To say NFL Draft season is underway is an understatement. There have already been some big moves made to shake up the top of the order, and speculation is rampant about what every team will be doing in the early rounds. People are mostly in the dark about the New Orleans Saints and their possible moves, but it’s known they have glaring needs at linebacker, cornerback and wide receiver.
The problem, of course, is that the Saints are picking No. 28. While the instinct might be to get a receiver there, the Saints should make a move for Jaycee Horn, Caleb Farley or Patrick Surtain if they’re on the board in the teens.
If there’s one position you can’t mask struggles at, it’s cornerback. Especially in the battleground NFC South. The Falcons have Calvin Ridley while the Buccaneers have a stable of receivers who can beat you. After Janoris Jenkins was cut earlier in the offseason, the cornerback position was left with a massive gap. Matt Ryan and Tom Brady can and will pick on No. 2 if Marshon Lattimore is on the field.
To see that in action, take a look at what has happened when Ken Crawley or P.J. Williams take emergency coverage duties. Or, if you’re really a glutton for punishment, look at Brandon Browner’s time in New Orleans opposite Keenan Lewis. Even with Marcus Williams, for my money one of the best single-high safeties in the NFL right now, there’s only so much help you can give.
The reason you trade up to the teens for a cornerback and not for, say, Micah Parsons is because it’s possible to mask struggling linebackers with the right alignments up fronts, shifts, etc. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson also has tendencies that can help out linebackers up front, while Demario Davis does the work of four defensive players. In the case of Lattimore and Williams, they’re only two-thirds of the field.
It’s also worth pointing out that Surtain should be option No. 1 in this case. Farley has a very strong case for the best cornerback in this draft. But his injury history is cause for hesitation. With that being said, Farley is high on himself despite the injuries.
Caleb Farley warns any team that passes him up because of injury concerns: "Any team that takes a corner over me, I'm a dog. That's gonna tick me off. And I'm gonna do em like Randy Moss did em when they let him fall." pic.twitter.com/TXHHGl4XOB— Chris Simms (@CSimmsQB) April 8, 2021
He could go either way, really. If he falls out of the top 10, it’s possible teams are just trying to mitigate risk. Surtain and Horn, meanwhile, should be Top 20 picks regardless. If the Saints are going to make a move, it would realistically be for them.
Both of them are strong options, and played incredibly well against strong competition.
Completion % allowed for notable CB prospects— Matt Gajewski (@Matt_Gajewski) April 13, 2021
Shemar Jean-Charles - 32.7%
Jaycee Horn - 33.3%
Greg Newsome - 35.3%
Caleb Farley - 36% (2019)
Patrick Surtain - 43.8%
Kelvin Joseph - 55.9%
Eric Stokes - 57.1%
Asante Samuel - 59.4%
Elijah Molden - 61.1%
Tyson Campbell - 65.2%
While Horn has a bit more size than Surtain, however, Surtain makes himself valuable on all parts of the field.
Patrick Surtain II since 2019:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 12, 2021
968 coverage snaps
3 TDs allowed
Surtain also has PFF’s highest grade among corners in the draft for the last two years, although those grades come with quite a few caveats.
The Saints having two serviceable cornerbacks also makes the slot corners better. P.J. Williams, for all of his issues outside, tends to play the slot very well. The same goes for Gardner-Johnson. If you fill the cornerback position, you aren’t just filling one slot. You’re adding a line piece to the defensive Tetris board that brings everything else together.
There’s understandable hesitation to move up in this draft, and you shouldn’t do it for just any player. It has to be for either Farley, Surtain or Horn if you’re going to get your value’s worth. However, when you’re a team like the Saints looking to get in on a window that is seemingly closing by the day, sometimes big moves are necessary.
The Saints won’t go back to the team giving up record-breaking yardage numbers. But with the wrong offseason moves, they can get closer to that on the scale than where they’ve been the past few years. No Saints fan or staff member wants that, so they’ll need to deftly navigate what’s left of this offseason to get to where they need to be.
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