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Exploring aggression and tendencies in this final Saints mock draft

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Three trades up allow the Saints to control the question marks within their draft class and a look at tendencies at each selection.

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Back again with one final mock draft before the official NFL Draft. In this one, the Saints take the aggressive route and move about a ton in order to take selections that carry few risks. In this draft, because of the ultra specific pre-draft process, it can be very important to avoid players with red flags and instead select prospects that come with fewer question marks. With no in-person meetings (or at least very few) with facilities closed and physical meetings barred, teams did not get to do the usual extensive work they would in evaluating players with high risk factors.

There has been talk of teams taking the more “conservative route” in this year’s draft, but very rarely can one really expect Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis to play conservative. So, in this mock, they tow the line. Remaining aggressive in their mobility as Saints fans have grown much accustomed. In doing so, putting themselves in the best position to grab candidates they may have fewer questions about.

A little lagniappe in this one, in addition to the selections that were made, additional information is shared based on Sean Payton era draft tendencies for each selection.

Round 1, Pick 24 Overall

In this round, it was one of the first simulations in which the selection was really made for New Orleans before they were even on the clock. After watching the picks come off the board there was some consideration put into trading up to grab a top linebacker. But alas, with one of the top wideouts falling to 18 there was little concern that someone would be there at 24.

As the clock turned to New Orleans, Kenneth Murray, Justin Jefferson, and Kristian Fulton were all off the board having all been selected within ten picks ahead of the Saints. Meaning there was an important decision to make between the potential future quarterback of the offense and the potential future quarterback of the defense. One has a much more volatile projection than the other so, in staying true with the theme, the safer selection was made.

The Pick: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

Texas A&M v LSU Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The first ever LSU Tiger to be drafted by the Saints in the first round, Queen is a fantastic addition to a promising defense heading into 2020. While many may still believe that the Saints would never draft an LSU player period (though they have twice in the Payton era), it has been reported that the Saints and LSU football Head Coach Ed Orgeron have had plenty of conversations about the former Tigers.

It has been said over and over again, but worth repeating that that the black and gold lack a very important aspect in their second level, health and durability. Alex Anzalone will be returning from injury at the top of camp now that has been cleared, but there are still some question marks surrounding Kiko Alonso’s return and when he will be ready to get back on the field.

Then begs the question, will Anzalone be able to revive his 2018 season where he was able to stay healthy or will be eventually miss some time? In any case, the insurance and starting potential that Queen possesses is far too obvious to pass up at such a vital position. There was some thought put into going corner here with say a Jeff Gladney from TCU, but the drop off at linebacker here is much more than the drop off at corner. Not to mention that Queen is a fantastic cover linebacker who will still add some playmaking potential to the Saints’ pass defense.

Queen will get knocks based on size, but if he can bulk up even just a little bit, it will help him. His smarts and speed are huge boosts in his game as while he may get overpowered by NFL blocking early in his career, they will have a tough task catching and engaging with him thanks to his athleticism and quickness. He is quick to. diagnose and make plays on the ball carrier with trustworthy instincts and an optimal feel for the game. It will take him time, just like any other rookie, to adjust to the NFL’s size and speed. But once he has done so, the tandem of he and Demario Davis will be quite the dynamic duo.

Tendency note: The Saints have only taken one linebacker in the first round during the Sean Payton era, Stephone Anthony in 2015. The most draft position groups in the first round at defensive line (4) and secondary (4). Only one of each drafted in the second half of he first (16th overall or later).

Tendency pick: Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU or Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU


TRADE:
Dolphins Receive: NO 2021 1st
Saints Receive: MIA 2.39 and 4.141


Round 2, Pick 39 Overall

The aggression begins! The Saint ship out their 2021 first rounder in order to get into the top of the second round and add an additional first. Keep in mind that a future first is basically priced in the current year’s draft as an early second. So this is actually a nice deal in terms of value. It is anticipated that the Saints might be even more willing to dip into next year’s capital being that they are finally in line for a couple of compensatory draft picks with the departures of A.J. Klein and Teddy Bridgewater. One of the keys to this is that the Saints maintained their #88 overall selection in the third round. That will be important very soon.

