New Orleans received New England's first round draft choice, number 32 overall, (along with their 3rd round pick), many believed that highly regarded cornerback Malcolm Butler would be included in the Patriots deal for Cooks. Due to the fact that Butler is not currently under contract with the team (he is a restricted free agent), that deal did not happen. As most of you are aware, Butler is visiting with New Orleans today.
Malcolm Butler is in New Orleans, FWIW— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) March 15, 2017
There are still many scenarios in which the 27-yr old Butler will be in a Saints uniform before this April's NFL draft. These would almost certainly involve New Orleans surrendering one or more draft picks, either early in the 2017 NFL Draft or the 2018 draft. As of right now, however, the Saints have two picks in the 1st round, one selection in the 2nd, and two more in the 3rd round.
Many assume that New Orleans will use all of these picks to bolster a defense that has ranked near the bottom of the league in four of the last five years. While that is likely true for most of the picks, hence the Saints interest in Butler, there are a couple other factors to consider here. First, Sean Payton has always liked his offensive toys. Although the Saints cupboard is far from bare offensively, we can expect the team to add to it's offensive arsenal with one of these draft picks. Next, they have a 38-yr old quarterback, with no plan of succession in sight. No plan, that is, until now.
The consensus top three quarterbacks coming into this draft have been Mitch Trubisky from North Carolina, DeShaun Watson from Clemson, and DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame. Since this is a "quarterback-driven" league, all three will probably be chosen within the first 20-25 selections. It is entirely possible that New Orleans may take one of these three players with their number 11 pick. This seems unlikely, since the Saints do have so many needs on the defensive side of the ball. Two other names are vaulting up the draft boards, and have even put themselves in the conversation of 1st or 2nd round possibilities. Patrick Mahomes from Texas Tech and Nate Peterman from Pitt.
Mahomes is already viewed by many as a possible first rounder. Some mock drafts even have had him going as high as top 20 pick. The son of a former MLB pitcher of the same name, Mahomes has been a starter since midway into his freshman year with the Red Raiders until declaring for the draft at the completion of his junior season. He possesses nice size (6'2, 225-lbs) combined with good athletic ability. Mahomes has perhaps the strongest arm in the draft. He is known as a gambler, with a flair for making the big play out of nothing. Such a style can drive both coaches and a fanbase crazy at times, but Mahomes seems to have the competitiveness and ability to pull it off. He’s not perfect, though, needing some work on his footwork, accuracy, and release. What better scenario then learning behind one of the most fundamentally sound quarterbacks to ever play the game for a few seasons?
Nate Peterman's draft stock is rising faster than perhaps any quarterback available in 2017. Some scouts have compared him to Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders in terms of both style and ability. With not nearly the arm strength or athleticism of Mahomes, Peterman's best attributes lie in his accuracy, field vision, and ability to work through his progressions. After beginning his career at Tennessee, Peterman transferred to Pittsburgh for his final two seasons after losing the starting job to another 2017 draft prospect, Joshua Dobbs. He needs to fine tune his delivery for better accuracy, but does have the arm strength to use the entire field.
The third round pick used on Garrett Grayson in 2015 looks to be a "swing and a miss" in the effort to prepare the Saints for life after Brees. Replacing a future Hall of Famer is never easy, particularly at quarterback. With any luck, New Orleans will get at least a couple more years of Brees at a high level of play. Fortifying the quarterback position should be considered among the team's biggest needs in the mean time.
The Saints have done a nice job of addressing some of their biggest weaknesses thus far this offseason. The potential acquisition of cornerback Malcolm Butler would check another team need off of this list, but would probably cost the Saints one of their higher draft picks, most likely either #32 or #42 overall. Still, this is a draft that seems to be extremely deep defensively. There might not be a more perfect opportunity for New Orleans to use a late day one or day two pick on a QB to groom , while still able to focus on bolstering other areas of weakness. Will New Orleans meet their next quarterback this spring?