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Saints Coaches Minus Payton Hope Draft Adds To Strong Foundation

Pete Carmichael (left) and Joe Vitt (right) expressed confidence shared by the rest of the Saints' staff in this year's draft haul.Pete Carmichael (left) and Joe Vitt (right) expressed confidence shared by the rest of the Saints' staff in this year's draft haul.

METAIRIE -- Joking to reporters that Saturday's press conference resembled a meeting of the "United Nations Security Council,'' New Orleans Saints acting head coach Joe Vitt and three colleagues provided a reasonable explanation for their five-player draw in the 2012 NFL draft.

-- DT Akiem Hicks, University of Regina (round 3/89th overall pick).

-- WR Nick Toon, Wisconsin (4/122).

-- DB Corey White, Samford (5/162).

-- G Andrew Tiller, Syracuse (6/179).

-- T Marcel Jones, Nebraska (7/234)

According to the assembled panel of assistant coaches Pete Carmichael Jr. (offense), Steve Spagnuolo (defense), Greg McMahon (special teams) and Vitt, each prospect possesses the physical qualities that give him a chance to make the team's final 53-man roster.

That said, each also is flawed in some measureable way, too much of one thing, too little of another.

But on this day, Vitt said, "in my heart and in my mind, these guys are all Pro Bowl players until they prove us wrong.

''... I know this: We're going to love every one of these guys coming in here. We learned a long time ago as coaches that you have to love the one you're with. I've been married 31 years and I wasn't my wife's first choice, I can promise you that. That's what we're going to do."

So what is Vitt saying?

After 34 years in the NFL, he is saying a multitude of things. He is saying that each of the aforementioned players now has a foot in the door and a shot to prove himself on a championship caliber team.

Vitt also is saying that the draft is an inexact science, a relative crapshoot where there are no guarantees that any of the five aforementioned players will be a part of this year's team.

That remains to be seen.

But I suspect this year's draft class will have little to no bearing on whether the Black and Gold contend for the NFC championship and a berth in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, 2013, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Yes, Hicks and Toon perhaps can provide depth along the defensive front and at wide receiver but the team isn't expected to miss a beat if neither pans out.

Perhaps, White can help on special teams and in nickel and dime pass coverages. But again, his contribution isn't crucial to the team's overall success.

"We're a pretty good football team,'' Vitt said. "We didn't reach on anybody. We let the board come to us and maintained the discipline of the draft. Mickey (Loomis) always does a great job and Sean would have been so proud how hard the scouts worked this weekend."

The bottom line is the success or failure of this year's team will not depend on the 2012 draft class.

However, the Black and Gold will be measured by how well they deal with the potentially crippling season-long suspension of coach Sean Payton, the loss of Vitt for six games while he serves his Bounty scandal-related suspension and the anticipated suspensions of middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and possibly defensive end Will Smith and strong safety Roman Harper for their roles in the scandal.

And don't rule out the troubles facing General Manager Mickey Loomis -- his eight-game suspension and the joint investigation of the FBI and Louisiana State police into the fresh eavesdropping allegations against him.

"This is Sean's football team,'' Vitt said. "Sean brought us all together and we're going to work hard to make him proud. We don't want to let him down. We're going to work as hard as we can not to let our players down. We're going to work together and be responsible so we don't let (owner) Mr. (Tom) Benson down. We have a close, cohesive staff. We've always had that and our players see that. You can't fool players.

"I'm not going to say that this is going to be easy,'' Vitt continued. "This is going to be a challenge. But we built a football team to coincide with the resiliency of this city. We're tough enough to whether this storm. We have the right people and the right coaches and we're looking forward to it."

No doubt that message will be conveyed to the Class of 2012 in the coming days.


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