You guys are going to think I am nuts, but the New Orleans Saints have done crazier things in the first round before. Expect the unexpected with Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton at the helm.
The Saints have not been what you might call "active" in free agency so far, but they have filled a couple areas of need at cornerback and tight end. Keenan Lewis and Benjamin Watson are great signings for the Black & Gold and will contribute a lot to the team's success in 2013.
They missed out on Paul Kruger at the beginning of the free agency period and are still in talks with Nnamdi Asomugha to join a porous secondary. The numerous defensive targets in free agency, with at least a Victor Butler visit added, tell me that the Saints' brain trust will be going B.P.A., or best player available, and filling most of their needs through free agency.
That shouldn't be a surprise because that's been the way New Orleans has operated in the Payton era. Doing business that way ensures that the Saints are not tied down to having to go defense, defense, defense.
With that in mind, here goes my third attempt at mocking what the Saints will do in April's draft.
First Round : Tavon Austin, WR/KR/PR, West Virginia
I know, I know, the Saints are rebuilding their defense, and they need all the help they can get. Yes, they do, but I can find players for that defense that can be successful in it later in the draft since the draft is loaded on that side.
Both of the Saints top receivers, Marques Colston and Lance Moore will be 30 when 2013 comes around, and the team really needs to find that dynamic slot guy who can take off to Wes Welker-esque numbers. Moore is a reliable veteran, but he doesn't add that possibility of scoring every time he touches the ball. Austin does.
Now, Saints fans will complain that Austin is too similar to Darren Sproles and will hinder Sproles' big play ability. I don't see it that way. If anything, Austin and Sproles on the field at the same time would cause defensive coordinator's heads to explode. Austin would actually take the return duties off of the veteran's hands and save him up for running back duties.
Third Round: Brandon Williams, NT, Missouri Southern
I won't spend too much time on this pick because I have beaten it down repeatedly for months now. Williams is just about the only nose tackle that I would draft in this class. He also happens to be the best of the bunch. The kid is a very athletic 340+ pounder who will occupy guys long enough to allow Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne to make more tackles.
He would join in the rotation at NT with Brodrick Bunkley. That would be a lot of strength up the middle and should shore up New Orleans' run defense.
Fourth Round: Meshak Williams, OLB, Kansas St.
Williams is a relative unknown to people outside of the "draftnik" world, but he won't be as soon as he finds a home in the NFL as a rush 3-4 OLB. Overshadowed by Arthur Brown, Williams quietly had 17.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss the past two seasons in Manhattan, KS. He played defensive end in college, but the Wildcat is much more apt to standing up and rushing the passer.
He is not going to be a stalwart in the run game, but that is why you build your interior with a strong base at NT and ILB and put the playmakers on the outside. He reminds me a lot of Elvis Dumervil coming out of Louisville.
Fifth Round: Reid Fragel, OT, Ohio St.
Fragel is the poor man's version of Lane Johnson and, in my opinion, has the higher ceiling in regard to his future development. Fragel is a former tight end, just like Johnson, but was much more productive in both the pass and run protections than the first round prospect. He only has one year of starting experience at OT, but he would be the Saints LT of the future along with Marcel Jones on the right side.
Sixth Round: Cooper Taylor, S, Richmond
Taylor started off his career at Georgia Tech as a freshman starter before transferring to Richmond. He was a starter up until his sophomore year when he began losing out on playing time, hence the transfer. Taylor is a big, physical safety at 6' 4" 230 and ran a 4.45 in the 40, amongst other eye-popping stats at his Pro Day.
If Taylor would have stayed at Ga. Tech, there's no doubt in my mind that he would be a second or third round pick in the draft. Yeah, he is that good. His small school stature will hurt him, but he could be a steal as a better version of Harrison Smith, who plays for the Minnesota Vikings.