With just over two weeks left until the NFL Draft kicks off on April 25th, Saints fans will more than likely have to wait an additional day to see their beloved Saints on the clock. But that doesn’t mean they will be out of the running for a player that can help put their already Super Bowl caliber roster one more step ahead. Here is my second go at the Saints seven round mock draft. No trades this time, but 3.0 will be here soon enough to scratch that itch.
Round 2, Pick 62 – OL Michael Deiter, Wisconsin
The Saints reach to a familiar offensive line training ground with their first selection. With the recent retirement of Max Unger, the Saints signed former Vikings offensive lineman Nick Easton. Easton is coming off of a season-long neck injury and is nowhere near a sure thing. We can trust that he’ll be in good shape considering he was given a contract at all, but the Saints would do good to find another option to compete with Will Clapp and Cameron Tom. Deiter gives them that and a little bit more as he also has experience playing guard as well as tackle in a pinch. Of his 54 college games he played 14 at left tackle, 16 anchoring at center, and the remaining 24 from the left guard position, per The Draft Network. His length will likely keep him on the interior and with Andrus Peat unlikely to return to the Saints after this season, from my perspective anyway, Deiter would be a natural replacement after playing a swing role his rookie year.
Deiter allowed 8 sacks over his four seasons with Wisconsin despite bouncing al around the line:
2015: 13 starts, 7 at left guard and 6 at center, 3 sacks and 8 QB hits allowed. Earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention
2016: 14 starts, 10 at center and 4 at left guard, 1 sack and 5 QB hits allowed. Earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention
2017: 14 starts, all at left tackle, 3 sacks and 6 QB hits allowed. 2nd-Team All-America & 1st-Team All-Big Ten
2018: 13 starts, all at left guard, 1 sack and 0 QB hits allowed. 2nd Team AP All-America, Big Ten OL of the Year and Consensus 1st-Team All-Big Ten
Alternatively, the Saints could go WR here. in this simulation, all the top guys were off the board but odds according to expert sources are that the Saints will have some talent to select from should they decide to go that route in the second. According to Sascha P from SBD,
“Even though their first pick isn’t until #62, the Saints should be able to address a position of serious need in the draft: a number two receiver. Michael Thomas (1,405 yards) had almost 1,000 more receiving yards than the second-most productive wideout on the team, third-round rookie Tre’Quan Smith. This year’s crop of WRs isn’t great at the top end, but it’s deep. One of N’Keal Harry, Marquise Brown, AJ Brown, Hakeem Butler, Parris Campbell, Deebo Samuel, and/or JJ Arcega-Whiteside will be available and would provide an instant boost. In terms of fit, a speedy slot man like Marquise Brown (Oklahoma) would be a great complement to the big-bodied Thomas. But he’s also likely to be gone before #62. Campbell (Ohio State) isn’t as shifty, but also has speed to burn and is more likely to be on the board at #62.”
Round 5, Pick #168 – WR Stanley Morgan, Jr., Nebraska
Since the Saints didn’t go WR in this simulation’s second round, a guy like Morgan would make sense. He’s scheduled a pre-draft workout with the Saints and has the skillset they were trying to find last season as a receiver that could play in the slot as well as along the perimeter. His 3.39 yards per route run from the slot put him at eighth-most in his class. He’s got great box-out ability and a ton of fight after the catch. Morgan likes to overpower defenders when they are took small for him either at the point of the catch or after, but also has the jets to leave a defender that’s a step too late or simply too slow in the dust. Add to that his eight touchdowns and 133.1 passer rating that came on deep passing (20+ yards) targets and he’s an excellent asset with playmaking ability to add to the WR competition. He’d be able to immediately compete with oft-injured Cameron Meredith and one of last year’s UDFA diamonds Keith Kirkwood for a role in the slot and could even help to push Tre’Quan Smith into his next gear competing with him for the second spot behind Ginn to play opposite Michael Thomas.
