The NFL Draft is rapidly approaching, as we’re nearly one month away from the three-day festivities. The New Orleans Saints are looking to be legitimate contenders in 2017, in what many view as their most important season. Having seven draft picks at their disposal, with many of them being inside the Top 100, should obviously help. The views vary on what the most important positions need to be addressed in the draft, but here’s my take in my initial mock draft.
Round 1 (11th Overall) - LB Haason Reddick, Temple
Reddick has been rocketing up the draft boards as one of the most athletic edge players in the draft. Reddick actually walked on to Temple as a defensive back, but played defensive end for most of his career with the Owls, where he had 9.5 sacks and 31 pressures as a senior. His size (6-foot-1, 237-lbs) and athletic ability project him as an outside or weak side linebacker in the pros.
Although lacking experience in pass coverage, Reddick has loose hips with the fluidity and instincts in open field to cover sideline to sideline as well as down the field. He could stand to add more bulk and strength without sacrificing speed, Reddick can get overwhelmed by larger blockers one on one. But remember that players like Von Miller and Ryan Shazier typically play at under 240 pounds, as well as the Saints own Craig Robertson and Dannell Ellerbe. Reddick has an explosive first step, tremendous athetic ability, nice bend on the edge, and relentless pursuit.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) comparison: Jamie Collins (Browns)
Round 1 (32nd Overall) - QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
Written as a possibility in a March 16th Canal Street Chronicles article (What Cooks Trade Could Mean For Saints: Meeting the Quarterback of the Future), Mahomes recently had a private workout with Saints coach Sean Payton. Mahomes has excellent arm strength and accuracy, and is a good athlete with strong competitive desire. Does come from an undisciplined system with the Red Raiders, and needs some work on his mechanics and development. Despite his gambler’s mentality, Mahomes still shows good field vision and poise. Certainly has the tools to be a success at the next level, and will be given time to learn and develop behind Drew Brees.
Round 2 (42nd Overall) - CB Quincy Wilson (Florida)
(NOTE: This is the pick that I have had the Saints giving up in exchange for Malcolm Butler)
Marshon Lattimore from Ohio State is the consensus top cornerback available. After him there is a wide variation of opinion between six top corners for draft position. The pick here is Wilson. A big (6-foot-1, 212-lbs), physical player with very good athletic ability; Wilson would be a great matchup with the big receivers of the NFC South. Despite usually matching up with the opposition's best wide out, teams targeted Wilson far less than they did the Gators other star corner, Teez Tabor. Wilson does excel in press coverage, but has trouble on inside releases and sometimes struggles with footwork down the field. Nonetheless, he is an aggressive playmaker that would be a game changer in the New Orleans secondary.
PFF comparison= Marcus Peters (Chiefs)
Round 3 (76th Overall) - DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova
Kpassagnon and Derek Rivers of Youngstown State are two small-school defensive ends that are each likely to be drafted within rounds 2 or 3. Kpassagnon turned heads at the Senior Bowl after a terrific career for the Wildcats. Great length, but could stand to add some strength and bulk to his tall frame (6-foot-7, 289-lbs). He has raw pass rush abilities, but is a good athlete along the edge with the football IQ to develop rapidly. Some have compared him to Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants.
Round 3 (103rd Overall) - S Marcus Williams (Utah)
Williams would bring a good ball-hawking presence to a Saints secondary that it's been lacking for years. Typically deployed in a single or double high safety formation for the Utes, Williams had 10 interceptions in his final two years of college. Studies opposing offenses well, and rarely takes a bad angle in coverage. Lean build at 6-foot-1, 200-lbs, Williams is a fundamentally sound tackler, but sometimes overwhelmed within the tackle box. His aggressive approach can cause him to be a step slow in reaction to play action fakes, but athletic enough to recover nicely.
PFF comparison= Duron Harmon (Patriots)
Round 6 (196th Overall) - WR Stacy Coley, Miami
Coley has game-breaking ability, but concerns about work ethic drops him far into the draft. He brings 4.45 speed and good body control to the game, but often runs undisciplined short and intermediate routes. Could be a late round steal to a team with hard workers like Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and Willie Snead as mentors.
Round 7 (229th Overall) - RB Elijah McGuire, Louisiana-Lafayette
A 5-foot-10, 214-pound running back with 4.5 speed and very good athletic ability, McGuire had three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the Ragin’ Cajuns. A foot injury hampered his senior year, and he isn't the most instinctive runner. Tremendous developmental prospect that Sean Payton loves to take in the later rounds.