No better thing to do on Draft Day than to drop my final New Orleans Saints 7-round mock draft for the 2019 NFL draft! I have avoided trying to predict trades up until this point, but I am throwing a couple in this time. The most the Saints have traded up since 2006 came in 2008 when they executed three moves. So I’m keeping with a moderate trade approach with two trades which keeps New Orleans around their six-pick average over the last 13 drafts.
While trading down has been discussed more openly than usual and is a perfectly reasonable thing to do with a class this deep, it just does not match the Saints usual draft tendencies. With that, we will stick with trading up here.
Round 2, Pick 62 – OL Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State
Size: 6’4″ | 310 lbs.
Combine: 5.08 40 | 109″ Broad Jump | 29 Bench Reps
Positive Traits: Extremely versatile, high football IQ, , outstanding processing speed leads to quick and accurate decision-making.
Key Info: Played 26 games at Center, 5 at LT, 2 at LG, and 1 at RT | Allowed only 3 sacks and 4 hits in four years.
Why this pick:
The Saints haven’t taken an offensive player with their earliest pick in the draft since 2015 when they also went for a versatile offensive lineman in Andrus Peat. They go back to the O-line this year with their first selection in preparation for Andrus Peat to potentially part ways with New Orleans in 2020 after his fifth-year option is up. Jenkins’ versatility helps the Saints land a very talented swing linemen for 2019 and an eventual starter at any number of positions in 2020. They could bounce Nick Easton out to Guard and plug Jenkins in at his most familiar position in the middle of the line. Or, perhaps they decide to keep Easton at center as to not create a third new signal-caller in three years and put Jenkins at Guard or continue to use him as a swing while Will Clapp steps up. The possibilities open up not only for 2019 but for the future.
Round 3, Pick 73 – WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Size: 6’2″ | 225 lbs.
Combine: 4.49 40 | 34″ Vertical | 119″ Broad Jump
Positive Traits: Meets Saints’ size trends, crisp route-runner with more capacity to expand route tree, boxes out like a Power Forward, can be that “go up and get it” bully.
Key Info: 63 Catches, 1,059 Yards, and 14 Touchdowns in 2018 | 3.03 Career Yards per Route Run
Why this pick:
The Saints trade 2020’s second round pick and swap 7th round picks (231 and 239) to the New England Patriots. The Pats just had two second round selections and have two more third-rounders upcoming so they were happy to oblige an old trade partner. I was very close to coming in here and throwing everyone for a loop by selection Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin here. Which actually would not be a bad pick at all. However, Arcega-Whiteside is just too much of a Saint already to pass him up. He shows a lot of passion on the field, he’s a hard worker and emphasizes route-running and blocking as a part of his game, and would add exactly what the Saints have been missing. They should be in the market for a player that can be a present red zone threat while serving as a reliable second option at the position to Michael Thomas. Arcega-Whiteside brings a package wit him to the NFL that makes some think he might end up being a better pro than college player. Add him to an arsenal that already includes Michael Thomas, Jared Cook, and Alvin Kamara, and his growth should be immediate and impactful.
Round 4, Pick 131 (From Buffalo) – DL Kingsley Keke, Texas A&M
Size: 6’2″ | 288 lbs. | 34 1/2″ Arm Length
Combine: 4.95 40 | 111″ Broad Jump | 20 Bench Reps
Positive Traits: Can play off the edge as well, play in a college defense that use lots of stunts, lateral quickness, can put on weight if needed, played in 13 games every season with 35 starts.
Key Info: 12 Sacks, 21 Tackles for a Loss, missed only 9 Tackles and gathered 81 Run Stops
Why this pick:
The Saints trade picks 168 and 177 to the Bills in order to move up into the bottom of the fourth round. As discussed in my draft tendencies article, the Saints love to trade up for defensive linemen, and do so here grabbing the malleable former Aggie Kingsley Keke. Keke (Do you love me?) represents some of the same qualities on the defensive line that Jenkins brings to the offensive line. His functional versatility is a huge plus and helps fill needs along the line. Keke can be someone that plays 3-tech in Rankins and/or Onyemata’s absence but still fill a purpose rotating on the edge and interior when they return. His high motor keeps him from tiring despite his super quick feet. Keeps churning and plays with attitude. He’s someone that would fit right into Dennis Allen’s scheme.
