end of his college career he projects to be a guard on the next level.  At 6’5 326 with big hands and long arms NFL scouts LOVE his size however some would also say that his size works against him a bit.  

While being that big has led to Alexander being a dominant run blocker and a stone wall against any kind of bull rush, it has also caused him to struggle a bit when it comes to dealing with speedy, quick defenders.  Its for this reason that he will almost assuredly end up on the interior of an offensive line.  Through this offseason some (myself included) questioned Alexander’s testing numbers, but after talking to scouts the game tape is Alexander’s best friend.  After all, who cares if you can run a 4.9 40 and bench 36 reps if you can’t actually play the game.  I expect Vadal to be taken off of the board sometime in the third to fourth rounds.  Which means he might be getting that call today or he may have to wait till tomorrow. 

Sticking with the offensive line, the next prospect that will be looking to hear his name called will be tackle Gerald Hawkins.  Hawk was the lone junior to forgo his SR year at LSU (a welcome change of pace for Tiger fans) in order to test his might in the NFL.  Have you ever heard of the eyeball test?  Its where you judge a guy based solely on how he looks and nothing else.  Well, Gerald Hawkins passes the eyeball test in record fashion.  At 6’6 305 pounds and 34 inch arms Hawkins is a lean, mean offensive lineman machine.  

Lean might seem like an odd word to use but when you see Hawkins up close you notice he isn’t fat.  Like, not at all.  The dude is a brick house of muscle.  That said, he is far from a finished product.  Hawkins flashes excellent footwork and athleticism at times, yet at others he gets inexplicably beat by players that you know he is better than.  The most succinct way of summing up Hawkins’ biggest issue is that he is inconsistent.  That said, I think the raw talent and athleticism of Hawk are going to be too much for too many more teams to pass up on.  If a coach can get him to perform consistently in the vein of a player like former Tiger Joe Barksdale, then Hawkins will play in this league for a long time.  Look for Hawkins to come off of the board in the fourth or fifth round.  

The last player I want to talk about today may be my favorite and that is defensive back Jalen Mills.  Mills was a stalwart at LSU playing from the first day he stepped on campus.  If Mills hadn’t been injured in camp this season he would have potentially set the NCAA record for most starts in a career.  Mills was versatile as well playing both cornerback and safety during his 4 years with the Tigers.  Athletically Jalen Mills is a monster.  He ran a 4.56 forty and was near the top of the combine leaderboard with a 37 inch vertical.  Ironically, however, his size and athleticism combine to make him a bit of a tweener.  

Not a true corner, nor a true safety Mills looks to be the perfect fit for a slot/nickel corner role.  It should be noted that it doesn’t hurt that in case of emergency Mills is a player that can basically play anywhere in the secondary.  As much as I like Mills’ on field talent, however, the aspect of his game that I find most intriguing are the intangibles.  If you ever sit down and talk to Jalen you are immediately struck by his serious nature and no nonsense approach.  The dude exudes leadership and if you watch this LSU football team as much as I do you could see the results on the field.  When Mills was injured last year the secondary was plagued by mental mistakes and missed assignments.  When Mills returned, these problems were all but erased.  I have seen grades on Mills all the way from the second round to the seventh.  I am not exactly sure where he will go BUT if it is anywhere past 3rd than some team is getting a helluva deal.  

Four young men anxiously away to see what their future holds.  What city will they be living in?  Who will their teammates be? Who will Coach them?  What will it be like to have that much money?  These are all questions to which the answers lie right around the corner.  That may be the greatest part of the draft.  The life changing moment represented by receiving that phone call from a team that wants you to play for them in the NFL.  I enjoyed watching these four in college and I will enjoy watching them on Sundays…. Now the only question is…. where will they be?
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T-Bob: Don't read into LSU Spring Game too much, good or bad

I am going to make my stance on the Spring Game clear.  I think that due to the small amount of information the media and public are given throughout spring football, we will over analyze, over think, and over critique today’s game.  We’ll explore every nook and cranny.  We’ll attempt to use this game to decide who will be the starters at the beginning of the season.  

