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News » @hed.br40:Saints have plenty options for draft

@hed.br40:Saints have plenty options for draft

@hed.br40:Saints have plenty options for draft
DANA POINT, CALIF. -- By aggressively re-shaping their roster over the past month, the Saints have freed themselves to target their favorite kind of player in the draft: the best available player.

And yes, that could mean an offensive player.

The Saints still have some positional needs that outweigh the rest. But Coach Sean Payton said Sunday that the team could look at a power-running tailback in addition to top defensive needs, including safety, outside linebacker, defensive tackle and cornerback, with the 14th pick in the first round.

They also could consider trading down for additional picks.

"You know, we're going to try to draft the best player for our needs and ability, but you don't want to be pigeon-holed into drafting solely on need," said Payton during a wide-ranging, hour-long session with the media Wednesday at the NFL meetings.

Payton said the free safety position still is the Saints' most pressing need -- even though they added veteran free agent Darren Sharper last week and are considering moving third-year cornerback Usama Young to free safety.

After that, he ranked a power running back and an outside linebacker as a tie for No. 2.

Payton spoke highly of the top two draft prospects at the tailback position -- Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno -- though he said Wells, the more physical one, fits' the Saints' "prototype" better.

But Payton stressed they don't need to get that power runner in the draft. The Saints also would consider a veteran back if a good one is released later in the summer. Or even if they don't add reinforcements, he has high hopes for both of the Saints' current young backups, Mike Bell and Lynell Hamilton.

"I like this guy a lot," said Payton of Bell, 25, who burst on the scene as an undrafted free agent with the Broncos in 2006 before fading away the next season after being switched to fullback. "Just from what I've seen, this kid's been humbled a little bit. He's talented, he just fell out of sorts with (former Broncos coach) Mike (Shanahan) a little bit over a possible position change."

Payton said he would feel comfortable heading into the season with a quartet of Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Bell and Hamilton at tailback, assuming Bell and Hamilton continue to live up to their potential throughout the offseason camps. He also said teams can never have enough quality options at a position that gets so thoroughly banged up -- something the Saints have learned better than most teams recently.

Another position the team likely will target on draft day is center.

Meanwhile, one position they won't likely reach for in the early rounds is wide receiver. Payton said he believes you can "find and develop" receivers. And he said he likes the group of young receivers the Saints have now, led by Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem and Adrian Arrington.

He put special emphasis on the potential of Arrington, a seventh-round pick out of Michigan last year who was having a terrific offseason before he suffered a season-ending toe injury in preseason.

"Adrian Arrington would be a name, just be mindful of this player," Payton said. "I like this guy a lot. He's smart, and he's big. The first three weeks or so of training camp he was doing a great job before he got injured."

Among other topics Payton discussed:

-- He said the idea of switching Young to safety still is preliminary at this point.

"In other words, he's a magnet on a grease board right now," Payton said. "And he doesn't do a Football activity until really the first OTA (in May). So we still have plenty of time."

Young, 6 feet, 200 pounds, has shown glimpses of talent since being drafted early in the third round out of Kent State in 2007.

He played in 15 games last season with two starts. He had the first two interceptions of his career.

"We've not sat down and had this discussion, so I'm a little premature here, but I do think this -- I think he's a player that wants to play," Payton said. "He's a big, athletic guy with straight-line speed, probably not the quickness and agility maybe you would want at corner, but he can play in the kicking game."

-- Payton is pleased with the Saints' depth at cornerback, even after the team's decision to release veteran Mike McKenzie last week. He said newly acquired free agent Jabari Greer, second-year pro Tracy Porter and veteran Randall Gay will make up the top three.

On Porter, who won a starting job in camp last season before missing the final 11 games with a wrist injury, Payton said, "I like him a lot. Not a little. A lot."

Payton also likes backup Leigh Torrence, who can contribute on special teams. The only problem, the coach said, is, "I wish we had more size there."

Indeed, those four corners are nearly identical in size: Greer is 5-11, 180; Porter is 5-11, 186; Gay is 5-11, 190; and Torrence is 5-11, 179.

-- The Saints expect to re-sign backup quarterback Joey Harrington soon. Although Harrington has been a free agent for almost a month now, Payton said both the Saints and the 30-year-old quarterback have remained committed to keeping him in New Orleans, and they agreed on a deal in principle weeks ago.

"I like him a lot," Payton said of the former No. 3 draft pick who has turned into a developmental project in New Orleans. "I still look at him as a young player. It's the one position that all of a sudden a player can have success in his 11th season."

-- Payton said no other free-agent signings or veteran releases are imminent after a frantic start to the month.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 26, 2009

Buster Davis Name: Buster Davis
Position: LB
Age: 24
Experience: 1 years
College: Florida State
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