Round 6, Pick 202: LB Kaden Elliss, Idaho
Size: 6’2″ | 238 lbs.
Combine: 4.65 40 | 34 1/2″ Vertical | 120″ Broad Jump
Positive Traits: Downhill thumper, effective pass rusher from the LB position, played SAM, MIKE, and BUCK at Idaho, can cover backs and tight ends thanks to his speed, functional versatility.
Key Info: 40 Tackles, 16 Tackles for a Loss, 7 Sacks in 2018 | 113 Career Run Stops
Why this pick:
The Saints have been doing a lot of work on day three linebackers and this is one of the more exciting prospects I’ve seen. I could easily see Cole Holcomb out of North Carolina being the pick here, but we’ve preached positional versatility all day so far, so I figure we should stick with it here. When you get this late int he draft, you look for guys that can bring more than a single element to the table and that’s where Elliss is special. He would certainly be a prospect because of his “tweener” style, but at least this is a late sixth round pick as opposed to Stephone Anthony in the first round. Am I right? Elliss can play all over the second level and has experience along the entire front seven. Could be a contributor off the edge and creating another pass rushing presence at the Linebacker position aside from Demario Davis who rushed the passer almost twice the amount of each Anzalone and Klein. Elliss’s play strength, speed, and explosiveness also make him an excellent special teams option. I’ll offer this as well, I believe we’ve seen the cieling of what A.J. Klein brings to the Saints. I do not think of him as a liability but, if his current level of production is the best we will see of him, improvements can be made and Elliss has the drive and toolset available to him to challenge.
Round 7 Pick 239 (From New England): TE Caleb Wilson, UCLA
Measurables: 6’4″ | 240 lbs.
Combine: 4.56 40 | 29″ Vertical | 113″ Broad Jump
Positive Traits: 79.5″ wingspan, second-best 40 time at the position, committed to improving as a blocker.
Key Info: 60 Catches, 965 Yards, 4 TDs in 2018 | 2.56 Yards per Route Run, Tied for 1st in class
Why this pick:
With the new seventh round pick acquired from the Patriots in the earlier trade up into the third round the Saints go back to offense. This is a purely developmental pick. I went C.J. Conrad last mock for the same reason. The difference with Wilson is that he has some nice physical traits with his size and athleticism. He’s just a little too stiff when running his routes and could use some help with some technique issues that show up on tape. That’s one of the reasons he’s quickly gone from a potential top-10 Tight End in this class to a late-round and sometimes undrafted prospect. Saints would do well to bring in another Tight End from this draft to compete with Dan Arnold and Garrett Griffin for the TE3 spot.
Round 7, Pick 244: CB Derrick Baity, Jr., Kentucky
Size: 6’2″ | 197 lbs.
Combine: 4.64 40 (Pro Day) | 38 1/2″ Vertical | 127″ Broad Jump
Positive Traits: Lengthy, calm at catch point, confident, receiver experience in High School (good hands and knowledge of routes).
Key Info: 148 Tackles, 6 Interceptions, 31 passes defended in college career | 0.51 yards allowed per cover snap
Why this pick:
The Saints are set at starters across the corner position and backup in the slot with P.J. Williams returning. However, they lack depth on the boundary with the only options being Ken Crawley, Justin Hardee who is a key special teams piece, and Marcus Sherels who is on the roster as a punt returner. Baity isn’t a highly touted prospect by any means but has some promising traits and NFL size and length. He’s also got the type of confidence that would help him fit in with the Saints culture and matching up with NFC South receivers if ever called to the task. He has quite a bit of development to do in order to make the 53-man roster, but he’s worth a flier this late in the draft with the final selection.
Should be a super fun weekend. Draft season is easily one of my favorite times throughout the football world. Keep it locked here at All Saints Considered to get all the latest on what goes down this weekend.
Follow Ross on Twitter @RossJacksonASC