This week, with the NFL Draft starting Thursday night, I thought it would be fun to ask three of my friends who used to run teams’ drafts to tell me how they’d approach the draft for one specific team. I asked them to look at the Saints, who are in an interesting position with plenty of needs and decent draft capital. We lead off the week with former Jets Director of College Scouting Jeff Bauer.
When your team finishes No. 32 (dead last) in passing, 30th in third-down conversions, 28th in total yards per game and 28th in average yards per rush (3.9), it’s no secret where your focus should be. Fortunately for the Saints, they are in position to get some much-needed help.
With the Nos. 16 and 19 picks in the opening round, along with No. 49 (the 17th pick in the second round), they’ve got some ammo. I believe that with those three picks, they’d love to get three players from four positions: quarterback, wide receiver, offensive tackle and tight end (though maybe not in that order).
The Saints will be tempted to draft a QB at 16 or 19, but I don’t see the value there. Willis is the only QB that I feel warrants a top-half-of-first-round grade, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral and North Carolina’s Sam Howell all should be there, but I feel any of them would be a big stretch that early. Our rule for the top half of the first round was that any pick would have to be an immediate starter who could develop into a highly productive NFL player. All those QBs have concerns, in my eyes, except for Willis, and even Willis has some questions.
So what should the Saints do at 16 and 19? The best value very well could be at tackle and wide receiver, two positions of need for the Saints. I see no way that Alabama’s Evan Neal or NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu make it to 16, and I would be shocked to see Mississippi State’s Charles Cross make it there, but if he does, it would be a great get. The other tackle I think the Saints would love at 16 would be Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning, a dominant, nasty guy at the Senior Bowl. If the Saints can walk away with either of these tackles at 16, that’s a major success.
With the other pick, the Saints could find good value at receiver. Alabama’s Jameson Williams was my top guy at that position prior to his ACL injury. While that’s a serious injury, today’s doctors do marvelous jobs with knees today. He might be restricted early, but to get this talent in the late teens is a no-brainer. If the team goes in a different direction, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, USC’s Drake London, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks and Ohio State’s Chris Olave all have value in that area. I also like Georgia’s George Pickens, maybe more than others. He’s physical and strong with great length, and has all the tools, but was a victim of a run-first offense and a limited quarterback while in Athens.
With the Saints’ second-round pick, the team could look at quarterback if any of those listed early fall to that spot. However, another player to watch would be Colorado State’s Trey McBride, who is, in my mind, the top tight end in the draft. Given that New Orleans would walk away with a top offensive tackle, a top-flight wide receiver and a three-down tight end, that would change the team’s offense immediately.
Wednesday: Former Giants and Bears executive Greg Gabriel