Top News

Putting the athletic prototype of the New Orleans Saints on the defensive

Everyone knows the New Orleans Saints prefer height and length on the defensive end — head coach Dennis Allen said so at last week’s NFL owners’ meetings, identifying those physical attributes as a big factor in establishing the position’s athletic prototype.

We can argue about how flexible the Saints should be when it comes to evaluating prospects, but with the 2023 NFL draft fast approaching, it’s worth taking a look at the factors they’ve shown us that they value them. To do this, we tracked height, weight, arm length, and athletic test results for all 14 defensive ends who have joined the Saints since 2018 and identified average results and minimum standards that all met.

Sure, there were a few outliers here and there. But for the most part, these were players who only signed with the practice team or who were given the free hand after proving they could overcome some sporting limitations in another squad. Here are the minimum stats the Saints are looking for in each category on the defensive end, with average stats in parentheses:

  • Height: 6ft-2 (6ft-4)

  • Weight: 252 pounds (268 pounds)

  • Arm length: 32 inches (33.5 inches)

  • 40-yard dash: 4.91 seconds (4.78 seconds)

  • 10-yard split: 1.76 seconds (1.67 seconds)

  • 3-cone drill: 7.63 seconds (7.31 seconds)

  • Short shuttle: 4.67 seconds (4.45 seconds)

  • Vertical Jump: 29 inches (32.1 inches)

  • Long jump: 9-foot-1 (9-foot-8)

Again, we’ve seen the Saints overlook a prospect’s size, short arms, or poor 40-yard dash time, or whatever in the past, but they have standards that they try and uphold. The lightest defensive ends they’ve used in the past five years, Al-Quadin Muhammad (253 pounds) and Carl Granderson (254 pounds), were both asked to build mass before seeing heavy minutes. And in both cases, these players brought the height and length that New Orleans was looking for.

So what can we do with this information? For one thing, we can try to narrow down the list of prospects the Saints might be scouting in this year’s draft. The following players plan to play defensive end for New Orleans but cannot qualify for two or more of the athletic minimums listed above:

The story goes on

  • Byron Cox, Tennessee: 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, 32.5-inch arms

  • Nick Hampton, Appalachian State: 6-foot-2, 238 pounds, 33.5-inch arms

  • Isaiah Land, Fla. A&M: 6-foot-3, 236 pounds, 32.5-inch arms

  • Nolan Smith, Georgia: 6-foot-2, 238 pounds, 32.5-inch arms

  • Jose Ramirez, Eastern Michigan: 6-foot-2, 242 pounds, 32.7-inch arms

There are other defensive end prospects who might struggle to keep the Saints from sticking to their standards, like Iowa State pass rusher Will McDonald IV (who weighs 239 pounds) and inside-out lineman from USC, Tuli Tuipulotu (whose arms are 32.2 inches). fit just above the minimum). Mike Morris of Michigan did not break the threshold in either the 40-yard dash (4.95 seconds) or vertical jump (28.5 inches). That will hurt his grade from New Orleans’ perspective.

But quality game tape and compelling interviews can overcome it. It’s happened before. The Saints are always evaluating and tweaking these benchmarks to ensure they aren’t excluding good players for arbitrary reasons. They’re stricter than most when it comes to evaluating college talent, but there’s still some leeway for good players to make their points. Stay tuned to see how it pans out on Draft Day.

More 2023 NFL Draft!

New Orleans Saints depth map update at QB ahead of the 2023 NFL draft

Breaking down the Saints picks in a new 7-round mock draft sim

NFL Network host praises GM Mickey Loomis for the Saints’ all-in offseason approach

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire