The Saints are set to move to a 3-4 defensive alignment after the firing of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Tabbing Martez Wilson and Junior Gallette as two players who could really succeed moving forward with the schematic switch, the report doesn’t name any legitimate answer at nose tackle.
Certainly, Broderick Bunkley could fit, but he’s more of a finesse player and is undersized compared to other nose tackles around the league.
The Saints currently hold the 15th overall pick in the NFL draft and would be wise to look for a defensive upgrade with the pick, as it was the team’s lackluster defensive output that hindered their ability to break the .500 mark.
Alabama NT Jesse Williams and Ohio State NT Johnathan Hankins will both certainly be available with the Saints’ top pick and could be good fits.
Georgia NT John Jenkins is a mammoth who checks in at over 350 pounds, but concerns about his motor and ability to be a three-down player have dogged him throughout the draft process.
An interesting player to keep an eye on is Jay Ratliff, a nose tackle who will almost certainly be released from the Cowboys. Ratliff’s had some success in 2012, grading out positively according to Pro Football Focus, but off-the-field trouble could lead Dallas to cut the talented veteran.
Ratliff and Saints head coach Sean Payton crossed paths in 2005, when Payton was an assistant coach on the Cowboys and Ratliff was a fresh-faced rookie. It’s a stretch, but there’s something of a history there.
Good nose tackles are hard to find and if Payton feels like he can get something out of Ratliff, don’t be surprised if the head coach appeals to the front office for the lineman. New Orleans needs all the talent it can get if it’s to successfully switch to a new defensive front and acquiring Ratliff would be a big step in the right direction, allowing the team to explore the pass-rushing market with its first pick in the draft.