We do this despite the fact that the spring game is an intentionally boring game-ified practice.  The coaches don’t want to give anything away and they run simple base plays, against simple base defenses.  

Now, my intent is not to fully devalue the Spring Game.  You can watch some 1 on 1 matchups, observe how the players respond to a crowd, and simulate some of the mechanics of an actual game.  My greater point is, just don’t read too much into what you saw on the field today, good or bad.  

Also, recognize that today’s scrimmage becomes even harder to judge when you look at the number of starters that didn’t participate.  Three starting O-linemen and a couple starter corners, amongst others, all watched from the sideline.  With that said... What did I think?

I like the attitude of this team.  They seem to have an excellent core of mature, seasoned leaders.  They are a team that knows how this process works and are no longer daunted by the mental and physical grind required to be successful.  Obviously, this makes sense considering the amount of Juniors and Seniors they have.  

I love the fact that this team starts the season in Lambeau against Wisconsin.  Its a challenge to be sure, but it is also a big stage and this is a team that believes they belong on big stages.  When the Juniors had their press conference announcing they were staying, the message was made clear that this team has championship aspirations and expectations.  I think they will relish the chance to make a statement when the lights are brightest. 

A few obvious things to point out.  Leonard Fournette ran the ball and looked good doing it.  Derrius Guice continues to make fans salivate.  The defensive line continues to flourish under Coach Orgeron’s guidance.  Beyond that, I didn’t get to see much of Aranda’s scheme (intentionally boring, remember?) BUT the communication from the defense seemed tight and efficient.  Duke Riley made some plays stepping into the weak side LB role.  BUT WHAT ABOUT THE QUARTERBACKS, RIGHT?!

Both QBs played alright.  I won’t give numbers because I don’t think they have any value in this game, but both had their positive and negative moments.  The only thing that I am fully convinced of now is that this is indeed a true quarterback competition.  I believe Harris remains on the inside track, BUT this race isn’t a formality.  Its a contest to decide who will be the one to attempt to guide this team to their goals.  Regardless of who wins the competition, its good for the team as a whole.  These two will push one another to reach their full potential and any thoughts of complacency or contentedness will be hastily driven away.  

Today was a boring Spring Game but I don’t believe this to be a boring team.  This is a team that should compete in one of the New Year’s Six bowls.  The only thing I am upset by is the fact that we have to wait 4 more months to see them in action.  
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T-Bob: Hokie Gajan was toughness personified

I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to work with Hokie Gajan these last couple of years.  Being the new man here at WWL, I was able to learn valuable lessons just from following his example.  I learned the way a true professional conducts his business.  How to treat others, how to carry yourself, and how to be tough.  In fact, thats what Hokie will always represent to me.  Toughness personified.  A man who no matter what the problem was, he was going to do his job and he was going to do it to the right way.  

This is truly a sad day and my thoughts and prayers go out to all the friends and family of Hokie Gajan.
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T-Bob: 2016 Saints season starts here

The NFL announced its Offseason Workout Program dates - the Saints and teams around the league can officially get back to work in a couple more weeks on April 18th.  Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each club’s official, voluntary nine-week offseason program is conducted in three phases.  

The first phase covers the first two weeks of the program and consists solely of strength and conditioning work as well as physical rehabilitation.  Phase two is a three week portion of the program in which on-field workouts may include player instruction and drills as well as team practice conducted on a “separate” basis.  No live contact or team offense vs team defense drills are allowed.  Phase three is when things start to heat up as over the course of 4 weeks the team may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity or OTAs for short.  Still, no live contact is permitted, however 7 on 7, 9 on 7, and 11 on 11 drills are fair game.  During phase three teams are also allowed to hold on mandatory minicamp for veteran players.  This is unique because all of the other phases we have talked about up to this point are purely voluntary.  

While these three phases will include rookies, you can expect the Saints rookies to arrive a bit earlier as 7 weeks of rookie football development is allowed.  This development program may begin on May 9th and during this portion no activities may be held on weekends save for one post-NFL Draft rookie minicamp which may be conducted the first or second weekend immediately following the draft.  We will find out when the Saints choose to hold theirs at a later date.  

