Look, how many of us really enjoy mock drafts? They’re a necessary evil because they’re never accurate, but they do a good job of getting fans informed of all the different prospects available throughout the draft.
Anyway, today I’ve come to my senses. The people don’t want to know about the pass rushers who will be good value picks in the second round, or the playmakers on offense who can fill the void made by the Brandin Cooks trade. You want substance, not style. Most importantly, you don’t want anything but the players from Louisiana’s own LSU Fighting Tigers program, the best of the many SEC tigers.
So here’s my pitch to the New Orleans Saints: put whatever prejudices and discriminatory biases you have against LSU’s draft prospects aside, and go all in. Now not everybody can join this party - Jamal Adams, Kendell Beckwith, and Brandon Harris are good, maybe even great players, but the Saints don’t have enough picks to have things both ways.
Let’s get weird.
First Round, 4th Pick (4th Overall): RB Leonard Fournette
Folks, we have a trade! Mark Ingram finally broke the 1,000-yards rushing mark and has been maybe our most consistent non-Brees offensive player the last few years, so we’re seizing the initiative and shipping that sorry Heisman Trophy-winner out of town and moving up for a hometown hero! Packaging him with the 11th overall pick should be more than enough to get the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 4th overall pick. If Ingram had finished better than second in the NFC South in rushing yards (1,043 on 205 attempts) to Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (1,079 yards on 227 attempts), maybe he’d be worth keeping. Oh well! Ingram can go kick rocks in Duval County with former Saints running back Chris Ivory and his Alabama Crimson Tide teammate T.J. Yeldon.
Leonard Fournette is the best college running back since, well, ever, obviously, and he looked awesome at the NFL Scouting Combine despite showing up with about 13 pounds more water-weight than what he played with in 2016. Can’t wait to see what he does to the sorry linebackers in the NFC South like Luke Kuechly (four Pro Bowl appearances), Thomas Davis (two Pro Bowls), Lavonte David (one Pro Bowl), Kwon Alexander, and Deion Jones! Also, Fournette has fumbled five times on 513 career touches (a rate of one fumble every 102.6 carries/catches), but it took Ingram 1,102 combined carries and catches to fumble eight times (a rate of one fumble every 137.7 touches). Sad!
Previous picks, when this was the 11th Overall selection:
- DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
- CB Quincy Wilson, Florida
- DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
- DE Charles Harris, Missouri
- CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
- FS Malik Hooker, Ohio State
First Round, 32nd Pick (32nd Overall): CB Tre’Davious White
This pick just makes so much sense! The Saints need cornerbacks like they’re going out of style, and Tre White fits them perfectly. Even if the Saints trade for Malcolm Butler, he’s just a system corner and won’t be as good once he leaves the New England Patriots. Look at all the defenders who left Bill Belichick’s system and flamed out: Vince Wilfork, Chandler Jones, Richard Seymour, and on and on. The Saints shouldn’t waste a pick on an All-Pro talent like Butler when they can invest in an unproven rookie (White or otherwise) who might be good three years from now. Especially when the Saints’ coaching staff has a great record of player development! Even though they aren’t with the team, Corey White and Patrick Robinson are still in the league.
Tre’Davious White has average size and speed for a cornerback (5-feet-11-inches, 192-pounds, 4.47-seconds in the 40-yard dash), but his long arms and good instincts help him anticipate ball trajectory and stay in position. He doesn’t get flustered much, which is good considering how often teams throw at the Saints’ defense. White is something of a ballhawk with 40 combined interceptions (6) and pass deflections (34) in 48 games. He also fields punts and has scored a touchdown on special teams in each of the last three years. In all seriousness, he’d be a very solid pick at this stage of the draft.
- RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Second Round, 10th Pick (42nd Overall): LB Duke Riley
The Saints’ linebackers are not great! Dannell Ellerbe is always hurt, Craig Robertson is just a guy, and they seem to think Manti Te’o and A.J. Klein are the answer. Maybe the latest Canadian imports can make a difference. None of those guys are consistently fast, though, and finding someone who is fast could alleviate a lot of problems on the defense. The Saints spent a first round pick on Stephone Anthony, who is fast, but he hasn’t developed, so the obvious call is to grab a player with the same strengths and weaknesses as him.
Duke Riley is kind of a lightweight at linebacker (6-feet-0-inches, 232-pounds) but he’s fast and hits hard. Riley had above-average marks in all of his athletics testing at the Scouting Combine like the broad jump, three-cone, 20-yard shuttle, and 40-yard dash. He is easily misdirected by play-action and the player sent in motion pre-snap, but he recovers well and gets downhill with a head full of steam. He’s good at tackling in space and can run with most receiving tight ends, but I don’t think you want him dropping into much zone coverage.
