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Saints had to be savvy with limited draft picks

But the Saints made the most of what they had.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Texas A&M Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints made only pick in the first 100 selections of the 2019 NFL Draft, and with it, they traded up to select Erik McCoy, C, from Texas A&M. With limited draft capital, the Saints front office could not afford to swing-and-miss with their first couple of picks. And when anonymous NFL executives were tasked with commenting on each of the 32 teams’ draft moves in a piece for ESPN (Insider required), the Saints received fairly glowing remarks:

While the Patriots were selecting five players in the first three rounds, the Saints were selecting just one, a stark contrast for two contending teams.

New Orleans badly needed a center after Max Unger’s retirement and found one in Erik McCoy after trading up 14 spots in a deal that gave Miami the pick they used for acquiring Josh Rosen.

”There were three standout centers in this draft and New Orleans got the last one to fill a glaring hole,” an exec said. “McCoy can play multiple spots and will start for a lot of years. I also really liked the [Chauncey] Gardner-Johnson pick as he was far and away the best player on the board to start the fourth round -- the best athlete among all the safeties in the draft, a guy who misses a ton of tackles but can cover.”

An evaluator thought the Saints’ decision to select safeties in the fourth and sixth rounds indicated the team might not retain Vonn Bell for the long term.

”I thought they were going to take a corner, but if they are OK with Eli Apple and [Marshon] Lattimore as outside guys, they just need a nickel,” this evaluator said.

An exec who was particularly high on McCoy said he was surprised the Texas A&M product was still available when the Saints selected him.

”Some mocks had him going to the Texans in the first round and, frankly, I think they would have been better taking him instead of the small-school tackle [Tytus Howard] who is a great, great kid but did not seem like a first-round guy to me,” this exec said. “That is a big projection for Tytus, whereas McCoy is a true NFL center from day one who will start for them for years and years.”

The Saints selection of McCoy likewise received praise from SB Nation, with SBN giving the move an A+:

It was critical that the Saints replaced their retired center early in this draft. In Erik McCoy, the Saints traded up to get a rookie starter who will help their offense continue to play at a high level.

Last year, the Saints later round draft picks after Marcus Davenport and Tre’Quan Smith failed to make the team. Of note, the ESPN piece mentions that McCoy could have gone to the Houston Texans who are struggled to form an NFL-quality offensive line. The Saints’ 2018 4th Round draft pick, Rick Leonard out of Florida State, is an offensive tackle of the Texans, and one of the warm bodies the Texans are trying to utilize.

Here’s to hoping the later 2019 picks fare better for the Saints than 2018.