With the NFL Combine in the rearview mirror, draft stocks for prospects are just about set, barring any unforeseen obstacles. So it's time to really hunker down (I did that for you, Mitch) and see who the New Orleans Saints could possibly end up with.
The positional needs for the Saints, in no particular order, are CB, OLB, S, TE, NT, OT.
That's a lot of needs for the very slim amount of draft picks that the Saints currently hold in their hip pocket. With Mickey Loomis cutting and restructuring contracts, the free agent route is going to be the Saints best bet to acquire impact players for the 2013 season. It's very unlikely that there will be immediate help to come out of the 2013 NFL Draft.
It just depends on which highly-rated defensive player falls to the Black & Gold at No. 15 and, from the looks of it, there probably won't be many that fit New Orleans at that point. The ideal situation would be to trade up but, without much ammo, Loomis is kind of just sitting on his hands and waiting.
The Saints are really good at letting the draft board come to them and not dictating it. The two times that New Orleans has traded up in the first round during the Sean Payton era caused more heartache than glee (Sedrick Ellis, Mark Ingram). Ingram could still work out, but the only way that the Saints should be trading in this upcoming draft is downward to collect more picks.
Let's take a look at the way that I would use the draft picks the Saints currently have. No trades here.
First Round: Jarvis Jones, Georgia, OLB
Jones, just like Star Lotulelei, is going to fall out of the Top 10 due to health concerns, but neither of them should fall any further. The Saints will take care of Jones' fall if they keep the 15th pick. This team needs a premier rush OLB, and most of those will be gone before New Orleans picks. It's starting to look like none of those rushers are there, and, if they can't find a trade partner, then expect the Saints to take the best CB on the board whether it be Demond Trufant or Xavier Rhodes.
Jones might have spinal stenosis, which San Diego Chargers LT Marcus McNeill had, but I would still take six years of the pass-rushing demon I saw at UGA than just about anyone who is expected to be left when the Saints pick comes up. There's nothing more to say on Jones. Not worth the words. Just hope his 29 is flipped to 92, and he can start wreaking havoc in the NFC South.
Third Round: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU, CB
Yes, the Honey Badger. Oh wait, he doesn't want people to call him that. I have finally come to the dark side and want Mathieu on the Saints. To those with foregone dreams of the native New Orleanian playing corner for the Black & Gold, but I had reservations. The biggest one was that he was a native, and his past would slowly creep back on him being so close to home.
That is all behind me, and hopefully him, now. I want this guy on the Saints, and, just like with Jones, there isn't much to divulge on the matter. You just need to know one word: playmaker. New Orleans needs them, badly. Oh, he'll also upgrade special teams, as well.
Fourth Round: Jordan Mills, Louisiana Tech, OT
Going for Mathieu in the third caused me to miss out on Shamarko Thomas or D.J. Swearinger at safety, but Mathieu was an easier pick based on his natural playmaking ability. That leaves me with the fourth round pick to pick up an offensive tackle who could be a starter in 2014, and, maybe, even spot-start for an injured player this season.
The film on Mills that really sticks out at me is the game versus Texas A&M where he went up against first-round prospect, Damontre Moore, mostly. Now the stats might say that Moore had 2.5 sacks, but only one was against Mills. To me, that one didn't even count because it was a coverage sack. Getting Mills in the fourth would be a steal.
If he can silence a first-round prospect as a raw talent, what can he do with more training as he gets better?
Fifth Round: Earl Wolff, SS, North Carolina St.
Wolff could be the true gem of the safety group because his tenacity and playmaking ability might be second to none, but he wasn't "sexier" than David Amerson in that same secondary. Wolff was a tackling machine at N.C. St. averaging over 100 tackles a year while adding in a few interceptions, forced fumbles and passes defended. Actually, it was more than a "few" passes defended the past two years. It was almost 20.
He lit up the Combine with numbers that are at the top of the safety list, if your name isn't Shamarko, and that athleticism (He was a running back in high school.) has me convinced that him and Malcolm Jenkins could be flip-flopped with ease at either safety position.
Sixth Round: T. J. Barnes, NT, Gerorgia Tech
This is the first mock draft that I didn't have Brandon Williams out of Missouri Southern St. in, but he is rising above the Saints third round selection. So I have said my peace with not being able to obtain that stud, but Barnes is a hell of a consolation prize in the sixth round. This Yellow Jacket will sting you in more ways than one.
And when I say sting, I mean that his glacial 6' 6", 369 lbs. frame is going to "sting" any running back or quarterback dumb enough to run into this brick wall. The only problem with Barnes, and the reason he is in the sixth round and not the third, is his technique. If he can learn to get his center of gravity a little lower, his drive off the snap will increase, and he will be another steal for the Saints who are used to those around this time in the draft.