04/30/2012 - With no picks in the first two rounds and little to no ammunition with which to trade up, the Saints had to do what they could with what they had on the final two days of the draft. While they felt they already had their first-round pick, which they acquired on the first night of last year's draft when they made a deal to get running back Mark Ingram, they didn't feel all that bad about not having a full complement of selections. So when they finally went to work Friday night, the Saints looked first to defense where they needed a few pieces to help shore up a unit that gave up 41 and 36 points in their playoff losses in 2010 and '11. Two of their top three picks -- defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and cornerback Corey White -- will likely have to learn the ropes because they're coming from smaller schools. But the Saints have the luxury of doing that since they were looking for depth that can be groomed for the future. Hicks, however, might have a better than even chance at seeing some early playing time if he can pick up new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's system in a hurry. The Saints also did a good job of trying to add some depth where it was needed on offense -- taking wide receiver Nick Toon in the fourth round and mammoth guard Andrew Tiller and tackle Marcel Jones in the sixth and seventh rounds. BEST PICK Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks: The Saints added Brodrick Bunkley in free agency to pair with Sedrick Ellis, but they needed some more depth. Hicks is a raw talent, but the Saints love his size at 6-4 and 324 pounds and imposing wingspan. - The Sports Xchange
Hicks enrolled at Sacramento City College in 2007 out of high school. He saw action in 10 games as a true freshman in 2007, recording 32 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Hicks started nine games in 2008 as a sophomore, finishing with 33 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss and one pass break-up. After the 2008 season, he was considered one of the top JUCO recruits, choosing LSU over Oregon, Arizona and Tennessee.
However, he never played for the Tigers and sat out the 2009 season because of some recruiting controversy, choosing instead to transfer to Regina (Canada). Hicks started all nine games in 2010 as a junior (9 gp/9 st), recording 24 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one pass break-up and two forced fumbles, earning Canada West All-Star honors. He started all eight games in 2011 as a senior (8 gp/8 st), finishing with a team-best 42 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, three pass break-ups and two forced fumbles, earning First Team All-Conference honors.
Hicks was one of the prized-recruits in the 2009 class out of the JUCO ranks, but was forced to head North to play in Canada because of some recruiting issues by LSU?s coaching staff. He carries some effort and work ethic questions and there are concerns about whether or not he will put in the time to maximize his ability.
Hicks is a mammoth player with light feet and impressive length, but is very raw with limited playing experience ? a mid-to-late round draft pick who needs extensive work, but the potential is tough to ignore as he grades as one of the better developmental linemen in this class.
Positives: Physically imposing frame with elite measureables ... long arms (35 inches) and a huge wingspan (84 inches). Surprising athletic ability for a player his size with rare movement skills. Explosive hitter and looks to wrap and drive the ballcarrier into ground ... led the team in tackles and sacks as a senior. Has a strong build with raw power to redirect blockers and overwhelm at the point of attack. Offers versatility with experience playing at defensive end and defensive tackle and shows the overall skill-set to line up in various formations ... oozes with upside and potential.
Negatives: Extremely raw with below average playing experience against top competition ... two seasons at the Community College level and two years playing at a University in Canada. Plays too upright, allowing for his pad level to rise and struggles to naturally bend ... tough for a player his height and frame to use consistent leverage. Tight athlete with stiff ankles ... not overly fluid and initial explosion is nothing special. Needs a lot of technique work with his hands and footwork, showing very unpolished fundamentals. Needs to play with a consistent motor through the whistle, finishing plays with the same effort. Has questionable practice habits and football IQ with some character concerns as well.
-- Dane Brugler