The Saints continue to be aggressive with their future picks as they takes away only one of the two third-round selections they are in line for in 2021 after a compensatory pick is expected from Bridgewater’s signing with Carolina.

So who was on the board to make the Saints take such a big leap into the second?

The Pick: Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

NCAA Football: Southern California at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints revisit Marcus Williams’ alma mater by bringing in fellow Ute and standout corner Jaylon Johnson. Johnson has gotten a ton of first round buzz as of late, so the value is there at the top of the second round. In Johnson the Saints get a physical man-cover corner who has experience in a diverse defense that allowed him to get experience in zone and man coverages during his three season in Salt Lake City.

Though he has battle some injuries over his time, he walks into the NFL with a clean enough slate to not cause any knocks to his draft stock, as he has gotten that first round buzz previously mentioned. The other plus to that situation is that he would not be asked to come to New Orleans an immediately become a starter. He would have the opportunity to learn behind Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins as well as the rest of the secondary before eventually lining up across from Lattimore in 2021 and ideally beyond.

Johnson meets the size thresholds the Saints look for at corner in that he is over 5-foot-11 (5117) and nearly 200 pounds. He brings with him some athleticism and explosion with his 4.5 40 and 36.5” vertical. The 2020 Second team All-American also bring some impressive ball skills with 13 passes defended in 2019 and seven interceptions over his three years while appearing in 27 straight contests.

He will come in with some developing left to do. Aaron Glenn will have to work with him on remaining disciplined in coverage and not letting his eyes get locked into other areas of the field. But perhaps his biggest challenge will be that of all secondary players in their transition from college to the pros, making sure that his physical nature in coverage does not lead to piling up penalties downfield.

Those technique adjustments can be made with NFL coaching and training. What is not teachable are the pieces that Johnson brings inherently with his ball skills, determination, ability with the ball in his hands, and his willingness to get involved in the run game.

Tendency notes: Since 2006, the Saints have only selected in the second round nine times. Of those nine selections, five were in the secondary. This may also suggest New Orleans trading away a future second as opposed to their 2021 first for a late second-rounder or early third.

Tendency pick: Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah or Antoine Winfield, Jr., S, Maryland


TRADE:
Jets Receive: NO 88, 203, and 2021 3rd
Saints Receive: NYJ 68


Round 3, Pick 68

The Saints in this draft have now gone from having two selections in the top-100 to three. There was a name on the board here that the Saints have a met with at a position of need that makes a ton of sense. Considering the theme is to go get what the Saints like, this was a perfect example.

The Pick: Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M

Madubuike was a terror in the middle for the Aggies wracking up double-digits in tackles behind the line of scrimmage in each of the last two years and added a team leading 5.5 sacks last year from the interior.

He has experience playing in both four and three down linemen looks and was a highly ranked edge rushing come into college, holding on to his positional versatility. At 6-foot-2 and just under 300 pounds he is a little light to be a full-time three-tech and would need to bulk up for that job. But if the Saints vision for him is that of Mario Edwards, Jr. shades, that frame may be just fine.

Any player that is a second round talent being had here in the third round that pick an extremely explosion first-step, positional versatility, and a high running, long burning motor is one to consider. Not to mention that the Saints have taken the time to meet with him during the pre-draft process.

His violent hand, flexibility, and athleticism, considering his 4.83 40 at the Combine at his size, would be a welcome addition to the Saints already impressive defensive line rotation.

Tendency notes: While the Saints tend to lean Linebacker in the third round, they seem to always gravitate to secondary or defensive line when they trade up. They have selection six defensive lineman and four defensive backs as a result of trading up. This sticks with their trends.

Tendency picks: Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M or Ashtyn Davis, S, Cal


TRADE:
Washington Receives: NO 130 and 141 (via MIA)
Saints Receive: WAS 108


Round 4, Pick 108

Not able to get back into the top-100 for a fourth selection, the Saints get pretty close with 108. In last year’s draft they hit on a prospect in this range with C.J. Gardner-Johnson who was selected at 105 with an additional pick accumulated in their trade up for Erik McCoy.

