It is fairly clear that the New Orleans Saints have an Edge Rusher as their primary need this offseason. While multiple star-caliber rushers have been taken off the board with franchise tags (like Melvin Ingram and Jason Pierre-Paul), the Saints could look to fill this need in the 2017 NFL Draft. Fortunately, that might end up being a good thing.
Mike Maynock of NFL Network recently hosted a Scouting Conference Call where he fielded questions on the NFL Draft, specific prospects, and needs of NFL teams. When asked about this particular class being deep at any individual position, he had this to say:
I think it's one of the best defensive drafts I've seen, and [to answer the question] I think the defensive edge rusher, whether it's 4-3 or 3-4...Tim Williams from Alabama is more of a 3-4 outside linebacker. He's got some off-the-field issues, but those could cause him to slide. I think Derek Barnett is one of the hardest working, toughest edge rushers in this draft or any draft. I think he's going to go somewhere. Let's say 10 to 22, somewhere in that range. Solomon Thomas from Stanford. Kid can play outside on run down, inside on pass downs. There have been some comparisons to Aaron Donald. I'm not sure I see that, but I love his versatility. And then you start talking about a Taco Charlton from Michigan, who is really gifted. A long-edge guy. Charles Harris. [You could also draft Alabama LB Reuben Foster and then] you can get a corner in the second or third round. You can get an edge guy in the second or third round. This defensive draft at edge and corner is outstanding, also at safety.
Because of the depth at edge rusher specifically, Mayock was asked about the possibility of finding a starter outside of the first round. He noted the definite possibility:
Yeah, I think one of the messages in this year's draft at edge, corner and safety is there is great quality at the top, but there is depth throughout. So just for instance, say [a team is] looking in the second or third round for an edge guy. I would tell you that DeMarcus Walker from Florida State is intriguing, and he's going to go in the second or third round. Tarell Basham from Ohio University, he's a really good football player, and he can play for somebody this year as a rookie. He probably -- he might not go to the third, but I've got a second-round grade on him. Jordan Willis from Kansas State. There is this freaky kid from Villanova named Tanoh Kpassagnon. He's 6'7", 280, and just kind of starting to figure out how good he might be some day. He's going to be an intriguing guy to watch at the combine. I mean, he could go as high as the second round, as low as the fourth round, but he's got freaky gifts. So there is talent throughout for the edge-rush group.
So if it had to happen any year where the top potential free agents would be taken off the board when the Saints had a need there, 2017 might just be the perfect year for it to happen. It could be a blessing in disguise for the Saints to be “forced” to address Edge Rusher in this year’s Draft.