The Saints will begin their work along with everyone else on April 18th before OTA’s get under way on May 23-24, May 31, June 1-2, and June 6-9.  June 14-16 will see the Saints host their mandatory minicamp meaning that all vets regardless of job security will have to show up.  

This is where it all begins.  This is where the first steps are taken into deciding who the next Super Bowl champion will be.  Do you think the Saints have any chance of claiming that title? 
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T-Bob: Why did Pelicans wait to operate on Anthony Davis?

The Pelicans' 2015-16 season has been veritable disaster from top to bottom, a series of unfortunate events that has now culminated in their franchise player shutting down his season early in order to get both the knee and shoulder surgeries he requires.  A disappointing end to a disappointing year - perhaps the only silver lining is that without Anthony Davis the Pelicans will almost assuredly end the season losing almost all their games, therefore maximizing their potential draft spot.  

Through his first three years in the league, many have questioned whether or not Anthony Davis was soft.  Davis has never completed a full season with the Pels.  In fact, the 68 games Davis played in last year mark a career high.  However, with the announcement of the shutting down of Davis for the year we got some interesting news.  Anthony Davis has been playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder for the last three years! I think that answers any of the doubts you may have about the toughness of Anthony Davis.  As someone who has had two different labrum surgeries myself I find this shocking and it immediately raises a couple questions.

First, why in the world did the Pelicans wait so long to get this operation done if he has known about the injury for three full offseasons?  From what I understand, Davis refused to have the surgery because he didn’t want to have to miss time (its a 4-6 month recovery) and he felt as if he could play through the pain.  

While I respect and understand Davis’ decision, sometimes it is the medical staff’s responsibility to protect a player from himself.  The Pelicans training and medical staff already has a bad reputation and, whether its fair or not, this news just reinforces the perception of incompetence.  I struggle to understand what the long term plans with this shoulder were.  They were just going to let him continue to play until it was irreparably damaged?  Or perhaps he was going to play until he was no longer in New Orleans?  From a long term perspective it just seems incredibly shortsighted to have your best asset continue to play at less than 100% instead of taking the time during the three offseasons to fix the issue so it no longer has to be dealt with in the future.  

Regardless of what the long term plans were, Davis’ knee injury has spurred the team and staff into action.  AD will undergo knee surgery (the full extent of the injury is still unknown) and shoulder surgery this offseason while the Pelicans will undergo a surgery of their own.  This is the offseason that will make or break the rest of Anthony Davis’ time in New Orleans as the Pels attempt to build a team around Davis and Jrue Holiday.  

As hopeful as fans were after the playoff run last spring, they are just as pessimistic heading into this year’s offseason.
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T-Bob: Forget the Pelicans playoffs hopes; just watch AD amaze

The New York Times named the Pelicans as their most disappointing team in the NBA this season, the playoffs are basically out the picture, and the NBA’s own website gave New Orleans "D" grades for bench and scoring and an "F" for defense.  Yet, as yesterday’s game showed us, despite all of the negativity surrounding this team, they are still worth watching simply because of Anthony Davis.  Yesterday, Davis reminded the NBA just how good he really is when he scored 59 points and grabbed 20 boards in a 111-105 win over the Detroit Pistons.  

This unbelievable stat line becomes even more impressive when you realize the elite company that a performance like this lands Davis in.  AD became the 3rd player in NBA history, joining Shaquille O'Neal and Wilt Chamberlain as the only other two players to score at least 55 and grab 20 rebounds.  

Despite the fact that Davis is just 22 years old, this is not the first time that he has found his name crossing paths with the NBA’s best players of all time.  Last season Davis recorded a 30.81 player efficiency rating.  The only names ahead of Davis on this list for best single season PER of all time are Lebron James, Michael Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain.  

This is not a coincidence.

Games like last night remind you of the prodigy status of a player like Davis.  Like Mozart, Picasso, or Marie Curie, Davis doesn’t let his youth hold him back from being mentioned with the best.  At just 22 years old he is already rubbing elbows with the greatest of all time. I know that this season has been rife with frustration and infected with disappointment and I think the struggles caused many of us to take Davis for granted and stop watching this Pelicans team.  Yesterday, Davis reminded me that this is a mistake.  

