The 2019 NFL draft is complete, and the New Orleans Saints added five players during the selection process, making two trades along the way. Here are the players who the Saints selected during this year's draft.
Round 2 (48th overall)
Erik McCoy, C (Texas A&M)
The Saints pulled off a trade with the Miami Dolphins, swapping pick numbers 62 and 48 in exchange for the Saints 2020 2nd rounder and their 5th round pick, while getting an additional 4th rounder (#116) from Miami in return. New Orleans used the pick to select McCoy, a three year starter for the Aggies against the top competition in perhaps the county's toughest conference.
McCoy is a better run blocker than in pass protection at this stage of his career, but gets into his stance quickly and will continue to improve his technique. He has an excellent football IQ, which should enable him to call out blocking assignments in a short period of time. McCoy has good body control and fluid movement, is rarely off balance, and has proven to hold up against both speed and power rushes. A consistent winner at the point of attack in the running game, McCoy could earn an immediate starting role, and be the interior anchor of the offensive line for years.
Round 4 (105th overall)
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S (Florida)
New Orleans pulled off another trade, sending the 116th pick obtained in the McCoy trade and their 5th rounder (#168) to the New York Jets to move up to the third pick of the 4th round, the 105th overall selection. They used it to draft Gardner-Johnson, an extremely versatile safety. A do-everything defensive back at Florida, Gardner-Johnson has excelled in man to man and off the ball coverage, as a deep safety, or as an in-the-box defender.
Gardner-Johnson was viewed by many as a late 1st or early 2nd round pick. He has excellent instincts and very good ball skills, to couple with outstanding athletic ability and range. He has the capability of picking up wideouts from the slot as an extra corner, as well as the read and react ability to play well as a single high safety. He picks his way aggressively through traffic in pursuit, but isn't overly physical in the box, likely making his highest value in coverage packages.
Round 6 (177th overall)
Saquan Hampton, S (Rutgers)
Perhaps the biggest draft surprise to many that follow the team came here, in taking a second safety in as many picks. They get good value on Hampton, a player the team claimed it had rated in it's top 70. Hampton doesn't lend the same coverage flexibility that Gardner-Johnson should, but he is capable of stepping up and taking on a tight end or big receiver from the slot.
Hampton tracks the ball well in down field coverage, and has quick read and react skills to go along with good range and excellent recovery speed. He reacts well to the receiver's break in front of him, and will deliver a physical hit to jar the ball loose. He is much more aggressive close to the line of scrimmage, and takes smart angles in pursuit of the ball carrier. Hampton was a solid special teams contributor on coverage units at Rutgers, and is expected to provide that same impact with the Saints.
Round 7 (231st overall)
Alize Mack, TE (Notre Dame)
Many expected New Orleans to draft a wide receiver or tight end early, to bolster a receiving unit that struggled to consistently produce outside of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Clearly, the Saints coaches feel comfortable enough with the pieces they have to instead only use a pick on a project in the last round of the draft.
Mack is a big and agile target, who has good straight line speed to threaten defenses down the seam. He shows good early speed into his routes, and has strong hands to snatch the ball away from his body. He's an acrobatic pass catcher, with good body control and ball tracking ability. Mack comes into his breaks too upright, and will need to sharpen his routes and show more willingness as a blocker. He's a naturally talented receiver, but production has never matched his ability, often raising questions about his motivation.
Round 7 (244th overall)
Kaden Elliss, LB (Idaho)
Elliss showed good versatility at Idaho, and most likely projects to be a strongside rusher initially. He has good strength to take on blockers, has solid edge rusher capabilities with effective inside moves, and has a good straight line burst into the backfield. He plays relentlessly and has a nonstop motor, which could cause him to make immediate contributions on the special teams units.
The Saints came into this draft without any absolutely glaring weaknesses. They surprised some by not adding another pass catcher early in the draft from what was viewed as a deep class of both tight ends and wide receivers. Mack will have the opportunity to learn behind Jared Cook, and has the skills to be a late round steal. Elliss is a high motor player, who could stick due to his special teams contributions and defensive versatility. McCoy is the favorite to earn the starting center role vacated by the retirement of Max Unger, but will have to hold off competition from Cameron Tom, Nick Easton, and Will Clapp. Gardner-Johnson and Hampton both appear to be high value picks, and each have the ability to not only be immediate contributors, but give the Saints secondary options for upcoming seasons. Strong safety Vonn Bell is heading into a contract year, while free safety Marcus Williams regressed a bit after a standout rookie season. Gardner-Johnson and Hampton both should give the Saints secondary versatile coverage options on the back end, and perhaps step up if the team is not able to retain Bell after the season or Williams isn't able to recapture his rookie form.
The New Orleans Saints look to have come out of the 2019 draft with one immediate starter (McCoy), a few potential day 3 steals, and having strengthened the depth in their secondary. The Saints showed their usual aggressiveness in moving up to get the players they wanted, and a Super Bowl caliber roster appears to have gotten younger, deeper, and more athletic.
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