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Betting on NFL

Seattle are ready to challenge for the Super Bowl after a decent 2013 Draft saw the team bolstered in much-needed areas. Running-back Christine Michael looks a real talent, while Chris Harper will settle nicely into Russell Wilson’s dangerous offense. With Percy Harvin also in the side as Wilson’s new wide receiver, the Seahawks have only increased their chances of Super Bowl success in 2013. Of course, betting on the Super Bowl is a difficult call. Seattle dominated the NFC and we were unlucky not to pip San Francisco to the divisional title. The field was strong in 2012 and while many neutrals backed the Patriots and Green Bay to go all the way Baltimore eventually proved the best bet.

This season the Ravens won’t be taken so lightly. They were lucky to surge into the playoffs following a late run of wins and that then carried into the Super Bowl, which Joe Flacco eventually owned against the stuttering Colin Kaepernick. Baltimore won’t get such an easy ride this year and many fans have Seattle alongside the 49ers as favourites for the title. Of course the Pats and Packers will also be in the mixer and they could strike lucky like players do in the online casinos like JackpotCity, hitting a good run of form that takes them through to the big time.

Betting on the NFL is difficult, especially with the preseason games still two months away. That’s why many fans turn to the online casino community during the offseason, somewhere where they can hone their betting skills and potentially win some huge jackpots. The $5million touchdown, for example, is a slot machine that brings to life the essence of pro football and lets you play for mega rewards. The game is a lot like it’s sporting sibling, with the goal of nailing paylines to beat the machine just like Wilson setting out his offensive line to puncture the opposition. You get bonuses for playing well and with a little bit of luck – something that’s needed in any team’s season – you could land the huge $5m jackpot and earn as much as Wilson, Richard Sherman or Golden Tate.

2012 Saints Mock Draft

The Saints are without a 1st round pick due to the trade for Mark Ingram and their 2nd round pick was forfeited as a result of the punishments for the bounty situation. This leaves the Saints with five picks in the 2012 draft. This is a deep draft at many positions and I believe the Saints will look to add players to Steve Spangnuolo’s defense and find some depth on offense.

Round 3, Pick 89: Antonio Allen, SS, South Carolina – Linebacker was perhaps the biggest off-season need for the Saints but they have filled that well with the additions of Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne in free agency. Defensive line is a bigger need here as Spagnuolo’s defense relies a lot on generating pressure from the front four of the defense but Allen makes a lot of sense here. Allen covers well which is a must from a safety in Spanuolo’s defense. Allen is also decent against the run. Starting strong safety Roman Harper struggles in coverage which will not be a good fit in Spanuolo’s system. Harper is also looking at a several suspension. Allen is the pick for his cover skills and to provide the Saints some depth at safety with possible suspensions looming.

Round 4, Pick 122: Tim Fugger, DE, Vanderbilt – The Saints need some additional pass rushers to work with Spagnuolo’s defensive scheme. Fugger could work here. He might not be an every down player but his pass rushing ability could be an asset for a Saints defense that has not generated a lot of pressure with their front four players.

Round 5, Pick 162: Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M – If Fuller hadn’t been slowed by injuries his senior season, he would easily be a 2nd or 3rd pick. Injuries and a less productive senior season have caused his stock to fall. Fuller is a big physical receiver that would give Drew Brees another target in the passing game. Some think the Saints might need to go for a smaller, faster receiver but they already have a lot of speed in Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Joe Morgan and Darren Sproles. The Saints like to throw to the middle of the field so Fuller would be another weapon to take some coverage away from Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham in this area.

Round 6, Pick 179: Austin Pasztor, G, Virginia – The Saints need some depth behind Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs at guard. Psztor appears to have some potential as a pass blocker which would fit the Saints as they rely on their guards to protect Drew Brees. The Saints are set with their starting guards but Pasztor could be a serviceable backup if either missed time with injury.

Round 7, Pick 234: George Bryan, TE, N. C. State – The Saints need some depth at tight end with David Thomas having injury issues and John Gilmore unsigned. Bryan is viewed as a very good blocking tight end, which is a need for the Saints, but also has some receiving ability. Bryan could lineup in two tight end sets and take some coverage away from Jimmy Graham while also serving as a solid blocker.

While only having later round picks, the Saints add two defensive contributors, an offensive weapon and some depth at other offensive positions.

Back Online!

So I forgot about this site for a while but I am getting the writing bug and it will be kept up to date from now on. I’ll be covering the NFL Draft from the Saints perspective beginning with a mock draft of all the Saints picks.

