The 2019 NFL Draft has finally come to an end and needless to say it was very eventful. Plenty of trades, top prospects falling to later rounds and teams reaching for certain players. Some picks were praised and others had many experts and analysts scratching their heads. For the Saints, they went into the draft with six selections and ended up coming out with five players in the end. With all of the moves made in free agency, the team was in a position to take the best player available and add some depth guys with their later selections. Here is a breakdown of each draft pick, how they were acquired and where they fit into the Saints’ plans going forward.
First selection: Erik McCoy | C/G | Texas A&M (Round 2, 48th Overall)
The Saints trade up 14 spots with the Miami Dolphins to snag McCoy, who was projected to be a middle to late 1st round pick. With a string of offensive linemen being taking in this round, the Saints do what they do best and made a move to get the guy they wanted. Surprising at first glance, the selection makes the most sense given that Max Unger retired at the beginning of free agency. McCoy was a 3-year starter for the Aggies playing the toughest conference in college football in the SEC and only allowed one sack during that time. This pick was an absolute steal and adds more beef to an already souped up offensive line for the Saints. McCoy is projected to be an instant starter but also raises questions about other players such as Andrus Peat and Nick Easton, who was signed in March. If last year showed us anything, it’/s that you can never have too many lineman and with the play of Cameron Tom and Will Clapp, McCoy gives the Saints a plethora of options with four guys who can play center and guard. Grade: A
Second selection: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson | S | Florida (Round 4, 105th Overall)
Once again, the Saints made a trade to move up and get the guy they wanted. This time they swapped 11 spots with the New York Jets as well as a 5th round selection to take Gardner-Johnson. CGJ was slated to be between a 2nd or 3rd round choice; some even had him going late in the 1st round as well. He was very reliable in the slot and also played well in the natural safety role. Again, the Saints get another potential steal at a position that the Who Dat Nation felt like needed to be addressed. This selection not only gives the team a viable third option in certain packages, it also adds insurance to the slot corner spot given that Patrick Robinson is coming off an ankle injury and PJ Williams may be suspended for some time after a DUI arrest. If the team can lock down Vonn Bell long-term after this year and Marcus Williams the year after, this secondary will be very scary in the future. Grade: A+
Third selection: Saquan Hampton | S | Rutgers (Round 6, 177th Overall)
Hampton was a team captain at Rutgers and was a solid contributor. He has a knack for the ball but has tackling issues that need to be addressed. Kind of surprised that the Saints took another safety. After the draft, it was said that Hampton was in the Saints’ top 70 prospects and what stood out to them was the fact that he said he would love to be on special teams. With new special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi onboard, that is the type of language we like to hear. He does have solid speed at a 4.48 40 time but that is not always a valuable stat when evaluating on-field play. Hampton has the potential to earn a spot like JT Gray did last year, mainly as a special teamer. However, if he can show his skills as a safety as well, it will increase his chances even more. Grade: B
Fourth selection: Alizé Mack | TE | Notre Dame (Round 7, 231st Overall)
The Saints signed Jared Cook, who was the top free agent tight end on the market this off-season. With him and Josh HIll solidified as the top two on the roster, the third spot is up for grabs. Ben Watson retired, although he is considering a comeback. They also have Dan Arnold and Garrett Griffin as options for that third spot as well. Now with the selection of Alizé Mack, he becomes a dark horse candidate to not only make the roster but also play a valuable role in the offense. Mack was a project 3rd to 5th round pick and fell close to the end of the draft. For the third time, the Saints have another potential late round steal on their hands. Mack has great size and good speed especially after the catch with the main knock on him being his hands can be inconsistent at times. Nonetheless, he was excited to be picked by the Saints and said he felt like home during his visit. You cannot help but love that kind of attitude and passion. Grade: B+
Fifth selection: Kaden Elliss | LB/DE/TE | Idaho (Round 7, 244th Overall)
With their final pick the Saints took Elliss, the son of former Lions DE Luther Elliss. He played both sides of the ball as a tight end and linebacker/defensive end. He has good size to be more of a linebacker and could add depth to that core with Manti Te’o not likely returning to the team. What makes him even better, during the pre-draft process, he noted that when asked about what position he would play, Elliss pretty much said wherever they put me at. Dare I say he could be the Taysom Hill of the defense? I love the sound of that. Grade: A-
This draft class was definitely more about quality than quantity. Just like last year’s class, every player has a chance to not only make the roster but play a significant role in some way. Overall, this is another solid class and continues the success the Saints have had the last few years in the draft. Not to mention the undrafted free agents who could also make an impact by winning a roster spot. The start of the season cannot get here any faster. Time to get to work!
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