Round 6, Pick #177 – OT Tyler Jones, NC State
New Orleans doubles up on offensive line here preparing for future departures and security for potential injuries. Jones could be a great candidate for the Saints sixth O-Line spot as a player that has heavy experience at tackle, playing both left and right with the Wolfpack. However, he also projects well also as a guard in the NFL due to his arm length falling just short of the 34″ threshold at 33 3/4″. Despite his presumed lack of length, Jones is extremely explosive off the line and will make powerful contact at the point of attack. Not a player to expect to fight for an unprecedented starting spot any time soon, but he can help steady one of the NFL’s best units. In 2017, he was a part of the NCAA’s very best offensive line allowing only a 0.2 QB pressure percentage and 24 hits on QB Ryan Finley. Great numbers and protection from the unit. In 2017, Jones was only responsible for three of those 24 hits and he played even better in 2018, not allowing a single sack and only one hit on his QB. His 98.9 pass blocking efficiency grade locks him in at seventh among his class, per PFF. Jones will be entering the draft early after being named to the official All-ACC First-Team and AP All-ACC First-Team his Junior year.
Round 6 Pick #202 – DL Michael Dogbe, Temple
Michael Dogbe has been one of my favorite interior defensive line prospects in his class this season. The former Temple Owl is graded top-ten in his class for Pass-rush productivity by PFF and he also sits within the top 30 with an 8.0% run stop percentage. His 79 run stops over 1,689 collegiate snaps is an excellent total. He grades above average in just about everything. His 4.94 second 40-yard dash would have put him right in between Kingsley Keke and Jerry Tillery, two very athletic prospects at DL. Dogbe’s speed and lateral quickness help him play all over the field chasing down scrambling QBs and beating RBs and receivers to the corner on outside runs and screens. His also added a stunning 34 bench press reps which would have been good for third at the Combine and puts on display the power he can use to bullrush up the middle where he created pressure once every 26.4 snaps. He’s a little undersized at 6’3″ 284-pounds. but his versatility, pass rush ability, and run stop prowess make him an absolute steal if he ends up available this late in the draft.
Round 7, Pick 244 – TE C.J. Conrad, Kentucky
Conrad missed the NFL Combine when a heart condition was discovered during his medicals. He was then cleared just in time to spend two weeks preparing for his own Pro day, which he did alongside UK Safety Mike Edwards. They both participated separately from their UK teammates in order to have an adequate amount of time to prepare. With only two weeks to get ready, Conrad put down a 4.7 40, 33″ vertical jump, and 21 reps on the bench. Conrad has been a consistent but still under utilized receiving threat for the Wildcats catching more than 15 passes for over 240 yards the last three seasons. But he nearly doubled his 2017 receptions count in 2018 with 30 catches for a modest 318 yards and three touchdowns. His stats aren’t off the chart, but his 2.19 yards per route run get him into the top five in this class of very good tight ends.Conrad also is also a great in-line run blocker and that lower-body power translates as he becomes a bit of a bulldozer with the ball in his hand. he’s got the length and power to fight for the ball and the finesse to stay on his feet after the catch and tip-toe for a touchdown out of the slot. The heart condition will continue to be monitored and will certainly be a factor in his draft position. But with the Saints having signed Jared Cook and having another reliable option in Josh Hill, Conrad won’t need to produce right away as most rookie tight ends do not anyway. His blocking ability could mean he’d see the field as early as he’s healthy enough to, though. The Saints haven’t taken a tight end since drafting Jimmy Graham in 2010, so Conrad would have to really pique the interest of the Saints front office. If he does, more than certainly deserves a shot. He certainly has the attitude the Saints love according to his former tight ends coach Vince Marrow,
“If everything checks out, I bet C.J. will play 8-10 years in the NFL, because the tight end coach, offensive coordinator, offensive line coach are going to love him because he brings what you need to bring to that room. I’m excited about him, I’m so excited for him.”
Round 7, Pick 244 – RB James Williams, Washington State
Talk about an exciting prospect. Williams being on the board this late could be an incredible get for the Saints or even tracking him down as a priority free agent. There is no system in the NFL that fits Williams and vice versa than New Orleans. Could the Saints be interested in another receiving back that is elusive and can still average 4.9 yards on the ground per carry? Of course they would be. Williams could come in to the Saints system and battle with Dwayne Washington and Martez Carter for the third RB spot. His 613 receiving yards is the most for any running back in the class and was second most in the nation in 2018. He also has an incredible knack for bouncing off of first contact as he’s second in his class for evading first contact at 44.3%. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, make plays on the ball like a wideout, pick up yards on the ground, and get away from defenders trying to bring him down with an ose for the endzone scoring 12 touchdowns this season. Should sound like an awfully familiar skillset. Question is, do the Saints have enough of this with Kamara and Murray and will they instead look for another power back in the late rounds? if so, keep an eye out for Alexander Mattison out of Boise St. who they’ve already shown interest in as well.
Follow Ross on Twitter @RossJacksonASC