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Scouting the Scouts: Saints doing legwork for 2018 NFL Draft

Which college teams are the New Orleans Saints scouts paying closest attention?

LOS ANGELES, CA:  USC Trojans mascot/designated warhorse Traveler is ridden past the student section to celebrate a touchdown scored against the Colorado Buffaloes at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
LOS ANGELES, CA: USC Trojans mascot/designated warhorse Traveler is ridden past the student section to celebrate a touchdown scored against the Colorado Buffaloes at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

NFL scouts work year-round, and November usually signals the beginning of a shift in their methodology. They’re always traveling the country and visiting college campuses to collect data however they can: observe practice, interview coaches and faculty, and of course live-scout games. But with every school’s schedule hitting the home stretch, scouts are really working towards identifying which underclassmen will declare for the draft.

So while it’s fun to track with programs and prospects scouts are credentialed to watch live, it’s much more important to remember that it’s just a minor data point in the bigger picture. The New Orleans Saints scouts visited five schools multiple times last year - the USC Trojans (three times), Ole Miss Rebels (three), Virginia Tech Hokies (three), Alabama Crimson Tide (two), and Washington Huskies (two) - but didn’t select any players from any of those programs with their picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Eventually, everybody (from the NFL) watches everybody (from college teams).

That said, I’ve put together a list of games and schools the New Orleans Saints scouting staff has been confirmed to have visited during the 2017-2018 college football season. I’m able to get this information thanks to weekly reporting from national writers like Chase Goodbread of and Kristian Dyer of, as well as local beat reporters around the country. A quick disclaimer: this information is incomplete because only a handful of game credentials are reported on every week. The Saints are very likely taking in more games than these listed.

The 2017 games the Saints have sent live scouts to include:

The first observation we can make is that the Saints have sent scouts to three teams multiple times: firstly, the Florida State Seminoles, who they saw score a combined 10 points in losses to Alabama and the Boston College Eagles. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of draft prospects coming out of Jimbo Fisher’s program.

The other two teams to see multiple visits are the Duke Blue Devils and Virginia Cavaliers. Neither of those schools boast notable draft prospects or college football playoff hopes, but I’d like to highlight the Cavaliers’ breakout linebacker Micah Kiser. Tony Pauline of reported back in mid-September that Kiser was receiving third-round draft grades from some scouting services, particularly praising Kiser’s lateral movement skills and leadership traits. He’s someone the Saint could use.

If we look back to last year’s scouting assignments (I logged them here), the Saints have visited five teams three or more times in the last calendar year, and nine more teams at least twice. They are:

  • Four visits: USC Trojans
  • Three visits: Florida State, Alabama, Ole Miss, Virginia Tech
  • Two visits: Washington, Virginia, UCLA, Texas A&M, Pitt, Oregon, Notre Dame, Miami, and Duke

So the Trojans stand out as a team that’s caught the Saints’ attention. It’s very likely that they’re eyeing USC’s talented quarterback prospect, Sam Darnold, but don’t sleep on defenders like edge rusher Porter Gustin (23 tackles for loss, 14 sacks in his last 28 games) or senior linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (team-leading 9 pass breakups in 9 games).

Regardless, this is all just for fun and probably meaningless in the bigger picture. As I said earlier, I’m working with an incomplete data set. I couldn’t even dig up reports of the Saints scouting staff getting credentialed for this weekend’s slate of games, though I’d bet they’re one of the twenty-five teams scheduled to take in Baker Mayfield’s Oklahoma Sooners contesting Mason Rudolph’s Oklahoma State Cowboys.