After a long wait, the Saints finally made their first pick of the 2012 draft, addressing an area of need with the selection of DT Akiem Hicks.
As for why they were absent from the first and second rounds — the Saints traded their 2012 first-round pick to the Patriots last year to get back into the first round so they could draft RB Mark Ingram, and they forfeited their 2012 second-round pick as part of the NFL's punishment for "Bountygate."
Hicks is very raw, as the Saints fully acknowledged Friday. They have a habit of taking raw, developmental prospects in the third round. They did it in 2010, drafting TE Jimmy Graham, who broke out last season, and again last year, taking LB Martez Wilson. The jury is still out on him.
As for Hicks, after signing with LSU in ’09, he was declared ineligible by the NCAA for receiving impermissible benefits. He spent the past two seasons at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan and didn’t dominate the competition, even though he was far more gifted athletically than the players he was lining up across from.
One of the Saints’ biggest issues in recent years, however, has been a lack of push from the interior. If Hicks gets stronger, plays with more vinegar and is molded by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, he has the ability to help in that area.
PFW draft expert Nolan Nawrocki wrote in PFW's 2012 Draft Preview that Hicks is an “outstanding-sized, extremely long-armed, smooth-muscled, athletic, unpolished former SEC recruit with an intimidating presence.”
The addition of Hicks may not pay immediate dividends, although the Saints certainly could use instant-impact players, especially on defense. They just found Hicks too intriguing to pass up.