The rumors are almost over, the subterfuge engaged by every team's coach and general manager nearly at an end. Finally, excruciatingly, the NFL's annual player selection meeting, as former commissioner Pete Rozelle used to call it, is here.
Heading into Day 1 of the NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints currently own seven draft picks total, including five within the first 103 picks. At the time of this writing, the Saints were still rumored to be in contention for Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler; in a deal that would likely cost New Orleans either its 32nd pick in the first round, or 42nd overall in the second round. However, reports indicate that the two teams are in a negotiating stalemate, and it seems like the move will not be made.
I did not project any trades, although we should expect them, as Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis have always shown a tendency for movement in the middle rounds. Let's start the picks with a young man who I have had pegged in this spot since early March, as he was beginning his meteoric rise up draft boards.
So, with the 11th pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the New Orleans Saints select....
Round One (11th Overall) - Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Previous Pick: Haason Reddick
Reddick will give the Saints the playmaker at linebacker that they have lacked for years. Critics point to his lack of size (he's 6-foot-1, 237-lbs) and the fact that he isn't suited to play a 3-down defensive end spot in the 4-3 scheme that the Saints often deploy. No, he isn't, but Reddick will provide the explosive plays from an outside linebacker position. Most likely from the weak side, but possessing both the athletic ability and football IQ to be moved to different spots in the lineup to take advantage of his speed.
Reddick's abilities can be utilized much in the way that Denver used Von Miller from their 4-3 scheme from 2011-14. Miller's defensive coordinator in '11? None other than current Saints DC Dennis Allen. Reddick will bring game-changing explosiveness that New Orleans so desperately needs to compliment Cam Jordan.
Round 1 (32nd overall) - Kevin King, CB, Washington
Previous Pick: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Cornerback is probably the most wildly debated position in this year's draft. As many as 12 cornerbacks could be drafted before the end of the draft’s second day. New Orleans almost certainly has to emerge with a cornerback for it's 31st ranked pass defense, whether by trade for Butler or via a high draft pick. In the unlikely event that Alabama's Marlon Humphrey slips here, then I think that's the direction that the Saints will go. Amid recent allegations of sexual assault, it is very possible that Ohio State's Gareon Conley will be available, and New Orleans will need to wrestle with the moral dilemma of risk versus reward.
The safe pick here is King, a versatile defender from an excellent Huskies defense. King has great size for a corner at 6-foot-3, 200-lbs with long reach and acrobatic ball skills to match up with the bigger receivers in the NFC south. He has good agility for a defensive back that size, but does struggle with the smaller, shiftier wideouts. King does have good acceleration to make the plays necessary in off coverage, and has also played safety in college.
Round 2 (42nd overall) - DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State
Previous Pick: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
Walker is a bit of a reach here, but was at times a dominant player along the Seminoles defensive line. He has prototypical size for the defensive end position at 6-foot-4, 280-lbs. Walker combines a lethal swim move with good bull-rushing skills when rushing the passer. Critics acknowledge that Walker has 1st round talent, but point to inconsistent effort as the primary reason he is available on day two of the draft. Nevertheless, Walker has the potential to be a disruptive force for the Saints front seven, and has the core strength to maintain the edge against the run as well.
Round 3 (76th overall) - Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State
Previous Pick: Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova
A decent sized receiver at 6-foot-1, 209-lbs, Godwin has underrated speed (he ran a 4.42 at the combine), and will fight for every pass thrown his way. He does need more polish as a route runner, but makes plays both down the field and from intermediate routes. Plays big in big moments, going for well over 100 yards in each of Penn State's three bowl games over his career. A tough, competitive wideout that is athletic enough to be a handful to cover in every level of the secondary.
Round 3 (103rd overall) - Marcus Williams, S, Utah
Previous Pick: Marcus Williams
Williams is a classic "centerfield" free safety. He would provide a playmaking presence down the field for a New Orleans secondary that was repeatedly torched over the top last year. Williams has great anticipation for the football, and good enough athletic ability to make a quarterback pay for testing him downfield. He provides a good compliment to Kenny Vaccaro and Vonn Bell, allowing them to be more aggressive closer to the line of scrimmage. Williams needs to add some bulk to be a more effective tackler, but his coverage instincts, aggressive play, and penchant for creating turnovers (he had 10 interceptions in his final two years with the Utes) will be a welcome addition to this secondary.
Round 6 (196th overall) - Bryan Cox Jr., DE, Florida
Previous Pick: Stacy Coley, WR, Miami
Son of former Pro Bowl linebacker Bryan Cox, Jr. brings the same aggressive play, toughness, and intensity that his father did to the field. Cox has the size (6-foot-3, 265-lbs) and upper body strength for defensive end, but the quick first step that allowed him to occasionally rush from a linebacker position for the Gators. Injury issues throughout his career have pushed him down draft boards, but many scouts have compared his talents to a Day 2 pick. Cox lacks a variety of pass rush moves, but his non-stop motor, excellent strength to hold the edge, and short area quickness could allow him to be disruptive along the line of scrimmage.
Round 7 (229th overall) - Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson
Previous Pick: Elijah McGuire, RB, UL-Lafayette
For the third consecutive year, the Saints take a productive running back from a major conference program that lacked the measurables to be selected higher. Gallman was actually Clemson's offensive co-MVP with Deshaun Watson in 2015 and named all-ACC each of the last two seasons. More of a long-strider than explosive, Gallman plays the game with an edge. His high effort and gritty running style will remind Saints fans of a past favorite, Khiry Robinson.
Gallman is a willing pass blocker, but needs a lot of work with technique. He tends to sit upright and back on his heels, allowing rushers to get leverage against him. He is a capable pass receiver, bringing the ball in with his hands and immediately turning upfield. A hard north-south runner that's not easy to bring down in the open field, Gallman could be a nice compliment to Mark Ingram and the newly signed Adrian Peterson as well as a solid 3rd down back.
So, as the speculation of who should and shouldn't be drafted ends, and the hyperbole begins on the success and failures of your favorite team, sit back and enjoy!