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Roundtable: which positions must Saints draft after free agency?

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Saints head coach Sean Payton recently spoke about the team’s offseason strategy, giving us plenty of material to conjecture.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - A detail of New Orleans Saints players wearing custom cleats for various  causes  during the third quarter of a game against the Detroit Lions at  the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
NEW ORLEANS, LA - A detail of New Orleans Saints players wearing custom cleats for various causes during the third quarter of a game against the Detroit Lions at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton spoke with the media during this morning’s NFL head coaches breakfast at spring owners’ meetings in Orlando, Florida, and he had some revealing topics to cover: touching on everything from team ownership passing to Gayle Benson to the team’s overall offseason strategy and its opportunistic pursuit of Ndamukong Suh, as well as a casual bombshell on his vision of quarterbacks in New Orleans after Drew Brees.

The Canal Street Chronicles groupchat naturally got into discourse on all of this news, and I’ve transcribed some of it for you here:

John Sigler: Based off Payton’s morning interview, the Saints’ highest remaining “musts” include edge rusher, tight end, and wide receiver. Assuming the Saints don’t add any significant free agents at those spots between now and draft day, which position should they target first, and which specific prospects do you like as the best fit? Obviously they should let the board develop in front of them and take the best available player (likely at one of those positions). But if you’re in the war room, which names are you highlighting should they be available at 27?

Deuce Windham: I’d say the greatest need is slot receiver or tight end, but, I think you can address that in rounds two or three just as effectively as round one. So I’d personally put edge defender at the top from a draft standpoint.

Ellias J. Williams: I’d agree. You still pass 55-percent of the time and this team is still built “around” Drew Brees. He needs more immediate weapons while the defense has guys that should be making second- or third-year leaps. The cupboard is close to bare as far as receiving threats.

Deuce: I agree, but, this edge class is extremely thin. First round is the only palce to find likely immediate contributors. Whereas you can find flex tight ends and slot receivers well into the third round - DaeShean Hamilton, Dante Pettis, Hayden Hurst, Mike Gesicki, whoever.

Ellias: Like Sean mentioned the miracle play doesn’t happen if they convert third-and-one. It would have to be Harold Landry or Sam Hubbard for me. If Landry falls to us I’m gloating.

Deuce: Saaame.

Sigler: I’d imagine the hope is Hubbard/Landry/Josh Sweat? at 27, if none of those available then start the run on wide receivers (D.J. Moore, Christian Kirk, Equanimeous St. Brown, etc) or get the new lead tight end (Dallas Goedert or Hurst).

Ellias: Agree with all. Kirk especially since you get that return ability boost too.

Deuce: I’m not on the Sweat in the first round bandwagon. But Landry or Hubbard, yessir.

Sigler: Sweat’s lack of production concerns me.

Ellias: Me neither though I didn’t think last year the kid the Falcons drafted would go late first either. But Sweat’s medicals will kill that.

Deuce: Sweat’s knees are like Alex Anzalone’s shoulder.

Ellias: Smh, you telling me they might explode on a routine sack?

Deuce: Knee injuries that are one-offs I’m not too worried about. But, he’s had meniscus surgery (2016) and the same knee was a problem in high school. He’s consistently dealt with it. The mensicus is like the shock absorber in the knee. That doesn’t get better even with surgery, it’s never 100-percent again.

Ellias: Tell me about it, mine still bothers me lol.

Sigler: So what’s a possible curve ball you’d like to see at 27? Which player at a position outside those top 3 “musts” (EDGE, WR, TE) are y’all praying falls? How confident are we that Jermon Bushrod can adequately replace Senio Kelemete’s 70-percent of snaps played?

Chris Conner: I feel like quarterback is the answer here.

Ellias: What Chris said.

Deuce: Faymield.

Ellias: Caker Faymield.

Deuce: Nah, Kaber Faymield.

Sigler: Do we think Payton’s praise of Lamar Jackson is any kind of a clue?

Ellias: He’s pretty candid this time of year. Sean dropped a nugget and said next quarterback will not be a Brees clone. He also could just be talking smack to get a team to nab Jackson before them so that a player they covet gets pushed down. But they probably like a lot of guys, when the final grades are given and board is built they stick to it - best example recently is not picking Alvin Kamara over Marcus Williams. Would anyone be surprised if they traded into the second round using a future pick, and also up in the third?

Sigler: I fully anticipate them ending up with multiple top 100 selections. No way they make four picks in rounds five and six.

Ellias: Someone asked about Bushrod and could he adequately replace Kelemete, Payton said said that’s something that’s still on the hit list. Bushrod is a piece of the puzzle but not the resolution by himself. What do you say to a fourth or fifth round pick on a lineman?

John Hendrix: Nah. They need someone better to filling for Kelemete. I feel like Bushrod is Strief’s replacement...in the sense that he’s Terron Armstead’s backup. Instead of them playing roulette with Bryce Harris and Khalif Barnes.

Sigler: Isaiah Wynn is my sleeper pick at 27 for that exact reason. He can ably play left tackle and left guard, gives you immediate quality insurance for Armstead and Andrus Peat, who’s coming off a broken leg. It also makes either of them or Larry Warford expendable in the near future.

Ellias: Ooh now that would be the unsexiest pick ever but I’d be okay with it. Because it means they’d definitely trade up for a skill position player lol.

Sigler: Yup. And 2019 rolls around, suddenly you can trade Armstead knowing you save $7.4-million against the cap with Wynn ready to step in at left tackle, or you can move Peat and have Wynn ready for action at guard. Note: I don’t want Armstead gone, I want him healthy and not missing a snap for the rest of his career lol. Peat earning a second contract and locking down left guard for the next ten years would also be cool and good.

What do you think of all this? How do you think the Saints’ moves so far in free agency are shaping their strategy for the upcoming NFL Draft? Could this be the year they invest in a future quarterback - whether it’s Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, or a lesser talent - or do the Saints’ immediate “musts” outweigh any long-term considerations?