The New Orleans Saints are just days away from the league mandated cutdown day to get each team's roster to the 53 player maximum for opening day. The Saints, like every team, face some tough decisions. Here is my prediction on how the New Orleans final 53 will end up.
Drew Brees, Chase Daniel
(Notable cuts = Garrett Grayson)
Neither Grayson nor Ryan Nassib has shown enough for the Saints to use a roster spot to keep a third quarterback.
RUNNING BACK (5)
Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Adrian Peterson, Darius Victor, John Kuhn (FB)
(Notable cuts = Travaris Cadet, Daniel Lasco)
Lasco is a good special teams player, which is what earned him a roster spot a season ago, but he just doesn't provide any kind of threat offensively for the Saints. Victor caught the attention of Saints coaches almost immediately with his hard running style in practices, then kept it with a solid preseason performance. Trey Edmunds has shown enough potential in limited touches that he may have warranted a practice squad look for the future. Cadet, a trusted receiver out of the backfield, just doesn't have the playmaking ability to stick in this group.
Ingram may see a drop in his numbers with the addition of Peterson, but has still proven himself to be one of the better every down backs in the league. Kamara could very well end the season as one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the league in this offense.
WIDE RECEIVER (5)
Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman, Tommylee Lewis, Ted Ginn Jr.
(Notable cuts = Corey Fuller)
Fuller was an early favorite to latch onto the No. 5 receiver spot, but was surpassed by Lewis on the depth chart quickly. Lewis has impressed enough that it wouldn't be surprising to see him as a regular part of the offensive gameplan.
Coleman had the best training camp of his career, now will just need to show his progression once the games matter. Thomas has the look of an elite receiver, and Snead should continue to put up nice numbers as he heads towards a contract year.
TIGHT END (3)
Coby Fleener, Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui
This position was decided almost by default when New Orleans placed both Clay Harbor and John Phillips on injured reserve earlier this week. The Saints are going to need a big turnaround from Fleener this season, who drew the ire of Sean Payton a few different times this preseason with lackluster effort. Hill and Hoomanawanui each return from season-ending injuries a year ago, but the Saints should have a solid, if unspectacular, group here.
Zach Strief, Ryan Ramczyk, Bryce Harris
Terron Armstead (injured)
(Notable cuts = Khalif Barnes)
Now that the team will not place Armstead on injured reserve with a designation to return is a good indication that he will be ready to play even sooner than anticipated. The rookie Ramczyk will open the year as the starter at left tackle. The 1st round draft pick looks to have all the necessary tools, but did not have much game action during the regular season. Both Harris and Barnes underwhelmed all camp, but the Saints will only need to keep one of them, because of Peat's ability to play tackle if necessary. Expect the Saints to look hard at some veteran tackles after other teams have made their mandated cuts.
Larry Warford, Andrus Peat, Senio Kelemete, Landon Turner, John Fullington
Warford and Peat may wind up as one of the better guard tandems in the league. Kelemete's versatility along the line is key for depth. Fullington has played well at times, and looks to provide extra versatility and more depth for a thin line.
The return to form of the Pro Bowler Unger is vital to a talented, but thin, offensive line. Kelemete's ability to play center gives the Saints some flexibility, although they may choose to keep either Cameron Tom or Josh LeRibeus here.
DEFENSIVE END (6)
Cam Jordan, Alex Okafor, Hau'oli Kikaha, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Trey Hendrickson, Darryl Tapp
(Notable cuts = Mitchell Loewen, Obum Gwacham)
Gwacham showed good pass rush potential on the edge, but the guess here is that Tapp gets the nod. The Saints finally look like they have some potential help opposite Jordan with the combination of Okafor, Kikaha, and rookies Muhammad and Hendrickson. Loewen has played hard all along the line this preseason, and could grab a roster spot, but seems more likely for a practice squad assignment.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4)
Sheldon Rankins, David Onyemata, Tyeler Davison, Tony McDaniel
Rankins, Onyemata, and Davison have shown the signs of a formidable rotation in the middle, despite the loss of Nick Fairley. Keeping McDaniel gives the Saints another big body, and Hendrickson and Tapp both received looks inside on obvious passing downs.
Craig Robertson, A.J. Klein, Alex Anzalone, Manti Te'o, Adam Bighill, Nate Stupar
(Notable cuts = Stephone Anthony, Michael Mauti)
Depending on how bad Nate Stupar's injury situation is, Robertson might wind up being the only holdover from last season's linebackers to make the 2017 roster. If Stupar were to miss significant time, then the Saints could use his spot to keep special teams standout Bryan Braman at linebacker.
Anthony's time as a Saint seems to have come to an end. The team's leading tackler as a rookie has regressed badly, and was surpassed on the depth chart quickly by Te'o. The Saints have built an aggressive, fast and versatile linebacking corp, and under new position coach Mike Nolan could hold the key to a vastly improved defense in 2017.
*Delvin Breaux (PUP)*
Marshon Lattimore, P.J. Williams, Ken Crawley, Sterling Moore, De'Vante Harris
(Notable cuts= Damian Swann, Arthur Maulet)
Swann's poor play and Breaux's leg surgery helped Crawley and Harris get some valuable reps, and both seem ready to contribute heavily in their second years in the league. Lattimore and Williams will form a talented, but inexperienced duo that may have their rough moments early on, but look to have a bright future ahead of them. Moore provides valuable experience to a unit that has just 7 NFL starts among the other four players. Maulet had some very good moments in OTAs and early in camp, and would be a great practice squad candidate for future development, as would Coleman, an athletic project signed midway through camp.
Kenny Vaccaro, Marcus Williams, Vonn Bell, Rafael Bush, Chris Banjo
(Notable cuts = Erik Harris)
Banjo outplayed Harris from the start of camp for this position. He has shined on special teams, and played well when given reps at safety. Williams looks to have taken over the free safety spot, and will hopefully give the Saints a ballhawking presence that they've lacked for some time. The Saints like to play a lot of 3-safety alignments, so Bell will certainly see a big number of snaps to expand on the potential he showed as a rookie last season. Vaccaro emerged as a defensive leader a year ago, and is entering the last year of his contract, a storyline worth watching as the season plays out.
Thomas Morstead (P), Wil Lutz (K), Jon Dorenbos (LS)
(Notable Cut = Justin Drescher, injury settlement)
Morstead is one of the best punters in the league, and is still at the top of his game. Lutz rebounded after a rocky start to make 25 out of his 27 field goal attempts and nail a 57-yarder on his way to the All-Rookie team a year ago. The Saints dealt a 2019 7th round pick to Philadelphia earlier this week to obtain Dorenbos for their long snapping duties.