Before the draft gets under way, I wanted to put one more piece out about the potential first round picks from tonight. I’ll try to do these each day of the draft depending on how insane everything is. Though, I’m expecting it to be mad crazy.
Here are my personal top five prospects that are realistically within the Saints grasp at or near their 27th pick this evening. This won’t include prospects like Baker Mayfield and Tremaine Edmunds who are likely to be major trade leaps in order to get in range.
1. Boston College EDGE Harold Landry
Harold Landry is one of, if not the, best pure edge rusher in the draft. Bradley Chubb is sure to be the first defensive end off the board, but it’s possible that Landry and his 25 sacks fall within striking distance for the Saints. My definition of “striking distance” is into the 20’s. Especially if a prospect of this caliber falls to 23, where ole buddy Bill Belichick is selecting. Landry has exceptional quickness and a great get off on from the line. Landry led the nation in sacks with 16.5 in 2016 and added another 5 sacks his final year before missing the last games of the season with an ankle injury. There’s no indication that he will be hindered by that ankle injury, however considering that he was a full participant in the NFL Combine running a 4.64 40 and leaping his way to a 36″ vertical. There’s no doubt that Landry would immediately upgrade the Saints defensive line and thus defense as a whole. There’s also indication that this is a move that the Saints would be willing to make according to Mike Detillier. Detillier hinted that the Saints might be interested in moving up for him or Taven Bryan on SaintsPodcast.com’s Bayou Blitz show hosted by our good friend Bob Rose over at CSC.
2. Alabama LB Rashaan Evans
Y’all already know I ‘m a big fan of Evans. That type of versatility on the Saints defense is hard to pass on. This would likely be a pick they wouldn’t have to move for in order to get. Evans is listed as a borderline round one/early round two pick. He would be a boost to the second level in coverage as well as the pass rush game. He brings a lot of skills and tools with him- just have to hope that he keeps a better off-field life than his Alabama predecessor Reuben Foster.
3. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
I’m a firm believer that if the Saints don’t draft a QB in the first round, they might not take one at all in the draft. If they were going to take any quarterback at or near 27, I’d want it to be Lamar Jackson or the aforementioned Baker Mayfield. I know, Jackson doesn’t “fit” the Saints offense as it is today, but that neither here nor there. His lack of “fit” would deteriorate the moment he stepped into the starting position. From that point forward it would became Lamar’s offense. One that Sean Payton would have an absolute field day with every week. Watching a Saints game where they field Lamar Jackson, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., Cameron Meredith, and a potential young match up nightmare at TE (Gesicki?) would be an absolute blast. Opposing defenses would have no idea where to throw their attention and just when they think they have every weapon bottled up, Cameron Meredith takes the field in the slot and everything goes into a frenzy. Not to mention other athletic weapons we could add in this and next year’s drafts.
4. Iowa CB Joshua Jackson
Taking Josh Jackson in the first round would very much resemble the look of last year’s first round pick Marshon Lattimore. Jackson is a lockdown corner who can play both man and zone comfortably. He has great ballhawking skills and can compete at the top of routes. He’s also a sound and fundamental tackler which makes him just as reliable in the run game as passing defense. Jackson would be an excellent addition to the already tough secondary New Orleans is deploying on Sundays. He’d also be a superstar cornerback to take the place of other corners that might be on their last stretch with the team. For years to come we’d be able to anchor each side of the field on defense with Marshon Lattimore and Josh Jackson? Sounds like a treat to me.
5. Penn State TE Mike Gesicki
I would much rather trade up in the second round tomorrow to grab one of the many pass-catching tight ends this draft has to offer. However, if everyone above wasn’t on the board anymore and the Saints couldn’t find a good value trade to move down, I’d be all about taking Gesicki here at 27. If you’re going to pull the trigger on a TE in the first round, you might as well make it one of the most athletic entities we’ve seen in a few years. Gesicki is a nightmare for opposing defenses, standing at 6’6″ and leaping with a 41.5″ vertical- that’s just madness. He’d be another Jimmy Graham type, a role we obviously have an intent to fill this off season being that we almost filled it with Jimmy Graham himself. Gesicki lacks in the blocking game, I know, but he’d have a great mentor in Benjamin Watson to begin to hone that craft. In the meanwhile, though, he could be on the field solving all of our third-down woes, even just as a distraction, and creating an unimaginable threat in the red zone.
The fact of the matter is that there’s no way to predict what will happen this evening. Someone’s gonna slip way further down than anticipated. Some players are going to go in the first-round that no one expected to have a first-round grade. Draft grades are subjective and no two out of 32 teams has the same one. As someone that put together four mocks, it’s hard to consider all of the detail without being under a barrage of phone calls, scrutiny, and suggestions. I can’t imagine what it must be like inside the war room during crunch time. What I do know that, is that we have some of the absolute bests in Payton, Loomis, and Ireland leading the charge. After last year’s draft, it’s best to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride they take us on. Because it’s sure to be a remarkable one.