Who should the New Orleans Saints draft with their 27th overall pick (realistically on the board)?
Kevin Skiver: The Saints still need help offensively. Their needs at offensive line aren't as pressing as many will lead us to believe, particularly not for a first round reach. You don't draft for depth in the first round, you draft for impact. But Drew Brees needs another receiver to play with. With that being said, I'm a strong advocate of the Best Player Available strategy. Gun to my head, I want the Saints to take Marqise Lee presuming he's on the board. This pick is highly contingent on what happens ahead of New Orleans, obviously mocking the 27th pick & the 27th pick only is no easy task. Lee is a 6'0" tall 190-pound receiver that has speed and athleticism that is surpassed only byBrandin Cooks & Sammy Watkins in this class.
Many Saints fans will strongly advocate for Odell Beckham Jr, but Lee has stronger hands and he will fight for a high pointed ball far more regularly than Becks. Furthermore, Becks' stock has increased exponentially as the draft has approached, and he'll likely be off the board as well as Cooks & Watkins. It's even a stretch to think that Lee will still be on the board, but this is my ideal situation. The Saints need speed in their receiving corps, which is why I'm passing on big bodies Kelvin Benjamin and Allen Robinson. Colston still effectively fits the role that they would likely play for the Saints: a big, physical guy that can wrestle the ball down. Relying on Joe Morgan to come back 100% is a fool's strategy, and if the Saints lose him again Stills becomes the only bona fide "burner" in their receiving corps. Lee can play the outside extremely effectively, allowing Stills to continue to make big plays in the slot. He also possesses more fluidity in route running than anyone currently on the Saints roster not named Graham or Colston.
While I'm still not averse to a corner at this pick, I don't think that there will be a true first round corner left on the board, which leads to reaching. Furthermore, this draft is deeper at DB than many people are talking about. Lee is, in my opinion, the best player that we can take at 27 as he fits a need and he is extremely talented, a true first round talent.
Dave Cariello: This is probably the toughest draft of the Sean Payton era to predict what the Saints are going to do since there isn't one specific area of need that's obvious. By now we all know that wide receiver, cornerback, center, and linebacker would all be acceptable options. That actually puts the Saints in the great position of being able to draft the best player available and not be limited.
We can immediately take center out of the running because the Saints have never drafted an offensive lineman in the first round under Payton. That's just not their method of operation. Having focused more on the defense in free agency with the signing of Jairus Byrd, Champ Bailey, and Marcus Ball, my guess is that the draft is where Sean Payton will look for his new toy to keep his offense relevant and high-powered. The top guys like Sammy Watkins,Mike Evans, and Odell Beckham, Jr. will most likely be off the board by the time the Saints are on the clock with the 27th overall pick. So unless they trade up to grab one of those three guys (which is very possible considering they've done it twice in the past six years), my choice for the Saints is Marqise Lee. He seems the most likely candidate because he fills a need and he comes from USC, the school that has supplied the most Payton/Loomis draft picks.
Travis Dauro: It's extremely hard to guess one prospect that your team will select because all it takes is one unexpected move and the rest of the dominoes will fall. Personally, I think the Saints will go with a wide receiver with their first pick and I would love that. I also have a feeling they will trade up to do so, but for the sake of this post I'll stick with their original pick at 27. To me the guys that the Saints really should consider at this spot are Marqise Lee, Brandin Cooks, and Jordan Matthews. Each has his own means of being a successful receiver and neither of these guys are lightyears ahead of the other. Ultimately, I think I'm going to have to choose Matthews. I expect Lee to be taken slightly prior to the Saints' pick and that would be perfectly fine. At 6'3", 206 lbs. he has the perfect build for a receiver. His 262 receptions and 3,759 yards, both of which are career SEC records, prove that. If Lee does fall to the Saints, however, expect a long, hard decision.
If 2013 was any indication, a team can win the Superbowl in the NFL's "passing era" without having top-flight wide receivers. The Seattle Seahawks did it with a suffocating defense, a very good running game and very good receivers; however, neither Percy Harvin nor Golden Tate are considered the best at their position in the league, yet they helped Seattle tremendously on their way to a championship. With Saints head coach Sean Payton now seemingly giving more importance to the running game and a more balanced offense, it is my opinion that New Orleans will look to continue to build its defense early, rather than pick a wide receiver in the first round as is widely assumed by both fans and experts. A unit that was drastically improved in 2013, the Saints biggest defensive hole is in its secondary, notably at cornerback. Gone is veteran Jabari Greer. The only other healthy options are 100 years old Champ Bailey and Corey "Wait, I was supposed to catch it?" White. Oh, let's not forget the already averagePatrick Robinson, who is now coming off a nasty torn ACL. Basically, the Saints have one cornerback they can truly count on: Keenan Lewis.
With everyone going crazy over quarterbacks, defensive ends, wide receivers and the best offensive linemen early in the draft, it isn't completely far-fetched to imagine that Kyle Fuller could fall all the way down to 27th.
At 6'0" 190 lbs., Fuller is the kind of big secondary player that make Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan salivate more than a muffuletta. A team captain with Virginia Tech, Fuller was a not only a leader but also a tackling machine in Blacksburg, as he combined for 117 tackles (90 solo) in 2011 and 2012. His numbers were down in 2013 when he was limited to only nine games with the dreaded "sports hernia" (meaning he'd fit right in with the Saints). This is not that big of a red flag however, as he played in every game (27) the previous two years.
Wallace Delery: What makes this so difficult is that the Saints could very well trade up to take a player that Payton or Ryan covets above the rest. While the possibility is quite likely, I hope the Saints don't go that route in the first round. The most pressing needs are at cornerback and wide receiver, as most would agree, and there is depth to be had at those positions in 2014, especially at receiver. Ultimately, I'm on board with whomever the selection may be, and I'd hate second guessing who "we could've had" after this class has some time in the league. I do like Marqise Lee (WR - USC) as the first round pick. His skills paired with Drew Brees and Sean Payton could be phenomenal. Lee's abilities could be quite an asset in the return game on special teams where the Saints have been dreadful for far too long. A dual threat at the 27th pick would be the best case scenario.
Ryan Edwards: Obviously, the draft process is so unpredictable, especially when your team picks at 27. We can critique a player's speed, size, health, attitude, and overall football talent, but we never know what we are going to get at the NFL level. I fell into this trap by wanting to avoid the cornerback spot in round one because of what we as Saints fans have seen historically drafting high at the position.
But recently, I have become sold on two guys: Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech and Jason Verrett out of TCU. I love what Fuller could bring to this team and feel like he would be the absolute perfect fit for Rob Ryan's defense. He is a talent that could truly be placed all over the field. If he is available, the Saints have to take him. But I don't think he will be, so a very nice consolation prize would be Jason Verrett. I know he is only 5'9", but he is an absolute playmaker and has tremendous athletic ability (top performer at the combine in almost every drill). Besides, Darrell Green was also 5'9" and he was one of the best corners of all time. As a matter of fact, some of the league's best corners (Haden 5'11", Revis 5'11", Verner 5'10") are also under 6 feet tall. Verrett (or Fuller) could also benefit from having a guy like Champ Bailey on the roster. Cornerback is definitely one of the biggest positions of need and is the way to go if one (or both) of these two guys are on the board.