The New Orleans Saints are the hottest team in pro football right now, so I get it if you’re screeching into the night at the thought of 2018 NFL Draft prospects. But thanks for clicking on the link, I guess.
For the rest of you who enjoy fun things: I’ve surveyed all of the mock drafts put out around the community on this fine #MockDraftMonday, and ranked the Saints picks for your ease-of-reading.
You should still totally support the hard work these guys put into studying college prospects and read their full-length articles, but I wanted to order them by my personal take on which positions the Saints should pursue upgrading in the spring.
As far as that goes, here’s how I feel about the Saints midway through the 2017 season. There’s still a lot of football to be played (and flaws to be exposed), as well as an intense free agency period which will see the Saints addressing a number of players who aren’t under contract for 2018. So things will obviously look different in six months.
Anyway, I rank positions in three tiers. Needs are must-have upgrades that have to be addressed as soon as possible. Wants are things that would be nice but the Saints can survive without them. Likes are positions that should not be prioritized, though additions there should be considered.
- Needs: Tight End, Linebacker, Quarterback
- Wants: Center, Wide Receiver, Defensive End
- Likes: Offensive Tackle, Defensive Tackle
So, that’s the lens I’ll be ranking these picks through. It’ll probably look dumb in hindsight in a few months but the odds anyone will check back on this piece are low, so my reputation should be unaffected.
Let’s get to the picks:
1. Linebacker Roquan Smith, Georgia Bulldogs
Most fans I’ve spoken with agree that a blue-chip linebacker is the biggest team need right now, and the position that could have the clearest upgrade with an impact rookie. A.J. Klein has played well considering all of the responsibilities he’s been shouldered with, and Manti Te’o has looked nice in limited snaps.
But an elite linebacker could really elevate the second level of this Saints defense, which is why Ryan McCrystal of Bleacher Report connected Smith to the Saints. If you liked Reuben Foster in last year’s draft class, you’ll love Smith. They’re both new-age linebackers who can run down anyone. NDT Scouting’s Roger Dixon had this to report about Smith’s game versus the Auburn Tigers this weekend:
His speed to meet ball carriers on the sideline is superb. Even against a jet sweep runner who had momentum behind him, Smith flew to the sideline to beat the runner there and then broke down enough to make the tackle without over running the play. Later in the game, he ran through a TE’s block and still made it to the sideline in time to tackle the WR catching in the flats.
Play after play, he proved that he has the speed to be a sideline to sideline enforcer. He also has great instincts. He was the only defensive player to recognize a reverse and quickly attacked to cause pressure on the reverse runner. He was all over the field. He even deflected a pass with one hand at the back pylon of the end zone while covering a crossing route. He is making a great argument to be the #1 LB of this class based on his consistent open field tackling, sideline to sideline speed, and ability to cover against the pass.
2. Quarterback Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma Sooners
Yet another draft analyst has connected the Saints to Mayfield as a possible union, and I’m here for it. My love of Mayfield’s game and pro potential are well-documented and he looks like someone who could take the keys from Drew Brees someday, if not fit right into Sean Payton’s offense from the jump. Mayfield-to-New Orleans has become a trendy mock draft pick in recent weeks and this time it’s Jordan Reid of Climbing The Pocket, who also wrote up a scouting report of Mayfield (with video clips!). Here’s the highlights:
A factor that I weigh heavily on QB prospects is their intangibles and mental makeup. How do they handle adverse situation or when their team needs them to make a play in crunch time? Mayfield passes that test with flying colors. He has outstanding intangibles. From battling through injuries against Kansas State, to leading his team to a 31-16 victory in Columbus against Ohio State, the Sooners signal-caller makes everyone else around him believe in him regardless of the circumstances that they are facing. Those type of factors are things that coaches can not coach. It is instilled in him naturally.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Mayfield is that he intentionally breaks contain and runs around in hopes of eventually finding a target to throw to. That is not the case. Mayfield has consistently shown that he can win from the pocket, but has the ability to extend plays when the original concept is not open. When he scrambles, Mayfield does not look to just run. He has an uncanny ability of being able to avoid defenders while still being able to find open receivers down the field. He does not make a living off of doing this though. He’s shown that he can consistently stand in the pocket and be an accurate passer.
3. Defensive End Clelin Ferrell, Clemson Tigers
This pick comes from Dan Kadar here at SB Nation. Dan sees the Saints going with another edge rusher over linebacker, which I could be sold on after seeing how they approach free agency (especially the contract situation of Alex Okafor). He also considered South Dakota State Jackrabbits tight end Dallas Goedert at this spot, which would be amazing. Here’s what he had to say about Ferrell:
Cameron Jordan keeps plugging away as an effective defensive lineman for the Saints, and Alex Okafor is having a solid season. But Ferrell has a lot of value in the back half of the first round. He’s a good all-around end who could make the jump to the NFL after his redshirt sophomore season.
Ferrell still has plenty of college eligibility and may not declare early for the NFL Draft, but he’s already built an impressive resume. The huge end (listed at 6-foot-5, 265-pounds) moves extremely well for his size and has logged more tackles for loss (26.5) than games played (25). By the way, he’s third on the Clemson defense in total tackles (52) behind linebackers Dorian O’Daniel (71) and Kendall Joseph (74).
4. Linebacker Josh Allen, Kentucky Wildcats
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know about this guy. But now I do, so that demotes Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen to being the third-best Josh in this draft class, behind this linebacker and UCLA Bruins passer Josh Rosen. Dana Becker of Saturday Blitz introduced me to this new, better Josh Allen, writing:
Kentucky’s Josh Allen was just a two-star prospect coming out of high school in New Jersey, selecting the Wildcats over Buffalo and Monmouth. However, great athleticism runs in his family, as two of his sisters play college basketball at Louisville and Virginia Tech, with an uncle being a former professional basketball player.
He made 62 tackles last year and seven sacks despite only starting nine of 13 games for Kentucky, not a bad number for a high school wide receiver – he did lead the state of New Jersey in quarterback sacks from his defensive end position – who also spent time in Alabama during his prep career. Allen has picked up seven sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and 52 total stops on the year. He’s also forced two fumbles.
We’ve seen a bit of a career resurgence out of Drew Brees, so maybe he does have a few more years left in him. If that is the case, pairing Allen up with Manti Te’o and A.J. Klein at linebacker gives the defense more pieces to work with.
Anyway. As it turns out, this Josh Allen played all over the field in high school, but he was lightly recruited and didn’t enter Kentucky’s starting lineup until last year. I haven’t watched him yet but the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Allen’s profile recalls Bud Dupree as an inexperienced but productive pass rusher who, incidentally, also went to Kentucky. It’s worth noting that Becker also considered a quarterback at this spot.
Which of these picks would be your favorite? Which other college stars are catching your eye? Is coffee a soup?