If you look at almost any NFL mock draft out there, the Saints are taking a defensive end or defensive tackle. There's almost no chance the Saints will draft any other position, right?
Think again. The Saints shocked us all last year going with a cornerback in the first round in Patrick Robinson, and then they turned around and ignored need again when they picked Charles Brown in he 2nd round. If you haven't learned your lesson by now, shame on you. The Saints don't draft based on need, their philosophy is to take the best player available at a position they value.
With that said, here are five players you currently don't think the Saints will take, but given their knack for surprising us come draft time, they may just select with the 24th pick:Mike Pouncey, C, Florida: Right now Jonathan Goodwin is an unrestricted free agent, so there's no telling where he'll end up. The Saints undoubtedly want Goodwin back, but that may come at a price too high to ignore. I'm sure Goodwin will garner interest on the open market, and with Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans holding down the interior, the Saints feel good about their middle offensive line. Goodwin is 32, as well, so even if he comes back it may not be a long term solution. The obvious heir to Goodwin, should Goodwin leave, is Matt Tennant who the Saints drafted last year and apparently love. Still, Pouncey may be too good to pass up. Let's not forget how dominant his twin brother has been in his first season with the Steelers.
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Before the Saints re-signed Pierre Thomas, I would have said this was even more likely. Ingram will in all likelihood be long gone by #24, but if he's still available at that spot, the Saints will think long and hard before passing on him. Sean Payton has said over and over that "you can never have enough good backs". Injuries to Reggie Bush, Lynell Hamilton, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory this past season proved that to be so accurate. The Saints don't want to deal with another season of relying on the Julius Jones', Ladell Betts' and DeShawn Wynn's of the world. The Saints keep 4 backs on their active roster - this much we know, and Thomas and Ivory are the only players guaranteed to have spots at this point. Bush's contract situation is still in limbo. Like I said, Ingram is likely gone by 24, but he's too good to pass up if he's still there.
Akeem Ayers, OLB, ULCA: Ok, this is hardly a reach/unexpected pick. Still, I'm surprised to see no mock draft list him as the Saints' choice. I said the Saints don't draft based on need, but I may make an exception here. Scott Shanle, Danny Clark (both starters), Marvin Mitchell and Kawika Mitchell are all unrestricted free agents, so who knows if any of those players will be back? Not only does Ayers make a lot of sense at #24, he could easily end up starting in his rookie year. His playmaking ability and pass rushing skills off the edge are qualities sure to have Gregg Williams foaming out the mouth. Again, this would be a pick based on need, which makes me skeptical, but he would be a great addition to the linebacking core.
Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky: We know that A.J. Green and Julio Jones will be the first two receivers taken, but who will be the third? That's anyone's guess. While the Saints seem set at receiver, Devery Henderson's name has been coming up a lot in likely cuts this offseason. Horrible would be one way of describing the second half of his 2010 season. Lance Moore's contract situation is a big question mark at receiver, too, and his latest twitter comments suggest he may be a tad bit bitter with how things are playing out. Finally, let's face it, Sean Payton gives Drew Brees what he wants, and he's always going to be a sucker for adding a new toy to the offense. Cobb is a guy that reminder me a lot of Moore, and while #24 overall may be a stretch, I could see the Saints taking him then or maybe hoping he slips to them later. Cobb is a smart and character guy with all the intangibles. He doesn't have the best speed or size, but he makes up for it with heart, hands, toughness, a willingness to block and good fundamentals. Sound like Lance Moore to you?
Rahim Moore, S, UCLA: This guy is a clear cut playmaker that could get a chance to start at the next level right away. The Saints were comfortable shifting Malcolm Jenkins to the slot in 3rd down passing situations last year from safety on 1st and 2nd down, so there's a chance they'll do it again if they draft Moore. He seems like a nice situational guy early with starting potential down the road (or right away if someone got injured). With Darren Sharper out the first half of the season, and then not the same when he returned - the drop off in playmaking on the back end in 2010 was significant. Moore could change that. The Saints are comfortable at safety with Jenkins and Roman Harper (assuming he re-signs), but they'll find a place on the field for More if they draft him. He's just too good.