Lockout May Benefit Saints

As everyone knows, there is still an impasse with the labor situation in the NFL. The players are still locked out and there is not an immediate end in sight. While not being able to communicate with coaches or use team facilities will certainly be a detriment to some teams, the lockout may actually end up benefiting the Saints if and when the 2011 football season begins.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees has been organizing workouts for his teammates at Tulane University. Some other NFL teams have had some organized workouts such as the quarterback and receivers getting together for throwing sessions but, according to all reports, none of the workouts have been as extensive as the ones the Saints are participating in. Brees has paid for the use of the Tulane University facilities as well as some of the coaching staff to work with the team. Brees has also paid for his own personal trainer from California to work with the team. Brees has also arranged for players to take part in studying game films of the teams that they will face in 2011. A recent story on ESPN offered a glimpse into some of the workouts the Saints are participating in. The video segment showed Brees explaining different workouts, Jonathon Vilma working with the defensive players and Brees working with rookie running back Mark Ingram. Brees knows this offense as well as coach Sean Payton does so he is very well equipped to teach it to their rookie running back.

Thanks in no small part to the leadership being shown by Brees and other veteran players, the Saints may be the team in the best position whenever the lockout ends. This time of year, teams are normally busy with mini-camps, organized team activities and rookies learning play books. The lockout is preventing all of this but the Saints are essentially doing the same things on their own. Drew Brees has stated he will continue to pay for him and his teammates to practice and make use of the Tulane facilities as long as the lockout is in effect. If the lockout continues for some time and ends up cutting into training camp time, these practices spearheaded by Brees will become more and more important.

The biggest way the lockout may hurt the Saints is that the rookie players who aren’t attending will have less time to practice with their new teammates. Rookies Cameron Jordan and Martez Wilson both have the potential to start on defense but they will need time to learn Greg Williams’ complex defensive system. The Saints also don’t have the ability to sign undrafted free agents until the lockout ends. The Saints are very good at finding good players who slipped through the cracks of the draft and signing them as undrafted free agents.

Although they would benefit from the lockout ending immediately, the Saints will be in the best position whenever the lockout does end. They have a deep and talented veteran roster and with the leadership being shown by their players in organizing the team for workouts, they will be better prepared than any other team once the lockout is over.

What Will Happen with Reggie Bush?

After the Saints drafted running back Mark Ingram in the 1st round of the 2011 draft, a lot of people were quick to call Reggie Bush’s time in New Orleans over. I wasn’t one of those and suggested several times that the Saints offense had room for both Bush and Ingram, as well as Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory, but some recent events are changing my mind.

Let’s review what has happened in the last couple of weeks. Immediately after the Saints drafted Mark Ingram, coach Sean Payton said that he still believed Reggie Bush had a future with the team. Quarterback Drew Brees, who is possibly more of a leader to the team than the coach, also contacted Reggie Bush to give him some words of reassurance and public comments from Brees suggested that he wanted to see Bush back with the Saints. This might not mean much but Drew Brees has a lot of pull with the Saints organization.

Last week, over 40 Saints players gathered for a private workout organized by Drew Brees at Tulane University. Brees paid for almost the entire workout from his own pocket including the use of the Tulane facilities, coaching staff, lodging for players, etc. With workouts continuing this week, Brees could be shelling out over $100,000 for this. The Saints also have had the largest turn out for player led workouts of any team thus far, their NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons had about 22 players turn out for theirs. Even players without a current contract such as fullback Heath Evans, safety Roman Harper and tackle Jermon Bushrod showed up. One player who was not at the workouts? Reggie Bush. Instead, Bush is sending out twitter messages saying he is enjoying be able to relax during the lockout instead of working out in the Louisiana heat.

My question, does Reggie Bush realize his teammates, including his quarterback who quickly jumped to his defense only two weeks ago are working out in the bad Louisiana heat? No player has made a public comment about Bush not being at the workouts but you know it has been noticed. It is starting to seem more and more like Bush, despite the Saints trying to make a place for him, might want out of New Orleans. If Bush is released from New Orleans, Seattle has been mentioned as a possible landing spot and you have to wonder if Bush is looking for a fresh start with his old college coach after an injury plagued career in New Orleans never quite blossomed like it should have for a player taken 2nd overall in the 2006 draft.

Reggie Bush has done some wonderful things for New Orleans. When he is healthy, he is a threat to break a home run every time he touches the ball. He was a key contributor in the 2006 season when the Saints, recovering from Hurricane Katriana, made an improbable run to the NFC Championship and he played a vital role in the Saints 2009 Superbowl Championship. His production though just doesn’t equal what the Saints invested in him with the 2nd overall pick and in terms of money. Pierre Thomas, an undrafted free agent who was making a minimum salary his first few years, has been far more productive.

