Overview: New Orleans was already without a first-round pick this year — that pick was traded to the Patriots for the Saints to be in position to draft Mark Ingram in 2011 — and they lost a second-round pick this year as part of their “bounty” punishment. It leaves the Saints with only six picks — a third-rounder, a fourth-rounder, a fifth-rounder, two sixth-rounders and one seventh-rounder. Their first choice isn't until No. 89 overall. Barring an appeal from Sean Payton that goes on longer than expected, his one-year suspension will keep him from being involved during the draft, and that will leave the Saints without their most authoritative voice in the war room. GM Mickey Loomis’ suspension does not begin until the start of the regular season, so he will take part in draft weekend. It’s not clear how much say an interim head coach might have during the draft, but it appears likely that the commissioner will have announced player sanctions for the “bounty” case by draft weekend so the team can prepare accordingly.
Need No. 1: Defensive end/defensive tackle
One of the top tasks for new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo — who could get another shot to be a head coach much sooner than anyone expected if the Saints decide to hire Payton’s one-year replacement from within — is improving the pass rush from the front four. DE Cameron Jordan, a first-round pick in 2011, had one sack last season and the Saints should be looking for help off the edge and on the interior to generate more pressure. The Saints signed DT Brodrick Bunkley, who is likely to start at nose tackle, but he has only six sacks in his six seasons, and DT Sedrick Ellis produced only half of a sack last season after collecting six sacks in ’10.
Need No. 2: Cornerback/safety
The Saints let CB Tracy Porter walk in free agency. Patrick Robinson, a 2010 first-round pick, is likely to replace him, and while the starters in the defensive backfield are pretty well set, they need to add depth at corner and safety. These are not areas they have addressed in free agency to this point and an injury to a starter or two would be very significant at both positions given the lack of depth.
Need No. 3: Wide receiver
QB Drew Brees still has a deep collection of dangerous targets, even with the departure of WR Robert Meachem in free agency. Adrian Arrington could get a shot to replace him, but part of the reason the Saints have had such success over the past few years is because they have continued adding talented targets for Brees even when it seemed like other needs were more pressing. They should continue to make that a priority and look for a deep threat at receiver.