The New Orleans Saints keep losing games, so we’re looking to the draft for hope. It doesn’t make much sense to make a mock draft without considering the role free agency plays in filling holes in rosters, so I’ve got that covered in another article out some time this week. You can find it by going to my profile and scrolling down a bit.
With all of that in mind, let’s check out my latest seven round mock draft.
Round One: Reuben Foster, LB - Alabama
Previous Selection: LB Jarrad Davis, Florida
I know this is going to be a tough pill to swallow, so find something strong to drink it down with: Stephone Anthony is a busted draft pick. He’s a great athlete but lacks any football instincts and can’t process the game quickly enough. The best thing the Saints can do is chalk that up to another bad Rob Ryan-influenced decision and move on.
Reuben Foster can do everything Anthony can and more, and has done it as a starter for Alabama for several years now. He’s the closest thing to Luke Kuechly to come into the draft in years and the Saints would be fools to pass him up. A lack of middle linebackers in free agency should make this an easy decision for the Saints, but there are other defensive signal-callers available (like Florida’s Jarrad Davis, Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham, and Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan) in the draft.
Reuben Foster (10) is a monster. Watch how quick he shoots this gap and closes on RB. https://t.co/5jb6fKlz3J— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) October 24, 2016
Round Two: Christian McCaffrey, RB - Stanford
Previous Selection: OG Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh
I would be as shocked as anyone to see Cristian McCaffrey available in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but don’t be surprised if Sean Payton personally sprints to the podium to announce the pick. McCaffrey is the kind of running back Payton would build in a lab, piecing together the best of satellite-backs from years’ past: Reggie Bush’s electric West Coast style of play, Darren Sproles’ compact size and sudden agility, Pierre Thomas’ sure hands and strong character, and Travaris Cadet’s ability to walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.
McCaffrey can make plays as a runner between the tackles, catching passes out of the backfield or lined up in the slot, and is qualified to return punts and kickoffs at the next level. This may come off as a luxury pick, but the lack of a mismatch in the backfield has held the Saints’ offense back and cost them wins (see lacking road efforts against the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers).
Christian McCaffrey with a really well run out route, then showing some shimmy to make the first man misshttps://t.co/oO9CIdTp5A— Ryan Booher (@bootang25) September 8, 2016
Round Three: Taylor Moton, OL - Western Michigan
Previous Selection: RB Wayne Gallman, Clemson
Taylor Moton may be my favorite offensive lineman in the draft. The captain of the nation’s most underrated offense, Moton has hardly missed a start for Western Michigan’s trailblazing offense in the MAC. He has started at right guard and right tackle as the team has needed him without hesitation, and is now poised to enter the draft as one of the most-attractive offensive line prospects in the country.
He could just as easily start out as a swing tackle in the pros as start inside at right guard, which makes him a perfect fit for a Saints offense that lacks long-term answers at both of those positions. One way or another, Moton would get on the field early and often as a rookie and could be the kind of guy who sticks around for a decade: not unlike Zach Strief.
I'm boarding the Taylor Moton is good train. pic.twitter.com/orTjlZ3aky— Christian (@FBLRave) November 16, 2016
Round Four: Chidobe Awuzie, CB - Colorado
Previous Selection: DT Lowell Lotulelei, Utah
Chidobe Awuzie shouldn’t be available this late in the draft, but I’ll be happy to hope that. Awuzie is a cornerback with great size (listed at 6-foot-0 and 195-pounds) and shades of tremendous athleticism. He has shifted from boundary corner to slot corner for Colorado’s defense with ease and even spotlighted at safety in a pinch.
Awuzie has great hip flexion to turn and run downfield with receivers and underrated ball skills: he’s recorded 21 pass deflections in his four-year career. By the way, he’s a great tackler with the instincts to make plays at the line of scrimmage – Awuzie has logged 17 tackles for loss, seven sacks, and four forced fumbles in the last two years. He’s a perfect fit at nickel corner for a New Orleans Saints secondary surrounded by question marks.
Terrific awareness and positioning by Colorado CB Chidobe Awuzie. Will be tested by WSU's Falk, Marks. https://t.co/ymapwTT80C— Rob Rang (@RobRang) November 18, 2016
Round Five: Traded
Traded to Washington along with the New Orleans’ 2016 Round Five pick (152nd overall) in exchange for Washington’s 2016 Round Four pick (120th overall), which was used on defensive lineman David Onyemata.
Round Six: Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, NT - USC
Previous Selection: WR Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
Here’s an interesting prospect. Stevie Tu’ikolovatu is already 25-years old, but don’t panic about him transferring to multiple schools or having an intense injury history: the senior spent two years on a Mormon mission to the Phillipines before returning stateside to play football at Utah. He did transfer last year after getting better opportunities at USC and Alabama, choosing to go to Southern California where he would get more action. He and his wife moved there and Tu’ikolovatu is currently finishing up studies on his master’s degree.
He’s a high-character prospect with tremendous play strength. Born to play nose tackle, Tu’ikolovatu is a disruptive force at 6-foot-1, 320-pounds and hasn’t yet found an offensive lineman he couldn’t destroy. He would be an awesome compliment to Tyeler Davison in a rotation, and checks all of Sean Payton’s boxes.
Tu'ikolovatu was disruptive all game. 1T here pic.twitter.com/GX7tTZo8kU— Justen Gammel (@gamscout) November 15, 2016
Round Seven: John Johnson, FS - Boston College
Previous Selection: OG Danny Isidora, Miami
John Johnson’s stats aren’t enticing, but if you watch him you’ll see a technically-sound safety who executes all of his assignments very well. He doesn’t take many risks making plays on the ball, recording only five interceptions and nine pass breakups in his last 23 games, but Johnson seems to always be in good position to contest the catch. He won’t break your heart by gambling on a deep pass and failing to come down with it, but he’ll routinely make life difficult for opposing receivers of every size.
Johnson may be more athletic than he appears on tape (he had a 40-inch vertical jump in high school, though he was 180-pounds then and listed at 202-pounds now) but his good length at 6-foot-0 and smart play should get him drafted. Boston College’s defensive captain is a very solid tackler and has enough sideline-to-sideline speed to make an impact. He also plays special teams, which will help his case to fill in as the Saints’ fourth safety.