It might be time for the Saints to cut ties with Reggie Bush. How are his teammates who have been sweating it out in player organized workouts going to welcome him back into the locker room once the lockout ends?  The team has a good stable of young running backs in Ingram, Thomas and Ivory as well as Lynell Hamilton and P. J. Hill who will be returning from injuries last preseason. It is unlikely the Saints will be able to trade Bush given his high salary so releasing him may be the only option. I said before that Bush would only stay in New Orleans if he renegotiated his contract for a pay cut. It doesn’t seem likely now that either side will be very willing to do that. If Bush is released, the Saints may look to add a running back with a similar skill set in free agency. Darren Sproles could be a possibility as could undrafted free agent Noel Devine from West Virginia.

We’ll see what happens once the lockout ends.

Five Undrafted Free Agents Saints Should Target

Normally teams would be busy signing undrafted free agents in the days following the draft but that cannot happen until there is some resolution to the labor dispute that allows clubs to resume normal operations. Hopefully there will be some kind of resolution following the NFL’s expedited appeal to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals this week. The Saints have a plan and schedule to get back to work as soon as the lockout is lifted. The first orders of business will be signing free agents and undrafted free agents.

Today I am going to take a look at some undrafted free agents the Saints should target.

Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College – Herzlich obviously wasn’t drafted over concerns for his health but, if he is able to make a full recovery cancer, he has the talent and physical skills to be a starter for almost any team in the league. The Saints need help both at strong and weak side linebacker. Martez Wilson figures to fill one of those holes, most likely on the strong side, but the Saints still need linebacker help. Signing Herzlich as an undrafted free agents gives the Saints a lot of potential without a lot of risk if he doesn’t pan out.

Deandre McDaniel, SS, Clemson – McDaniel has some “character” issues but the Saints have never had an issue dealing with players with “character” issues. The Saints could use some depth at strong safety especially with Roman Harper as a potential free agent. From what I read, McDaniel and Harper seem to be similar types of players which could make McDaniel a fit in the Saints defense.

Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia – If Reggie Bush does not agree to renegotiate his contract, Devine could provide a very similar skill set to Bush and would come at a much cheaper price. Plus, as last season showed, there is no such thing as having too many healthy running backs on the roster.

Ricardo Lockette, WR, Fort Valley State – One of the fastest players at the combine, it never hurts for the Saints to add weapons for Drew Brees and the offense. The Saints are loaded at receiver but it never hurts to have a few on hand in case of injuries to starters. Lance Moore is also a potential free agent and Devery Henderson could end up being a victim of salary cap cuts so the Saints could be looking for another receiver with top-end speed to stretch the field.

Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU – As I mentioned, the Saints could be looking to replace a receiver or two on the roster depending on what happens with the NFL labor situation. Toliver’s technique needs some polishing but he is a big receiver at 6′4″ and has decent speed. He could be another options for the Saints if they need to add some receivers, particularly as a developmental prospect who does not need to make an immediate impact.

In a few days, I’ll be taking a look at potential veteran free agents the Saints may target once the labor situation is resolved.

2011 Saints Draft Recap

The 2011 draft has come and gone and it was certainly an exciting one for Saints fans. The Saints managed to find a good combination between value and need in this draft, addressing most of their key needs but also finding some tremendous value with some of their draft picks. The Saints focussed on what I identified as two of their weakest areas last season, the front-seven of the defense and the running game. I’m breaking down and analyzing the whole draft and what the picks can bring to the Saints.

2011 Draft Picks – DE Cameron Jordan (24th overall pick), RB Mark Ingram (28th overall pick), LB Martez Wilson (72nd overall pick), CB Johnny Patrick (88th overall pick), DE Greg Romeus (226th overall pick), LB Nathan Bussey (243rd overall pick).

Overall, a few years from now, I think we might be calling this one of the better draft classes in Saints history. Although the Saints only had six picks in this year’s draft, it’s hard to find a questionable prospect in their first four picks. Cameron Jordan was rated by most experts as a top-10 to top-15 talent and the Saints got him with the 24th overall pick. The most negative comment I can find about Jordan is that his technique and moves can use some refinement but he is going to be coached by Greg Williams, one of the best defensive minds in the league, so it is an ideal situation. Jordan provides an instant upgrade over Alex Brown on the left side of the defensive line and, while he is not considered to be an “elite” pass-rusher, he is a very complete defensive end with a good combination of size, speed and athleticism.

