The 2020 NFL Combine is firmly in the “Done and Dusted” category of the Draft process now, but the many impressive, and unimpressive, performances that we witnessed over the weekend in Indianapolis will have lasting impressions until we finally hit Las Vegas in next month.
We saw spectacular showings over the weekend’s festivities in Indianapolis that include a Michael Turk, a former Arizona State Sun Devil punter, putting up 25 reps on the bench press (Thomas Morstead and Pat Mcafee, that one was for you) and perhaps one of the most dynamic athletic showings in Combine history as linebacker---no, make that, football player, Isaiah Simmons put on a show at every level.
Standouts from potential Saints targets also featured on the weekend, with former LSU Tiger Justin Jefferson silencing any doubts about his athleticism, potentially bumping himself up even further in the first round after a historic season with the Tigers.
At the linebacker spot, Jefferson’s fellow Tiger Patrick Queen, along with Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray, pulled up with injuries in the 40. At the quarterback spot, one of the most eye-catching (realistic) draft prospects was Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, who put on a good showing over the weekend both on and off the field.
The Saints already have a plethora of positional options that they could be targeting when free agency wraps up, but before that the NFL Combine shifts views, and changes thoughts when it comes to the yearly NFL Draft class. This year was no different.
As the Draft continues it’s slow crawl down the calendar and to our doorsteps, let’s see how this weekend’s NFL Combine affected our views heading into free agency in the coming weeks, with a freshly-renovated Mock Draft.
Round 1, Pick No. 24 - Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Queen put on a show this season with the LSU Tigers, and though the Saints don’t break their streak of not taking receivers early on in the draft process with this pick, they do break a trend of ignoring LSU players early on in the draft process.
The LSU lead linebacker has become a quick riser in this year’s Draft process after a stellar year with the Tigers. After Demario Davis, the Saints have a lot of questions at the linebacker position.
A.J Klein has improved, but the Saints may not be able to afford him in free agency, and he may have departed the Big Easy at this stage in the off-season. Alex Anzalone has looked great when healthy, but missed 14 games in 2019 and 12 back in 2017.
Queen provides a dynamic, first-round talent to not only slot in and play right away, but provide a staple for years to come. With the ability to work sideline to sideline, and cover in passing defenses, Queen has three-down potential and slides in nicely for the Saints to learn under (and with) team-favorite Demario Davis.
Round 3, Pick No. 88 - Van Jefferson, WR, Florida
It may not be the Jefferson that some Saints fans want— but it’s the Jefferson that all Saints fans need.
With the Saints not filling their need at the Wide Receiver position in the first round, they elect not to trade up for one, instead using this deep positional class to find a complementary play-maker (or multiple—stay tuned) for the league’s top performing wide receiver last season Michael Thomas.
Van Jefferson comes into this year’s draft class with what could be argued to be a level of route running ability that some NFL receivers haven’t even reached yet in their careers. Jefferson works release moves with intentionality on every trip downfield, and has the quick feet to get good releases in.
With excellent technique a vital part of his game, as well as a plus ability to block, he’s a great fit for the Saints offense at his stage in the draft process. The son of former NFL receiver and current NFL receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, Van slots nicely into Sean Payton’s offense next to Michael Thomas.
Round 4, Pick No. 120 - Tyler Biadasz, OG, Wisconsin
Biadasz missed the 2020 NFL Combine with an injury to his shoulder.
Not exactly the best way to start a prospect breakdown when he’s being mocked to your team— but wait.
The Wisconsin center and guard has been the heart and soul of the Wisconsin offensive line, and he was a standout performer who was the talk of the class back before he announced his intent to return for this past season.
Biadasz played this season off the back of having surgery to his hip, but remained in control of the offensive line that helped Jonathon Taylor put up a record breaking season.
The Saints likely will make a move to strengthen the offensive line in the free agency period this year, and will thus have the strength up front to allow a developmental plug-and-play strategy for Biadasz if all goes correctly, strengthening the depth of the line as he continues back to 100% fitness.
He’s got elite ability to complete assignments and tasks, as well as the power in the box and mobility that the Saints can use to fill in gaps, and perhaps one day start on the offensive line.
If he’s deemed healthy enough by this Saints staff, he could bet the next productive lineman to don a Saints uniform after being a vital piece for Wisconsin football.
Round 5, Pick No. 151 - Lamar Jackson, CB, Nebraska
With Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins likely to return, but Eli Apple, P.J. Williams and Patrick Robinson likely hitting the free agent market, the Saints stay in solid condition with their first and second corners, and but need to fill the rest of the team’s depth chart at corner.
A wiling tackler who carries good athleticism and above-average length for the position, Jackson may not follow in the footsteps of the phenom that shares his name, but he likely will be a positive player at the next level, that does a good job of crowding and frustrating receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Joining this Saints team, he can help out in run defending and grow in the passing game thanks to developing ball skills and the athleticism needed to succeed in the league. The Saints grab another depth piece with high upside in the secondary department.
Round 6, Pick No. 183 - Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas
The Saints took an excellent route runner earlier in this draft scenario in the form of Van Jefferson, but with Ted Ginn Jr. likely due to walk in free agency after a hit-and-miss time with the Saints due to age, they’ll need to look to revamp their deep passing game.
Deonte Harris provides a nice boost in the downfield passing game, but they need someone a bit more reliable to provide the speed to complement the route running prowess that they (will) have in Michael Thomas and Van Jefferson.
Devin Duvernay is an expert at taking the top off of the game. Not only is the former Longhorn fast (running a 4.39 40-meter this last weekend), but he’s proven time and time again that he isn’t afraid of contact. His frame compares to that of a muscular bowling ball, and he’s a grinder in the passing game.
A former high school 100m track champion, Duvernay is a monster after the catch, and would provide a huge speed boost for this Saints offense.
TRADE: From Dolphins: Round 7, Pick No. 217 (Chase Claypool, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame) in exchange for 2021 6th
It’s unorthodox. It’s weird. It’s the third receiver the Saints have taken—but hear me out.
Chase Claypool isn’t your ordinary receiver, and his fit with the Saints makes a lot of sense coming into the final moments of the 2020 NFL Draft. With whispers indicating he could go in the final picks, the Saints take precaution to lock down a potential steal in round 7.
At this past weekend’s NFL Combine Claypool, who stands a solid 6-foot-4 inches, also weighed in much higher than expected for the typical big-slot and X-position Wide Receiver, coming in at 238 pounds. Those measurements effectively make him in the same size category as linebackers Kiko Alonso and Alex Anzalone.
That’s not the most impressive part of Claypool’s Combine performance, however.
His times and performances all revealed just how crazy of an athlete the wide receiver is. Several teams reportedly asked Claypool to perform in the tight end drill portions of the Combine—but his 4.42 40-yard dash time put an end to those talks, coming in at a faster speed than that of Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Pair that with an off-the-wall 19 bench press reps, 40.5” vertical jump, and 10’6” broad jump and the Notre Dame receiver has put together a historic combine heading into the draft. Claypool seems to have every intention of playing where he fits best, and for the New Orleans Saints, that could be in multiple roles, potentially as a red-zone receiver and also a down-field tight end threat.
If Claypool falls to the late seventh, there’s no reason not to sacrifice next year’s sixth to get an athlete capable of helping out in all ends of the field.