According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the New Orleans Saints will be taking a closer look at Eastern Kentucky outside linebacker Noah Spence today.
I say closer because the Saints have already met with Spence once during the Senior Bowl — where they took him out to lunch to get some insight on the once-troubled pass rusher.
It’s widely known by now that Spence started his journey to the NFL at Ohio State University; but experienced off-the-field issues that culminated to him abusing the illegal drug ‘Ecstasy’ and eventually being exiled from OSU and banishment from the Big Ten Conference in 2014.
The Saints are trying to “get back to their roots” so to speak, in finding character guys who are team players and willing to fill any role they’re asked to do; much like members that made up the 2009 Super Bowl squad — so it could be surprising that they would want a closer look at Spence.
Feb 26, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Eastern Kentucky defensive lineman Noah Spence speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Yet in the ’09 season, the Saints took a chance on defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, who had battled his own demons with substance abuse and ended up convincing them to give him a shot.
At the lunch that the Saints treated him to at a Mobile restaurant, The Advocate’s Nick Underhill reported that the Saints picked his brain on both his past and football:
"“They went over some defense and stuff like that. It wasn’t too much talking about my past, but we definitely went over it and they wanted to see my point of view and how I’ve changed from it.”"
Spence is no doubt one of the most intriguing prospects heading into the 2016 NFL Draft, and was said during Senior Bowl practices to be almost unblockable.
While listed as an outside linebacker, Spence, at 6’3 252 pounds, is most likely going to be used as a pass rusher in the NFL due to his speed and leverage he has against offensive linemen.
In fact, WWL 870 AM draft analyst Mike Detillier had this to say about Spence’s speed in his recent draft report:
"“Noah is super quick off the snap and he has #1 rate closing speed to the QB. Super instinctive player. He just shoots off the edge like he is launched out of a cannon and he immediately is in the backfield.”"
Last year at Eastern Kentucky, Spence was credited with 63 tackles with 22.5 for a loss, 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and 15 quarterback hurries.
Photo courtesy of Eastern Kentucky University
At the NFL Scouting Combine he ran a 4.80 40-yard dash, did 25 repetitions of 225 pounds, posted a 35 inch vertical, and was the top performer in the broad jump at 121 inches.
The 40-yard dash time was a tad disappointing considering how fast Spence looks like when he plays; and he only improved it by .05 seconds at his Pro Day and as Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network said, “I think 4.68 sounds about right for what you’d want to see.”
While teams are split on Spence’s past, they’re also split on where he should go in the upcoming draft; with him being ranked anywhere from the mid-teens in the first round to falling all the way to the late first round or even early second round.
I’ve heard a few people say they wouldn’t mind if the Saints took a chance on him at the 12th overall pick; but with outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha most likely headed for a strictly pass rushing role in the defense for New Orleans, you’d have to wonder if that is too rich to take Spence with.
The overall feeling so far is that the Saints will be heavily involved in trying to grab either a pure defensive end such as Clemson’s Shaq Lawson or even Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins — who could possibly slide to end if needed.
But if the Saints decide to trade down, then Spence could definitely be on their radar as a value pick later in the first round.
Hey — miracles have been known to happen….