After opening this series with players the New Orleans Saints should target in the first round, I would usually move on to second round prospects that would look good in the Black & Gold. Thanks to Roger Goodell and his search for the invisible bounty system, the Saints are without one.
So instead, we move our attention to the next pick that currently resides in NOLA. That would be the eleventh pick in the third round.
The good thing about picking in the top half of the third round is that, in a draft as deep as this one, you will still end up with a very good player and, possibly, a day one starter.
The prospects in this area vary from tight end to nose tackle to cornerback and just about everything in between. These guys would be the best picks for the Saints in third round.
Brandon Williams, NT, Missouri Southern St., 6' 2" 341 lbs.
Williams' draft stock ranges from low second round to high fourth round, but he shouldn't get past the Saints in the third round if available. The nose tackle is the hardest position to fill when switching from a 4-3 to 3-4. Very rarely does a team already have a defensive tackle that can be that space eater while giving up little on the stat sheet. Brodrick Bunkley could be that, temporarily, but Williams would be the ideal fit.
For his size, Williams is more agile than you would think and rushing the passer will be one of his undervalued attributes that will make him dominate for years to come.
Margus Hunt, DE, SMU, 6' 8" 277 lbs.
The beast from Estonia has an 82-inch wingspan and oozes with potential. He is definitely a project, but his stock has been another one that has had a wide range to it. Before the Senior Bowl, he was talked about as a potential first round pick, but that would be a little too high for him, in my eyes. He has settled in now around the late second-early third range, but I could see a team that really likes grabbing him high in the second.
If the Saints were to use Akiem Hicks at nose tackle, a line of him, Hunt and Cameron Jordan could be dominant for years to come.
Chris Gragg, TE, Arkansas, 6' 3" 244 lbs.
This might seem a little high but after an impressive total workout at the combine, Gragg can expect to his stock rise from the fifth round projection he is currently at. I'm not trying to say that the Combine is that much of a deciding factor in any draft process, but it showed one big thing.
It showed that Gragg is fully healthy from the injuries that nagged him last season. That, coupled with his impressive versatility as an H-Back/Tight End, will vault him up into the third round, and not have him drop past the fourth. His speed makes him just that much more dynamic. His blocking isn't too shabby, either.
He is a mismatch coming out of the backfield and is an upgraded version of David Thomas.
Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern La., 5' 10" 188 lbs.
Alford might be from a small school, but his playmaking ability shines through regardless of the level of his competition. He is the smallish corner that the Saints usually like and would bring an extra dynamic in the return game, as well. He also played receiver a little bit in college. That's an advantage for corners because it helps them with receiver tendencies.
Alford is excellent in man coverage and would be a welcome addition in a unit that is desperately in need of playmakers. He, along with Williams, are the rare small-school guys in this draft who will make an immediate impact next year.
David Bakhtiari, OT, Colorado, 6' 4" 300 lbs.
Bakhtiari has slowly crept up draft boards to the point where he is being talked about as a fringe second round pick. If he was the best option for the Saints in the third, I would be extremely happy with "settling" for this guy. I know I sound like Mike Mayock, but, when you put the tape on of this guy, there's nothing to dislike.
I don't see many drawbacks with him. He could step in and challenge Charles Brown for the left tackle position from day one.