Every year I wait until after Free Agency has started to make a mock draft. We’re over three days in and recent signings and the trade of Brandin Cooks has begun to provide a clearer picture of the team’s needs moving towards the draft.
This mock contains no draft day trades, and I’ll be sticking with the seven draft picks the Saints currently have.
Round 1: Pick 11, Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Yesterday, it was announced that yesterday that Washington’s Sidney Jones suffered an injury during his pro day. While there is debate amongst analyst as to whether Jones or Lattimore is the number one corner in this year’s draft, his injury could prevent this pick from happening as Lattimore might get selected in the top 10 by a corner needy team such as the New York Jets or Carolina Panthers.
If he does make it to out of the top ten, then the Saints will be placed in a position to pick a new starter at corner. While this is considered a deep draft for corners, most are figured to begin in the slot or are seen as talents with a higher ceiling but not ready to line up on the outside.
Even though he only has one year experience as a starter Lattimore has all the tools you look for in an outside corner. Playing off man might need some work, but he has great vision for dropping back into zone and plays well in press. The hamstring injuries that held him back during his freshman year could be seen as a concern. His combine performance (4.36 40, 38.5’ vert, 132’ jump) might help with those worries.
If you’re New Orleans, you need both an edge guy and a starting corner. There’s always debate over which one of these is more important, but in the end they require each other. It’s easier for the Saints to find a starting DE at the end of the 1st or beginning of the 2nd than it is to find a starting corner on the outside.
Round 1: Pick 32, Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Both Harris and Barnett did not have the greatest combine performances, though for different reasons. Harris seems the more likely of the 1st round pass rushers to make it to the 32nd pick, and if he does he’ll give the Saint an upgrade and potential day one starter much like Lattimore will.
There are some issues with Harris’ game. Saints fans will remember (not so fondly) Junior Galette’s run defense. Harris has similar issues with getting caught up field and being boxed out and doesn’t have the same footwork or athleticism that a Derek Barnett or Solomon Thomas have (as evidenced by his .5 second slower 3 cone time at the NFL Combine).
His floor may not be as high as a Taco, Barnett or Thomas, but his ceiling is up there with them. Charles has a great spin move and very nice speed to power off the snap that should translate well to the end position over NFL left tackles. First step quickness is better than Barnett’s, and while the run defense must improve nabbing him at 32 would be a huge pick up.
Round 2: Pick 42, Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech
With Cooks being traded to the New England Patriots on Friday, there is now a void at the flanker position in Sean Payton’s offense. Ted Ginn, Jr. who was signed on the first day of free agency isn’t likely to be the first choice to fill those shoes. While his ability in the return game makes him one of the best in the league there is still much to be desired in his route running and hands.
In steps Henderson, one of the better receivers in this year’s draft and one of the more lesser known. Drew Brees is the most accurate NFL QB to ever play professional football. Yet, it can’t be understated how important quality, soft hands are at the receiver position. As this graphic shows, Henderson catches everything (almost) thrown his way.
Carlos was also not graced with the most accurate or the greatest touch passer in the NCAA. Ryan Higgins benefited from having one of the best receiver pairs in the country in Henderson and Trent Taylor. Big play potential is also an Cooks’ attribute Henderson shares as he finished his collegiate career with a 19.6 yards per reception average.
His smaller size (5’11, 199 lbs) means he’ll slide from the Split-End receiver position he spent 91.1% of his snaps his senior year in college at down to the flanker role Cooks has now vacated.
Finally, it’s his in space ability that really helps set him apart. After the catch, he was only brought down on first contact 21.4% of the time. He forced multiple broken tackles 39.3% of the time. Sold yet?
Round 3: Pick 76, Nate Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh
When I watched Peterman’s practice routine at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama this year my initial thoughts were this: He has Brees-like tendencies. Comparing rookie quarterbacks (or any position) to future Hall of Famers is a dangerous game, but note that I’m not saying he’s the next Drew.
Throughout all of the drills at the Senior Bowl Peterman could be seen progressing from receiver to receiver on every snap. He practiced his throws, even if he had already made his. He moves very well in the pocket and while lacking an elite arm (sound familiar?) puts good touch on his passes and shows good accuracy.
Only a two year starter in college after transferring from Tennessee to Pittsburgh, there is a lot of room for improvement in the young Peterman. Still, a lot of the intangibles are there. If what I’m hearing from around the league is true the Saints are planning on taking a QB at some point in this draft. Round 3 and Nate Peterman seems like a good pairing.
Round 3: Pick 103, Raekwon McMillan, SOLB, Ohio State
While it’s not a definite, the Saints signing A.J. Klein may signal they have their starter at the middle linebacker position going into 2017. If this is true, the last spot left to fill in the middle of the defensive field is the strong side position. (This is assuming Ellerbe/Robertson play the weak side position and Ellerbe is unable to play a full season).
McMillon is seen as a year one back up by many scouts who can develop into a starting strongside backer in a 4-3. For New Orleans, they don’t really have the time to wait and even as raw as he is he may still be looked at as an instant upgrade.
He plays quick and can out maneuver pulling guards and blocking fullbacks on the outside in running lanes. Possesses some vision to read the QB’s eyes and jump passing lanes in intermediate zone assignments (only 1 INT, but 10 PDs in collegiate career), but isn’t that strong in his zone coverage assignments.
Length, weight and speed are all there for him to solidify the outside in Allen’s defense. It wil be up to Mike Nolan to refine him to the level of starter.
Round 6: Pick 196, Elijah McGuire, RB, University of Louisiana-Lafeyette
Two players from Louisiana schools and neither attend LSU? McGuire is not the down hill monster Fournette is, but he does everything well. Unfortunately he had a foot injury that while he played through it there was a noticeable effect on his college tape. For his career he is a 6.1 YPC runner.
McGuire did everything ULL asked of him. He ran (4,301 yds, 6.1 YPC), he caught out of the backfield (1,394 yds, 10.7 YPR) and returned punts (227 yards, 8.1 YPR) and totaling 52 touchdowns. He’s one of the newer breed of RBs who can line up in the slot as effectively as he can take a hand off from the single back.
He does lack some tools you see from the more elite RB prospects in this draft. There isn’t great vision or a lot of forced missed tackle moves in his game film. Plants his foot well in cut back lanes and could benefit from the zone blocking New Orleans currently deploys. Will also need to improve his pass protection.
Career high games came against teams in his conference (Sun Belt) and didn’t face a lot of the better collegiate defenses. There was success in his lone appearance against the SEC as a senior with 129 yards on 19 carries against Georgia.
Round 7: Pick 229, Harvey Langi, LB, Brigham Young University
The BYU product has an interesting story. A Utah RB transfer, Langi came to BYU and transitioned to the defensive side of the football becoming a 251lb MLB and DE for the Cougars. One of the benefits of being a former RB is that this LB moves very well for his size.
Of course, like any transitioning player there are drawbacks. With only two years at the position, there is still a long way to go before Langi can be seen as an every down starter in the middle of the field. I recommend popping in his tape against UCLA to get an idea of what he can become in the NFL.
In the 7th round you’re not finding starters, so it’s a safe pick for New Orleans that gives them an intriguing prospect to hand over to the new defensive coaching staff to see what they can do.
Well, there ya have it. Let me know what you think in the comments below, and if you have any questions about the players selected or the logic behind them please message me on Twitter or Facebook. God bless.