“With the 75th pick of the 2013 draft, the New Orleans Saints select…
Terron Armstead, Tackle, Arkansas Pine Bluff.”
-Without a second round pick, the Saints had to wait 60 picks until they could draft their second player. It was well worth the wait, as the Saints got great value by drafting the sixth offensive tackle off the board, one who many draft analysts thought would go in the late second round. Armstead is a raw, but athletic prospect with NFL potential. He comes from a very small school, so his competition was weak. But he’ll likely have to be ready to compete in the NFL sooner than later.
-Armstead (6’4, 306) was a three-year fulltime starter at left tackle for the Arkansas Pine Bluff Lions. He was initially recruited by multiple Big 10 programs, but qualifying issues and bad test scores forced him to play for a much smaller, predominantly African-American FCS-level school. Despite the lack of competition, Armstead showed unique athleticism that had NFL scouts craving his upside and potential if he could refine his technique. I hadn’t watched much film on him before the draft, but I have since.
Here are my notes:
- Good size and length for the position
- Extremely athletic, very fluid in his motions, runs laterally with ease and speed
- Quick feet, a natural puller
- Tough, fights to the whistle
- Doesn’t anchor well, displayed a lack of base against power-rushers
- Gave up sacks because of a lack of awareness on stunts, not because he was beat
- Technique isn’t a mess, but needs to use his hands more effectively
- Lack of competition was noticeable on tape
-Armstead’s measurables were off the charts at the NFL Combine. His athleticism had a lot of scouts in awe, as he ran a 4.71 ’40-yard dash, benched 31 reps (of 225 pounds), and jumped 31 inches high. Although he only faced FCS-level competition throughout his career, he did not look out of place at the Senior Bowl or the NFL Combine. He has the athleticism and quick feet to be a legitimate starting left tackle for the Saints, but he’ll struggle against bull-rushers and DEs/OLBs that are stronger than he is until he refines his anchoring technique and learns how to properly use his hands.
REASON FOR DRAFTING
-I’ve said many times this offseason that left tackle was the Saints’ biggest need. The Saints are a pass-first team, and Drew Brees is the franchise. In order for the Saints to win games, we have to protect the franchise. And I’ve always believed in solidifying a strength (the offense) rather than trying to patch up a weakness (the defense). Although the interior offensive line is sound, the Saints struggled with dynamic edge rushers last season, and our tackles were repeatedly beat on the outside, forcing Brees to step up into the pocket or make a decision sooner than he’d like. Because of Brees’ awesome ability to step up into the pocket, our interior lineman have been more important for the Saints than other teams. This is especially true because of his lack of height; he needs to see over the players to find passing lanes.
Jermon Bushrod was a real solid player, but we couldn’t afford to pay him top-dollar after his worst season with the Saints. He’s a Chicago Bear now, along with our outstanding offensive line coach, Aaron Kromer. Kromer played a huge role in developing Bushrod, Carl Nicks, Zach Strief, and Jahri Evans. It’ll be interesting to see if we can develop Armstead as effectively as Kromer would have. I think Kromer is a big loss, but I also think Armstead was an outstanding draft pick. Unlike the interior line, the Saints’ tackles have never been truly gifted players, but they have all had quick feet. Armstead is athletic enough to become an NFL left tackle, but it may take some time before he refines his technique. When I watched his cut-ups, I saw a guy with natural lateral movement skills and quick feet who would be a stud in the screen game, which I’m sure the Saints loved.
WHERE HE FITS
-I expect Armstead to compete with Jason Smith, Marcel Jones and Charles Brown for the starting left tackle spot. General Manager Mickey Loomis probably wants Armstead to win the job outright, and he has a legitimate chance to do so. The training camp battle should come down to Charles Brown and Armstead. I think Jason Smith is a potential swing tackle/reserve that will dress out on Sundays (teams can only dress seven o-linemen). It’ll be interesting to see how good Marcel Jones is, after basically red-shirting him last season.
-Not only was Armstead the BPA on the draft board at the time, he helped fill a significant need. I thought left tackle was so much of a need that I wouldn’t have been mad if the Saints selected Armstead in the FIRST round, much less the third. He has a decent shot to win the starting left tackle job this offseason, and he could even be our left tackle of the future. However, he needs to improve on two things: he needs to anchor and plant a more solid base so he isn’t off-balance against a bull-rush (he hasn’t really grown into his body yet and lacks the necessary strength to hold back brute strength push from NFL pass rushers), and he needs to use his hands more effectively. It’ll be a great transition from FCS-level competition to the NFL, but the main issue I’m interested in seeing is whether we can coach up and develop a raw, but athletic lineman the way Aaron Kromer did. We’ll see in due time. In terms of the pick, Armstead was a great selection.
*Photo Credit: NewOrleansSaints.com
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