With the NFL Draft in the books for the New Orleans Saints, it’s now time to look deeper into the roster the Saints have built and ask questions about how everything fits. For rookies however, the questions never cease, especially for those involved in tight battles for roster acceptance.
Here is one such question per draft pick, corresponding to their standing on the roster, how they can fit, and what improvements we’ll need to see from them. Add your own questions about the Saints draft picks in the comments below.
How soon before he plays?
You know it’s going to happen. If McCoy doesn’t outright win the starting center position for New Orleans, it will only be a matter of time before he sees meaningful snaps. Every year the Saints see an injury to one or multiple of their offensive lineman starters and the game of musical chairs begins.
At this point, it’s no longer a matter of “if” it will happen —but “when.” The Saints have no rush to play McCoy right away if they choose a more patient approach or if he struggles out the gate. But his time will come this year whether by design or misfortune - prepare yourself early.
Future Vonn Bell Replacement or hybrid role?
The slot defensive back has become a premium in today’s NFL. The Saints have a very good one (when healthy) in Patrick Robinson, and we saw last year how much PJ Williams grew in that role as the season matured. But having a good slot defender at safety is a luxury for any defense. Johnson is strong at the point of attack, can sheds blocks swiftly, and is a very firm tackler that also possesses underrated ball skills.
Johnson’s probably best used closer to the line of scrimmage, but don’t call him a “box safety” considering the way he plays in space and in coverage. With Vonn Bell contract expiring soon, don’t be surprised if the Saints have already drafted a possible replacement. Johnson possesses the athleticism and fit to be a play-maker right away for New Orleans the more you watch him on tape.
Kamrin Moore part two?
The Saints didn’t seem to necessarily need a safety after the drafting of Gardner-Johnson but you never know. Hampton has the tools to play some on special teams, but that seems to be his best route to making an impact for New Orleans. Kamrin Moore was put into almost the exact same situation coming out of the 2018 draft and soon found himself out of New Orleans. Saquan will have to make every opportunity count.
Can he improve as a blocker?
A lot of third string tight-ends have to do much more than just catch footballs. While Mack has a ton of receiving abilities Sean Payton loves in a tight end, Payton also has a interesting depth chart. With Jared Cook and Josh Hill strongly entrenched in the TE1 and TE2 slots currently, Mack will have to fight it out with Garrett Griffin and 2018 training camp darling Dan Arnold.
It may not sound like much given the production each showed last year, but when Payton shows you his hand, believe him. Dan Arnold was a favorite of Payton’s based off ideal size and the conversion coming from wide receiver. Payton also loved how quickly Arnold understood the Saints’ philosophy and their wide array of plays. There has to be a belief that he will have a fair opportunity to show improvement after his failure in converting several big plays last season.
As for Griffin, coach Payton has grown to love players who are flexible and multi talented. While Griffin isn’t Travis Kelce as a receiving target, he’s no slouch, and is also a solid blocker when called upon. It won’t be a cakewalk for Mack to that number three spot.
Mack has the attributes and athleticism to become a nice blocker at the next level but currently needs to improve his technique and footwork. Any improvement in that department can wonderfully complement his abilities as a pass catcher, that could be electric in a more pass efficient offense in New Orleans.
The good news is if Mack can’t find his way onto the final 53 man roster, he’d be a great practice squad stash.
Can he improve his bend and consistency in space?
Pass rushing and linebacker depth was another roster need for New Orleans, and while there are still free agents the Saints will consider, it doesn’t hurt to roll the dice where they did. Elliss may have a better chance than most think to make the roster as a backup, but he’ll have to improve his technique turning a corner off the edge and patience when on an island in space.
Is he exactly what they need or too similar to what they have already?
He looks like the typical Saints receiver in the Sean Payton era: not extremely fast, good size, physical, and tough over the middle in traffic. He’s also a force after the catch and when closely guarded. Seam route, anybody?
Humphrey’s reliable hands and “dawg” personality could make him a team and fan favorite once feet touch the field in training camp. But with Keith Kirkwood, Cameron Meredith, and Mike Thomas, is there a fit for another possession-styled receiver?
It’s very true that work ethic, health, and passion is what can ultimately separate elements that look similar from a distance. Humphrey has the fire to do just that, especially if he can repeatedly win one-on-one matchups. It just will be an uphill climb, and he’ll have to beat out the hype darlings of 2018 first.