In this scenario, New Orleans packages their original fourth and a fifth added in the earlier Miami trade up to grab another proven, mature player.

The Pick: Van Jefferson, WR, Florida

NCAA Football: Florida State at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Unable to grab everyone’s favorite WR Jefferson, the Saints still walk away with a very good one. Taking advantage of a loaded WR class is sure to have its perks. In this instance it was the drop for for the former Florida Gator, much like the C.J. Garnder-Johnson story of 2019’s draft.

Things have begun to calm around Jefferson’s name a bit which was bound to happen as the popular names within this stacked wideout class ebb and flow on a daily basis.

Though people may have quieted a bit on Jefferson, that does not reflect his ability on the football field, nor his attitude off of it. Coming into the league at 24 years old has its pluses and minuses. It is no mistake the correlation between his experience and savviness as a route-runner. He is one of the more polished in that area and has some reliable hands as well. But how much more can he develop? How much more does he need to develop for that matter? Will his game as it is translate enough to the NFL to be competitive?

Those are all questions that a team is more than willing to find an answer to throughout camp from a fourth round selection. It is a safe enough pick at this stage with some really excited payoff potential. Jefferson is one of the best route-runners in the draft, has inside and outside experience, and was raised by a wide receiver coach. On top of that, he is another durable and healthy option appearing in every game for which he was eligible in college.

The Saints add a third precise route-runner to the WR room. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds he also meets the draft size thresholds at the position.

Tendency Notes: New Orleans has taken two wide receivers with selections received in trading up and have taken five of their nine WRs since 2006 in Day 3. Most drafted position in round four: OT.

Tendency Picks: Van Jefferson, WR, Florida or Hakeem Adeniji, OT, Kansas


Round 5, Pick 169

No need for a trade here. Already shipping off two future picks in this draft and hitting on some quality players already, the Saints stand pat until the fifth round to see who is on the board. There was a small consideration here to trade back, but the tendencies nor the available roster spots align with that decision. So staying put and looking to find one more impactful depth player or special teamer became the goal.

The Pick: Jonah Jackson, OL, Ohio State University

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 Ohio State at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

At 6-foot-3, 306 pound, Jonah Jackson has a pro-ready frame. After skipping the Ohio State pool in last year’s draft, the Saints return to the promised land to grab another versatile offensive line piece. Jackson has played at all three interior offensive line positions during his time Ohio State as well as Rutgers University before transferring. He was also a three-star offensive tackle coming into recruitment and has 33.5” inch arms, above the tackle threshold for the NFL.

With his experience at several stops along the offensive line, being groomed in a professional culture in Columbus, and fun personality, Jackson would be a quick fit in the Big Easy.

Easy to envision Jackson starting off in special teams and reserve roles but potentially working his was in to camp competition next offseason after Larry Warford’s contract is up. The versatily that both he and last year’s earliest pick Erik McCoy have in common could be very benfiicial as well as the Saints are reportedly not married to McCoy at the Center position. That opens up even more opportutnity for Jackson while not sacrificing anything that has been put into place with McCoy.

Enough cannot be said about his personality as well. Yes, he transferred from Rutgers to greener pastures at Ohio State, but there was very clearly no animosity for him from his former teammates when the Scarlet Knights traveled to take on the Buckeyes. That along with interviewing his teammates and showing off on a play-by-play basis his technical consistency and work ethic are excellent qualities from an excellent prospect.

Tendency Notes: New Orleans has only traded up for offensive linemen twice, both players that focus on the interior. In the 5th round, the majority of the Saints’ 15 selections since ‘06 have been in the secondary with six total.

Tendency Picks: L’Jarius Sneed, DB, LA Tech or Alohi Hilman, S, Notre Dame

In this one, the Saints check their offseason boxes, hit on some major potential and talent with five top-175 selections and bring in a host of players that all have an opportunity to end up on the active roster come the top of the season. While it is always possible to end up with a 2018-type of draft class where less than half of the prospects latch on, smaller classes like that of 2019 and 2016 with four of five successes could be preferable. Especially with this pre-draft and draft process.