- RB Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
- CB Desmond King, Iowa
- OL Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
- RB Alvin Kamara, Tennessee
- OLB Tyus Bowser, Houston
- DE Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic
Third Round, 12th Pick (76th Overall): OL Ethan Pocic
Anyone who knows what they’re looking for and is paid to watch offensive linemen knows that Zach Strief is a good right tackle, maybe one of the better starters around the league. But Saints fans tell me all the time that he stinks and should be replaced as soon as possible, and I respect their opinions. The Saints drafted Andrus Peat a couple years ago hoping he could replace Strief, but that hasn’t happened (Peat will instead have to play 16 games a year at an increasingly-high level at left guard, what a wasted pick). They’ve also been meeting with a number of right tackle prospects on the college pro day circuit, so they may be preparing to draft one.
Ethan Pocic played center and guard in college, but I think his best position as a pro is at right tackle. He’s an okay athlete for the position but his ability to get upfield in a hurry and knack for keeping his chest clean should translate really well. Pocic’s combination of height (6-feet-6-inches) and long arms (33 1/8th-inches) makes it easier for him to handle flexible edge rushers than shorter interior linemen who will always win the leverage battle. I’d like to see Pocic lower his center of gravity more efficiently to compensate for his height (it can be a weakness at times), but getting a solid starting-quality lineman at this point in the draft is a win.
- OL Taylor Moton, Western Michigan
- LB Anthony Walker Jr, Northwestern
- CB Cameron Sutton, Tennessee
- OL Pat Elflein, Ohio State
- OL Dion Dawkins, Temple
- WR Chris Godwin, Penn State
Third Round, 39th Pick (103rd Overall): WR Malachi Dupre
The Saints traded away Brandin Cooks, added Ted Ginn Jr (one of the NFL’s better deep threats lately) from the rival Carolina Panthers, and re-signed role player Brandon Coleman, so they definitely need to spend one of their top draft picks on another wide receiver to replace Cooks. Between Ginn, Coleman, starters Michael Thomas and Willie Snead, and all the other pass-catchers like tight end Coby Fleener and running back Travaris Cadet, I’m just not sure who’s going to be catching passes from quarterback Drew Brees in 2017.
Malachi Dupre led LSU’s offense in catches (41), receiving yards (593), and tied the lead in touchdowns (3) with tight end D.J. Chark. He’s got okay size at 6-feet-2-inches, 196-pounds, but Dupre’s burst off the line, ability to get vertical, and strong hands stand out. He averaged 16.4 yards-per-catch in an anemic offense and caught 43-percent of his total yards the last two years on targets more than 20-yards downfield, per Pro Football Focus. Dupre is an instant replacement for Cooks and can work on refining his overall game with tutelage from the great Saints wide receiver coach Curtis Johnson.
Previous picks when this was the 118th Overall selection:
- DT Jaleel Johnson, Iowa
- DE Ejuan Price, Pittsburgh
- QB Brad Kaaya, Miami
- CB Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
- DT Tanzel Smart, Tulane
- DE Derek Rivers, Youngstown State
Sixth Round, 12th Pick (196th Overall): DT Davon Gaudchaux
The Saints need help at every level of the defense, so that means getting another defensive tackle. Sure, they got playmaking Nick Fairley back on a good contract, drafted Sheldon Rankins in the first round last year, and have solid nose guard Tyeler Davison in the third year of his rookie contract, plus two athletic backup options in David Onyemata and Justin Zimmer. But none of those guys have what counts, which is the grit and studious nature that only comes with having played in Death Valley.
Davon Godchaux (also spelled Gaudchaux) does have the integrity only LSU athletes possess. He’s about average-sized for the position at 6-foot-3, 310-pounds, but he’s been a productive pass rusher inside (6.5 sacks, 17 knockdowns in 2016 per PFF) and could give a boost in the defensive tackle rotation. Godchaux needs to do a better job of setting his feet to anchor against advancing blockers and hold up to double teams, but the ability to shed those blocks and disrupt plays behind the line is there.
- TE Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas
- RB Justin Davis, USC
- OL Danny Isidora, Miami
- LB Ukeme Eligwe, Georgia Southern
- QB Alek Torgersen, Penn
- LB Jayon Brown, UCLA
Seventh Round, 11th Pick (229th Overall): OLB Tashawn Bower
Everybody knows the Saints need help at pass rusher. They’ve got one of the NFL’s top defensive ends in Cameron Jordan, who regularly sees some of the highest snap counts at the position throughout the NFL while grading out really well against the run and as a pass rusher. But he doesn’t finish enough for my taste so we need more faces there in case he suddenly stops playing at a Pro Bowl-level.
Tashawn Bower is a little light to be a full-time edge defender at just 250-pounds, but he’s 6-foot-5 and has 33 and 3/8-inch arms. Bower is fairly average athletically but didn’t get his chance to shine at LSU with all the other great defensive linemen the school has put out like Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Ego Ferguson, Danielle Hunter, and Jermauria Rasco. If Bower can bulk up and add some weight, he could be a guy who could pressure quarterbacks in New Orleans. Sure, he had just 5.5 sacks in college, but Bower looks the part and has the school pedigree.
- LB Matt Milano, Boston College
- DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, Miami
- TE Blake Jarwin, Oklahoma State
- QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
- TE George Kittle, Iowa
- DB Sojourn Shelton, Wisconsin