Okay, I bit. I think it can be a smart move for the Saints to trade down. Otherwise, they could end up reaching for a second round prospect in the first and then waiting it out until the third round as a lot of quality players fly off the board in the second. So here’s my first mock with a trade!
The Saints trade their first-round 27th pick and third-round 91st pick to get two picks in the second round from the pick-laden Cleveland Browns- selections 35 and 64 overall. With this trade, the Saints both trade down and trade up while holding on to the same amount of picks. The value is pretty steady as well, 816 from the Saints and 820 from the Browns. Usually if a trade lands within the +/- 20 margin, it has the steam to move forward.
This trade works well for the Browns as well who stay loaded with picks and maintain their first selection in the second round while getting into the first round for a third time.
Round 2 Pick 3 Georgia LB/EDGE Lorenzo Carter
I usually mock a LB at the fist pick, but I made a slight adjustment here. With trading down from the first round, it opens up a hybrid prospect like Lorenzo Carter. Carter has great edge rushing abilities but is also athletic enough to play coverage off the ball. He’s a big prospect at 6’5″ 250 lbs. which compares well with Alex Okafor’s 6’4″ 260 pound self. Those two would likely be rotating at edge along with Hendrickson and Kikaha, but the added value comes from the fact that Carter can split out into coverage on passing downs. He’s freakishly athletic, running a 4.46 40 with a 36-inch vertical leap. He’d be a presence that could be felt on the field from week 1.
Round 2 Pick 32 Penn St. TE Mike Gesicki
To be honest, my immediate inclination was to continue to build on the defense with this pick. It’s just that with the addition of Cameron Meredith from Chicago, rather than being content with our offensive firepower, I like the idea of continuing to build around Drew and get him more weapons. The TE class is deep and any of four TE’s could work at this spot between Dallas Goedert, Mark Andrews (likely won’t make it this far), and Hayden Hurst. However, there’s no weapon available in this draft like Mike Gesicki. The 6’5” 247 pound Tight End was a complete freak not only at the combine, but all year in a Penn St. uniform. Gesicki and all his size ran a 4.54 40, which tied for first among TEs with N.C. State’s Jaylen Samuels. He also posted an outstanding 41.5” vertical leap. That mark put him above all offensive players and tied with three defensive players for the best measurement in this year’s combine. Yes, he combine was fantastic, but if you really need to know why Gesicki would be a welcome addition in a Saints uniform- check out his tape. I’m posting highlights below, but I highly recommend just watching game tape, as well.
Round 4 Pick 27 Brigham Young LB Fred Warner
I’ve always believed that the Saints would double up on at least one position in this draft. In my mind it was likely to be linebacker or wide receiver. With the signing on Cam Meredith, it’s probably less likely that they’d double up at wideout so I’m looking back at the second level. After shipping off their third-round, the Saints return on day three to add BYU’s absolute beast of a linebacker- Fred Warner. Warner has an uncanny ability to key and diagnose plays and fire into the attack. He’s the type of player that gets whatever he sets his mind to and he doesn’t give up many missed tackles at all. His sure tackling ability and play recognition make him a valuable addition even with the Lorenzo Carter pick as this would allow Carter to almost strictly focus on developing as a pass rusher. However, neither player is one-dimensional, as you can see Warner’s pass rushing abilities below, and that can serve Dennis Allen’s defense is a freakishly fantastic way.
Round 5 Pick 10 North Carolina A&T OT Brandon Parker
Last mock I went with Cody O’Donell who has massive size at 6’9″ but plays Guard. Usually you want that kind of height at your Tackle position. That’s why NCAT Aggie Brandon Parker is here this time around. He played LT with NCAT and RT in the Senior Bowl, versatility on the offensive line is key in New Orleans. He’s a young and healthy option at the position and has the quickness to block on the run in the screen game.
Round 5 Pick 27 SMU WR Trey Quinn
With the signing of former Chicago Bear Cameron Meredith, I left out drafting a WR early in the draft. Though, I still believe that bringing in young competition for the fourth spot is a good idea. So here I am again with SMU WR Trey Quinn, one of the more underrated draft prospect this year despite playing his tail off after transferring to SMU from the Bayou. Though, if the rumors are true that the Saints might have interest in Dez Bryant, this pick would most definitely change.
Round 6 Pick 15 Western Michigan CB Darius Phillips
I’ve been trying to work this guy into a mock because I think he’s absolutely explosive. He has all of the potential on the defensive side to be able to challenge for the fourth CB spot and could learn enough to move into start roles in a few years. However, his contributions on special teams as a returner are really what sell him for me. Don’t get me wrong, he plays his pure position well, but last mock I had Dante Pettis considered at the 3.27 spot due-in-part by his ability as a returner. This time around, I’m throwing Phillips into the mix for the same reason. As a cornerback, he doesn’t have the size most NFL teams would like at 5’10”, but he has extraordinary playmaking ability and ball skills as a defender. Any extra jolt the Saints can add, I’m sure they’ll take.
Round 6 Pick 27 Jacksonville St. DB Siran Neal
I still think that the Saints will do what their usual due diligence to continue to improve their secondary by adding versatile players. Like Phillips above, Siran Neal is an outstanding prospect that fits the Vaccaro mold. Neal is built to play the Joker role and did so well at JSU. Now, of course, the NFL-level expectations of such a role are heightened. But it’s not as if Neal wouldn’t have time to learn it. With Marcus Williams, Vonn Bell, Kurt Coleman, and Chris Banjo all sure to find playing time throughout the season, Neal could be an extra wrinkle in the system as well as valuable depth and special teams ability.
Round 7 Pick 27 Southern Mississippi St. RB Ito Smith
Though I considered a young Guard at this pick, I think that the Saints take a RB late in this draft. Not one that’s expected to come in and compete for a starting role with Ingram and Kamara. But instead, a dynamic back up that can do a little bit of everything. There are two such backs at the end of this draft. Ito Smith and Roc Thomas. I chose Smith simply because he fits the Darren Sproles classification a bit more than Roc does for me. Though I’d be perfectly accepting of either pick. Smith is quick, shifty, and has great catching ability. He topped 1,600 all-purpose yards and 13 total TDs in each of his final three seasons at Southern Miss and was named to the Conference USE all-conference first team. He also has some experience as a kick returner, though he does have a track record of fumbling that irked him all through his tenure fumbling 11 times and losing 8.