The New Orleans Saints make for a crafty quarry to track leading up to the draft. There isn’t much rhyme or reason to their decisions of which prospects to host in New Orleans on official top-30 visits. These are in-depth visits where prospects meet every member of the franchise from the position coach to the general manager and salary cap wizard. Teams run prospects through workouts, medical checks, specific athletic testing, and film study in addition to extensive interviews.
Some teams prefer to use those slots as recruiting tools for prospects unlikely to be drafted, giving them an edge in the chaos of undrafted free agency - a tactic favored by the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, and Detroit Lions. Other teams like the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns are putting their top options through the ringer.
But to double back on the Saints, they’ve never shown any inclination either way. The importance of these visits is negligible; Brandin Cooks and Marshon Lattimore were never flown out to New Orleans prior to being drafted highly. Andrus Peat did make a predraft visit, though it went unreported until after he was picked.
So don’t look -too- deeply into this list. I’ve gathered it from a number of sources and will continue to do so as we get closer to the 2018 NFL Draft. It is organized chronologically, and I have tried to clarify whether these were truly official top-30 visits in New Orleans or private workouts elsewhere whenever possible, but some mistakes in reporting are inevitable.
- WR Robert Foster, Alabama via Charlie Potter of 247Sports (reported 3/7).
- WR Byron Pringle, Kansas State via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. (3/10).
- RB Chase Edmonds, Fordham via Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune (3/12).
- WR Cedrick Wilson, Boise State via Josh Norris of NBC Sports. (3/13)
- CB J.C. Jackson, Maryland via Jared Stanger of SeattleSeamocks.com (3/13).
- OG Jamil Demby, Maine via Jon Alba of FOX-ABC Maine (3/22).
- EDGE Arden Key, LSU via Joel Erickson of the Advocate (3/24).
- CB Linden Stephens, Cincinnati via Joel Erickson of the Advocate (3/27).
- DB Joshua Kalu, Nebraska via Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune (4/3).
- LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State via James Palmer of NFL Network (4/3).
- LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama via Matt Zenitz of AL.com (4/3).
- WR Auden Tate, FSU via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports-Bay Area (4/4).
- CB Duke Dawson, Florida via Justin Melo of the Draft Wire. (4/4).
- EDGE Josh Sweat, FSU via Jon Ledyard of FanRag Sports (4/4).
- DL Dee Liner, Arkansas State via Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst (4/5).
- EDGE Justin Lawler, SMU via Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly (4/8).
- WR Courtland Sutton, SMU via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (4/10).
- WR Deon Cain, Clemson via Josh Norris of NBC Sports (4/10).
- DL Tomasi Laulile, BYU via Nick Underhill of the Advocate (4/10).
- QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville via Nick Underhill of the Advocate (4/10).
- WR Anthony Miller, Memphis via Justin Reid, an independent NFL scout. (4/11)
- CB Dane Cruikshank, Arizona via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (4/16).
- LB Darius Leonard, South Carolina State via Josh Norris of NBC Sports (4/17).
- EDGE Lorenzo Carter, Georgia via Nick Underhill of the Advocate (4/17).
So that’s 24 of the 30 allotted visits - and as I said earlier, some of them may have been misinterpreted as an official visit versus a private workout and interview outside team facilities. I’ll add to this list and make corrections as they arise, but for now we have enough broad information to make a few observations:
- The Saints are bringing in a good mix of top 100-level prospects and players who warrant a lesser grade as a later-round pick or prioritized free agent
- Only one of the wide receivers the Saints have hosted is taller than 6-foot-3 and timed a 40-yard dash slower than 4.55-seconds: Auden Tate (6-foot-4, 4.68-seconds)
- There are no tight ends on this list, possibly because the Saints have invested so much time in the position elsewhere - interviewing Mark Andrews, Troy Fumagalli, Mike Gesicki, Dallas Goedert, Ian Thomas, and Durham Smythe at the Senior Bowl while Sean Payton met with Hayden Hurst on a private workout
- Lamar Jackson is the only quarterback reported so far, and I’ll pair that information with a very interesting quote from Eric Galko, director of player personnel for an independent scouting service subscribed to by all 32 NFL teams: “Lamar Jackson: probably 50% chance he goes with 31 teams, and a 50% chance he is drafted by the #Saints. Literally 50/50; for the gambling people, -110 he is a Saint, -110 the rest of the NFL.”
- Update: every NFL team has the luxury of hosting “local” draft prospects on private visits that do not count against the official top 30, which are usually used on players who attended local high schools. Two local visits we know the Saints have used so far are:
- LB Kenny Young, UCLA via Jared Stanger of SeattleSeamocks.com (4/13). Young attended John Curtis High School in Jefferson Parish.
- WR D.J. Chark, LSU via Jared Stanger of SeattleSeamocks.com (4/17). Chark attended Alexandria Senior High School in Rapides Parish.
So stay tuned, and check back here often. There’s still eight (8!) days to go until the Saints are on the clock.