After securing a good defensive end prospect with the 24th overall pick, the Saints were then able to trade back into the first round to take the best running back in the draft. Many scouts have compared Mark Ingram to hall of fame running back Emmit Smith and they do have very similar styles. Ingram will share carries with Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory and likely Reggie Bush but he should have very good production with the Saints. Ingram is also a very capable receiver out of the backfield so defenses will not be able to key on the run. Most importantly, an effective running game will open things up for Drew Brees and the passing game. Remember when Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell were racking up rushing yards in the 2009 season? Drew Brees was lighting defenses up down field and I know the Saints would like to get back to that kind of offense. For a coach who loves to throw the ball as much as Sean Payton, he also places great value on the running game and he will make sure there are plenty of carries / receptions to spread between Ingram, Thomas, Ivory and Bush. The cost to get Ingram was high but if he does what he his capable of doing for the Saints running game, I believe it will end up seeming like a good value.

Next, the Saints get a linebacker who was viewed by many experts as a second round pick in the top of the third round. Martez Wilson was a very productive player at Illinois and, like Cameron Jordan for the defensive end position, provides an instant upgrade to the linebacker position. Wilson will likely compete for a starting job at one of the outside linebacker positions, most likely the strong side. He will have to make an adjustment after playing inside at college but, again, he has one of the best defensive coaches to help in his transition. Wilson has very good edge rushing abilities which should help the Saints bring pressure on the quarterback in obvious passing situations.

Cornerback was not a huge position of need for the Saints but I think this is a pick where the Saints went after the best player on their draft board in Johnny Patrick. In his final season at Louisville, Patrick was very close to being a shutdown corner. With Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter, Patrick won’t be starting anytime soon but I could see him making an impact in nickel and dime situations. With injuries at the position, it also never hurts to have a stable of good defensive backs. Picking Patrick here could also make veteran Randall Gay expendable, allowing the Saints to both clear some potential salary cap room and to continue to get younger at key positions on their defense.

The Saints took another defensive end and another linebacker with their two seventh round picks. Greg Romeus would have likely been a much higher rated prospect if not for a history of injuries. When healthy, he was a very productive player both on defense and on special teams, earning Big East co-defensive player of the year honors in his junior season. If he is able to rehab from an ACL injury, the Saints may have found a steal here in the 7th round. At the ery least, when healthy, he figures to be a solid backup and special teams contributor. Nathan Bussey also figures to be developmental prospect after playing both safety and linebacker in college. He will have to learn an adapt to an NFL defense but, as I have stated several times, he has Greg Williams as a coach who will definitely get the most of his potential.

In his draft grades, ESPN’s Mel Kiper criticized the Saints for not drafting players for the offensive line, specifically an offensive tackle. I’m not an expert like Kiper but my question is, why did the Saints need to? The offensive line right now is the same as it was when the Saints won the super bowl. Last season defenses were able to hurry and get to Drew Brees more often but that can be blamed on lack of a consistent running game as much as it can on the offensive line. Also, the Saints drafted Alex Brown in the second round of the 2010 draft and he has yet to see any substantial playing time. Brown was viewed by many experts as a first round talent who slipped. It is likely that Brown will compete with Jermon Bushrod for the starting left tackle job this year. The Saints also drafted center Matt Tenant in the 2010 draft. I say give the players they have a chance before saying they need to draft more help.

I will say again that I doubt the drafting of Mark Ingram signals the end of Reggie Bush’s time in New Orleans. Multiple comments from Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis suggest that they want to keep Bush on the team and they should. Bush and Ingram have very different styles and Bush has value to the team in certain packages, as a slot receiver and a return man. Having Ingram in the backfield allows them to use Bush in an ideal situation, 10-15 plays per game, setup for him to try to break a home run. Anything could happen and it will ultimately be decided on if they can renegotiate Bush’s contract but I expect that he will be a Saint again next season.

I think the most important thing now for the Saints is for the lockout to end. The newly drafted players need to get with their coaches and teammates and get to work. The Saints figure to have at least three players in this draft that will see significant playing time and they need to be able to learn the plays an get to work.

Until the lockout ends, news might be scarce. I will be posting some comments on the labor situation as well as some thoughts on where the Saints might look in free agency. It was an exciting draft for Saints fans and has the potential to lead to a very good season.

Saints Draft DE Romeus and LB Bussey in 7th Round

With their two picks in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Saints have drafted Defensive End Greg Romeus and Linebacker Nathan Bussey. The Saints were without 4th, 5th or 6th round picks in this year’s draft thanks to various trades. I like that both of these picks have focused on continuing to add depth and players to the front seven of the defense.

