The 2018 NFL draft is just hours away, just enough time for 1 final mock draft. Check out the link from my previous mock draft, made last month.
For the first time since 2012, I now predict that the Saints will not make a selection on opening night, trading out of the 1st round for the first time in the Sean Payton era. Here, I mock that they make a big trade with the Indianapolis Colts. New Orleans will trade their 1st (27th overall), 3rd (91st), 4th (147th), and 6th (201) round picks this year, along with cornerback P.J. Williams to the Colts. Indianapolis in exchange sends the Saints two of their three 2nd round picks (36th and 49th overall), their 3rd round (67th), and a 2019 3rd round pick. The Colts now move into position to select a first round running back while also getting a corner (a pass rusher like Hau'oli Kikaha could also be a possibility instead), both glaring team needs. New Orleans on the other hand, would have 3 picks in the first 67 selections in a draft that looks strong in rounds 2-4, while also picking up an extra pick on day two next year. Now that the picks have been reset, on to my last mock draft.
ROUND 2 (36th overall)
Sam Hubbard (Edge/DE, Ohio State)
Edge rushers are certainly a valuable asset in the NFL, and Hubbard is generally rated as the 3rd or 4th best rusher in this draft. The guess here is that he slips a bit, perhaps because of a perception that he has a low ceiling or limited athleticism. Here is our Canal Street Chronicles' player profile on him:
Hubbard is a well-rounded defender that will not only be an immediate contributor as a pass rusher, but also as a strong run defender. He is a potential every down player against any offensive scheme.
ROUND 2 (49th overall)
Mike Gesicki (TE, Penn State)
Gesicki is one of the top tight end prospects in a solid draft class. Another potential round one talent that slips into the mid-2nd, this time because of his limitations as a blocker.
Gesicki is arguably the best receiving tight end available. He would be utilized in the same manner that a record-breaking New Orleans offense used Jimmy Graham. Gesicki provides an athletic mismatch against any defense, and would have the perfect mentor in veteran Benjamin Watson to refine his overall skills.
ROUND 3 (67th overall)
Anthony Miller (WR, Memphis)
Miller is among a few extremely talented wideouts that we have previewed likely to be drafted between the middle of round two and early part of round four. This was our recent profile on Miller.
Miller is the pick here because of his gamebreaking potential on every level of the field. He can be an immediate weapon from both the slot and outside, threatening defenses deep, taking a screen pass for the distance, or fighting for the ball to make the tough catch in traffic.
ROUND 5 (147th overall)
Brandon Parker (OT, North Carolina A&T)
Terron Armstead's recent injury history should be a major concern to the Saints, who this offseason lost Senio Kelemete (free agency) and Zach Strief (retirement). Like Armstead, who went to Arkansas Pine Bluff, Parker is a huge but athletic lineman from a smaller school.
The 3-time MEAC Offensive Lineman of the year moved up draft boards with his performance against higher level competition at the Senior Bowl. A left tackle in college, he can play either side effectively, and can get into the second level of a defense quickly and smoothly. He needs time to refine his technique a bit, he sometimes gets caught off balance due to a high center of gravity, but has the natural strength to handle power rushers as well as the athleticism to match speed rushers.
ROUND 5 (164th overall)
R.J. McIntosh (DT, Miami Fla.)
McIntosh is an explosive interior defender also able to move outside in some alignments. Here was our player profile:
McIntosh is a bit raw, and his production has been inconsistent, but can be a situational player right away with the disruptive potential to destroy a blocking scheme. Definite capability to be an every down force once he improves his strength and base against the run.
ROUND 6 (189th overall)
Parry Nickerson (CB, Tulane)
Our earlier mocked trade of P.J. Williams thins the cornerback position a bit. Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley are the unquestioned starters, Arthur Maulet is expected to challenge for much more playing time in his second season, and Patrick Robinson was signed as a free agent, rejoining the team he played for from 2010-14. The Saints jump on this local talent from Harvey, LA., who starred just up the road at Tulane.
Nickerson was tied for the fastest 40 time (4.32) of any player at the NFL Scouting Combine. Moreso than just great speed, Nickerson has terrific man to man coverage skills, often left on a coverage island at Tulane. He's shown natural ballhawking abilities, intercepting 16 passes over his collegiate career, aggressively challenging every throw in his direction. His small size (5'10, 182-lbs.), along with some knee problems have likely pushed him to a day 3 pick, but he has the ability to make an immediate impact as a slot corner, as well as the special teams units.
ROUND 7 (245th overall)
Riley Ferguson (QB, Memphis)
New Orleans adds a developmental quarterback prospect with their final pick of the draft.
Ferguson started his college career at Tennessee, but transferred to Memphis following a medical redshirt due to a broken leg. He has above average athleticism, moves well within the pass pocket, and has the arm strength to make every throw. Ferguson maintains solid fundamentals when throwing on the move, and threw 70 touchdown passes against just 19 interceptions in two seasons with the Tigers. He operated almost exclusively from the pistol formation, and has an elongated delivery which slows his release.
The New Orleans Saints have done an outstanding job in building a young and talented roster that's now looked at as a Super Bowl contender. We now have just hours to wait until we find out what new pieces could be added to a potential championship puzzle.