Its not just the fact that Davis scored 59 points, its the manner in which he accumulated those points that causes my jaw to stay permanently planted on the floor.  He can post you up, he can take you off the dribble, he can shoot the midrange jumper whether you are in his face or not, and now, in a cruel mockery of less talented human beings, Anthony Davis can shoot the three.  

My advice for the rest of the Pelicans season?  Forget about the playoffs, forget about the injuries, forget about this whole miserable season and just watch Anthony Davis ball.  My hope for the rest of the season is that the Pelicans continue to focus on the big man.  I wouldn’t mind them force feeding AD to the point where it perhaps becomes a detriment to the team because the bottom line is that the Pelicans best chance to win rests on his very broad shoulders.  

Davis’ tenure with the Pelicans may be a marathon, not a sprint, but if you aren’t careful you might miss some incredibly special moments along the way.  So, once again I say unto you let go of your disappointment and watch Mozart ball.  
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T-Bob: At Senior Bowl, Saints should prioritize interior linemen

Once a year at Senior Bowl, the aristocracy of the football world travels down to Mobile, Alabama in search of solutions to their current problems.  Like the royals of old, the aristocrats bring a wide range of personnel with a wide range of problems in their wake.  Some are looking for the stars of the future, while others are hoping to make connections in order to find a job.  Coaches, agents, scouts, players and everyone in between know that a solid week in Mobile can set up a solid year of success.  For the players specifically, this week could potentially decide the direction of the rest of their lives.

In my opinion, the most unique part about the Senior Bowl from the players’ perspective is the amount of pressure that these young men are under.  There may not be 90,000 people in the stands, there may not be championships on the line, but that doesn’t matter, because the Senior Bowl represents a different type of pressure than these players are accustomed to. 

When you win or lose in college, you win or lose as a team.  The individual is allowed to melt into the greater framework of the tribe, thus spreading the joy of success and burden of defeat across multiple shoulders.  This week the situation is flipped on its head.  The concept of team is pushed to the background while the success of the individual, or lack thereof, reigns supreme.  When playing games in college, these players knew that win or lose, there would be another game next week.  However, during this week these players know they are competing for their future.

Although the Senior Bowl is made up of the best veteran college football players in the country, less than 30% of the players competing will find themselves on 53 man rosters when the NFL season begins.  This percentage provides us with some perspective on how tough it truly is to succeed in the League, as well as some context on what is on the line for the participants this week.  The Senior Bowl is an excellent chance to kick start some positive momentum heading into the draft evaluation process.  Because of the nature of the NFL, the higher you get picked, the better chance you have of making a roster.  A solid week in Mobile can see you increase your stock from a late to mid round, mid to early round, and so on and so forth.  This year is no different and the New Orleans Saints will be keeping an eye on the names rising up draft boards.

In my opinion, the Saints' priorities are the interior defensive line, interior offensive line, and linebacker positions. Thankfully there is no shortage of impressive prospects from which to choose.  Alabama DT Jarran Reed is a name to keep an eye on as well as Sheldon Rankins from Louisville. Rankins specifically has been dominant in one on one pass rush through the first two practices winning nearly every rep.  

As far as offensive line is concerned Kansas St Guard Cody Whitehair has stood out in both run and pass blocking and although I don’t expect the Saints to take him, Michigan St center Jack Allen has played very well at both center and guard despite being just 296 pounds and six feet two inches.  

Finally, the linebacker position is flush with talent not the least of which is former LSU linebacker Deion Jones.  Jones led the Tigers in tackles last season and has the speed that NFL defenses are falling more and more in love with at the linebacker position.  Inside linebacker Jake Ganus from UGA has been a surprise as well as he wasn’t on many people’s radars yet has made play after play through the first couple of practices.

Half a week down, half a week to go.  The cream will continue to rise to the top and it will be interesting to see which players will FORCE teams to pay attention to them.

What do you think? Should the Saints be focused on the offensive and defensive lines or would they be better suited searching elsewhere?  I’ve heard rumor that the Black and Gold may potentially be in the market for a cornerback… smart move?
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