As controversial as the first round pick in my previous Saints mock draft was, it seems to have caught fire with other New Orleans Saints draftniks. Most have seen the light in the objective I was trying to accomplish and now, it is time to move on from that dream. You're welcome.
Yes, drafting Tavon Austin would be a wise selection, but I just don't see him lasting until the fifteenth pick. As great of a player as he is, he isn't that "trade up" kind of guy you go and get. He's more of a "look what fell in my lap" kind of guy.
The Saints have pretty much sewed up most of their holes in free agency except for the hole left by Jermon Bushrod on the offensive line, and by hole I mean the money-sucking life force that was the 44th best OT in the league last year.
That being said, I could see the Saints signing a stopgap option at OT a la a Bryant McKinnie and using their first round pick on their future at that position.
If you were shocked by the Austin selection last time, this pick might just do the same. The difference this time is that it will be at a position of need.
First Round: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida St.
This basketball transplant from England (I'll hold back my Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson jokes) has only played football at a high collegiate level for one year, but his maturity and potential ooze out of his raw talent. Watson is my third-highest rated offensive tackle in this draft, behind Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel.
Yup, I have him rated higher than the precious Lane Johnson of Oklahoma. Without going into much detail, I just don't see it with LJ. With Watson, I do.
Watson's pass and run blocking skills are on the plus side with his only glaring weaknesses, besides his experience, is his age (He'll be 25 when the season starts.) and his ability with blocking out in space.
You wouldn't think that last part would be important but the way the Saints run screens and get their backs out in the open, it does.
A Bryant McKinnie signing combined with the Watson pick could be the way to go, especially since in that scenario Watson would take over the starting job from the vet around Week 9 or so.
Third Round: Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Miss.
Collins is a super-athletic linebacker who blew up the combine and has been rumored to be a dark-horse, late-first round pick. I don't buy it. You know what that sounds like?
It reminds me of what was being said about Martez Wilson before the 2010 NFL Draft. He was projected in the first and fell to about the same position that New Orleans is picking in the third round this year. Just like Wilson, most of Collins' film is going to cause him to drop. He just never showed much consistency in standing out on tape, and that is a scary thought considering he played in Conference USA.
When he stepped up in competition against Nebraska, he was non-existent. That is why I see him slipping that far. A foursome of him, Wilson, Junior Galette and newly-signed Victor Butler would be great foundation for the Saints' new 3-4.
Fourth Round: Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana
The Saints aimed high for three cornerbacks in free agency (Keenan Lewis, Nnamdi Asomugha and Tracy Porter) and only came down with one (Lewis). That tells me that Sean Payton sees that secondary as a big problem and is intent on bringing in fresh blood.
Alford's stock was very high after the Senior Bowl, but that momentum has seemed to wane a little bit. Not because of anything he did, but because other corners, who played against bigger competition, have done really well in the pre-draft process.
Alford is a playmaker in every sense of the word. His only downfall could be that he is too aggressive. He undercuts and jumps routes a lot. Most of the time it works out because he is, usually, more physically gifted than about everyone on the field. How is that going to play out against great competition week in and out.
In the fourth round, it's worth a gamble. He can also return kicks as well.
Fifth Round: Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
In this spot, I was pondering either Tavarres King, Ace Sanders or Boyce. But with the addition of dual-threat corner Alford, Sanders and his return ability would be a pointless pick. So it comes down to Boyce and King, and the deciding factor in this one is speed.
Boyce lit up the combine with a sub 4.4 40-yard dash. That is one thing that the Saints receivers are missing, outside of Joe Morgan. The Horned Frog probably will never be a true #1 receiver in the NFL, but he has sure hands and would be a great backup to Lance Moore in the slot.
Sixth Round: Sean Renfree, QB, Duke
The Saints signed Luke McCown back to the team to be Drew Brees' Jimmy John's delivery driver or something. Point is, don't get to familiar with him because he will b last a year at the most. That might even be pushing it.
The sting of the undevelopable (yup, I made that up) Sean Canfield has to irritate Sean Payton. That's the only QB he drafted, and it's a pretty big smudge on an otherwise sterling QB development record.
Enter Sean Renfree.
The Blue Devil will remind some of Canfield with his size but Canfield, supposedly, has the stronger arm. Renfree's biggest asset is his accuracy, just like Chase Daniel's was coming out of Mizzou. Don't let that fool you about his arm strength though because he can make just about any throw you would need him to make, and he's been steadily improving since taking over for Thaddeus Lewis.
His high football-IQ and tutelage under QB-guru David Cutliffe have scouts raving about him as a steal in the late rounds as a potential starter down the line.