Pick by pick analysis.

Greg Romeus, DE, Pittsburgh – Was not very productive in college due to some injuries. He has ideal size to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme like the one used by the Saints although he could stand to add a few pounds. I think at best the Saints will likely have a solid backup or developmental prospect in Romeus. He could also become a decent special teams contributor.

Nathan Bussey, OLB, Illinois – He was a safety / outside linebacker in college. Looking over his profile on the Illinois web-site, it seems like his biggest contributions have come on special teams which will likely be true for the Saints as well. He has the size to play outside linebacker at the pro-level an the speed to perhaps make a difference in some packages.

For two seventh round picks, the Saints did fairly well finding some players who could develop into good backups and, if nothing else, should make an impact on special teams.

I’ll be posting a full summary and analysis on the Saints’ entire draft tomorrow.

Saints Draft LB Wilson and CB Patrick in 3rd Round

The Saints were without a second round selection on this night of the draft thanks to their trade with the New England Patriots for the 28th pick used to select running back Mark Ingram. The Saints did have two picks in the third round, their own pick and the pick from the Washington Redskins thanks to the Jamaal Brown trade. They used this picks tonight to upgrade a position of need and to add some much needed depth to the secondary by drafting Illinois Linebacker Martez Wilson and Louisville Cornerback Johnny Patrick.

Pick by pick analysis.

Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois – Wilson played inside linebacker mostly in college but will likely move to the outside in the Saints defense with Jonathon Vilma holding down the middle linebacker spot. The good thing about Wilson is that he is versatile which fits in well with Greg Williams’ defense as he likes to use multiple fronts, formations and personnel. Wilson is a natural pass-rusher off the edge who, along with first round pick Cameron Jordan, gives the Saints an immediate upgrade in their pass-rush, a must in a division with Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman and now Cam Newton. Wilson could possibly compete for a starting job, depending on what he Saints do in free agency and will likely make an immediate impact in the nickel and dime situations and on special teams.

Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville – Adds some youth and depth to the secondary and could make veteran Randall Gay expendable. Many draft experts had Patrick falling somewhere in the 2nd to early-3rd rounds so the Saints get some good value with this pick. Patrick has the size to play corner effectively in the NFL but his less than top end speed makes him more suited for nickel and dime situations. With Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter and Patrick Robinson already on the roster, it is likely that the Saints don’t expect Patrick to have to make an immediate impact. As injuries have shown though, it is hard to have too many defensive backs. Patrick could also make an impact on special teams. Mike Mayock referred to him as the perfect “gunner” for punt situations.

Two good picks here and the Saints do seem to be focusing more on need in this draft than in previous drafts. The Saints only have two picks remaining, both seventh rounders. Might not sound important but as I have reminded readers before, Marques Colston was a seventh round pick.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more analysis on the Saints final picks.

Saints First Day Draft Review

Last night’s draft gave Saints’ fans high hope. With the 24th pick, the Saints select Cameron Jordan, defensive end from the University of California. Jordan brings much need athleticism to the Saints’ defensive line, and will hopefully prove to bolster the Saints’ pass rush. Last season the Saints generated 33 sacks, only 18th in the NFL. With strong quarterbacks Matt Ryan of the Falcons and Josh Freeman of the Buccaneers, the Saints will need a strong pass rush to compete for the division title. Though “Matty Ice” has shown great poise in the pocket, a strong pass rush will be able to force Josh Freeman to make mistakes. The Saints will also need a strong pass rush to contain the Panthers’ versatile Cam Newton. Additionally, a stronger pass rush should help the Saints’ secondary improve on its league-low nine interceptions last season.

Perhaps the shocker of the night was the Saints’ last minute trade with the New England Patriots to move into the 28th spot in the first round, which the Saints used to select Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Jr. The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner was an excellent selection, and should immediately bolster the Saints’ rushing attack, which had slipped to 28th in the NFL, averaging only 94.9 yards per game. Last season’s running back-by-committee approach failed to take the pressure off the passing game. It is likely Ingram’s arrival spells the end of Reggie Bush’s career with the Saints. What Ingram lacks in Bush’s game-breaking speed he makes up for with his ability to pound the ball between the tackle and be an every-down workhorse running back.

The Saints only have four draft picks left; two each in the third and seventh rounds. The Saints need to use its third round picks to upgrade its defense, with an emphasis on a run-stuffing linebacker and help in an aging and under-producing secondary.