#MockDraftSzn never stops, so let’s take a look around the latest 2018 NFL Mock Drafts to see who the experts are connecting to the New Orleans Saints (who, by the way, are loosely projected to pick 26th overall in next May’s draft - playoff results will ultimately determine where the Saints will make their selections):
Linebacker Rashaan Evans, Alabama Crimson Tide
The versatile Alabama enforcer is becoming popular in Saints mock drafts, with both SEC Country’s Connor Riley and SB Nation’s Dan Kadar projecting him to join New Orleans this week. Evans was a good situational pass-rusher early in his career but has turned into a complete linebacker after starting for two years, doubling his three-year tackles for loss total (10.5) over the final ten games in his senior season (another 10.5):
Riley: The Saints defense has made huge strides this year. Evans could help them get even better, as he’s shown the ability to play all over the field.
Kadar: Had Evans not been hit with injuries this season, he’d probably be more highly thought of as an NFL prospect. He can come down and shed blocks to stop the run and has good enough athleticism to drop in coverage.
Defensive Lineman Harrison Phillips, Stanford Cardinal
Help up front isn’t commonly seen as a need for the Saints (thanks to the solid play of Sheldon Rankins, David Onyemata, and Tyeler Davison), but that’s where Ryan McCrystal of Bleacher Report has them looking - even passing over bigger names like Texas Longhorns linebacker Malik Jefferson and Boston College Eagles pass rusher Harold Landry. NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Dane Brugler described Phillips well earlier this month:
Harrison Phillips is a one-man wrecking crew. Alert, instinctive, athletic, powerful - it's no coincidence he makes as many plays as he does. The rare NT who leads his team in tackles (69).
Quarterback Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma Sooners
Not all of the recent projections are on the defensive side of the ball - which looks timely given this week’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams was an awesome 74-yard scoring run from Alvin Kamara away from being a blowout. This pick comes from Eddie Brown of the San Diego Union-Tribune, who acknowledges that while the Saints need upgrades at linebacker and receiver, Mayfield’s value is too high to pass up:
The Saints will eventually need a replacement for future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. Mayfield shares many of the same traits that makes Brees so successful and Sean Payton’s system would be the ideal landing spot for the Heisman hopeful. Top needs: LB, CB, WR
Linebacker Jerome Baker, Ohio State Buckeyes
A four-round mock draft dropped last week, courtesy of Luke Easterling over at USA Today’s Draft Wire, and he likes the Saints to target another Ohio State Buckeyes star early:
One of the league’s worst defenses in 2016 is showing marked improvement this year, but they could still use a few key pieces from this draft class. An athletic linebacker who can cover and make plays from sideline to sideline like Baker would be a fantastic fit.
The Saints don’t have a second round pick, but Easterling has them addressing concerns on offense by way of Washington Huskies wideout/punt returner Dante Pettis in the third round, and Auburn Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round.
Tight End Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Finally, a tight end. I’ve defended Coby Fleener’s contract too often on here and around Saints fan communities. The Saints paid him an average salary for a starting-caliber tight end, but Fleener has performed at a below-average rate in New Orleans. Hopefully the Saints can figure out how to upgrade there, maybe through the small-school talent Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller selected:
It was rumored at the trade deadline that the New Orleans Saints were interested in tight end Jimmy Graham. That didn't happen, which means the Saints still have a need at the position. South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert might be flying under the radar now, but he's like a young Travis Kelce with his athleticism and ability to dominate defenses up the seam.