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2021 NFL Saints Draft Sleepers: Offense, Pt. 1

Some of the less-heralded names to look out for while prepping for the upcoming NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2021 NFL Draft approaching, it is prime season for mock drafts and big boards. While these are always a blast to come up with, every year there are prospects who get pigeonholed into rounds and rankings that are lower than where they should be.

Whether it be poor combines, a lack of exposure or scouts and pundits’ misinterpretation of where value lies, diamonds in the rough get overlooked every draft season.

With this piece, we’ll be looking at quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers that the New Orleans Saints - and their fans - should know, regardless of where experts have them ranked.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

JAMIE NEWMAN

Jamie Newman has had an interesting path to the 2021 NFL Draft. He started off at Wake Forest, lit it up in the ACC and then transferred to Georgia, before sitting out a year. Despite his impressive display of huge plays we saw in the small sample at Wake, his mediocre Senior Bowl performance seemed to scare some folks off.

But not me.

If anything, missing a few throws at a small sample event, hence causing his draft projections to fall, may even increase his value in the later rounds.

The guy has shown elite deep ball accuracy, good mobility and flashes of good intermediate throws/processing.

The deep stuff is consistent and undeniable

He made Sunday throws all year in 2019, with a big time throw rate of 5.9% — T-13th out of 73 qualifying QBs in the country in 2019.

And despite his 11 interceptions that season, the advanced numbers say he got some unlucky bounces. His 2.5% turnover-worthy play rate was tied for the 15th-lowest among qualifying QBs. Justin Fields was at 2.4%, but only had three interceptions. The end result being a turnover isn’t always on the QB. And that’s why process > results when evaluating young prospects.

Newman is a passer first, but has wheels and the ability to elude defenders. He rushed for 712 yards on 4.5 yards per carry in 2019, with a mix of slow-meshing read option plays and some sweeps/power runs.

What excites me though is the potential to improve on his footwork/processing and become a menace in the intermediate level of the field. He’s shown the ability to go through reads and come back to guys finding holes in zones.

But sometimes he gets a little sloppy or jumpy with his footwork and can end up too far away from what his base should be in the pocket before letting the ball rip. J.T. O’Sullivan does a great job of illustrating some of those aspects which are easily fixable in this video.

Basically, he needs to do a better job of fading to the opposite side of which way he’s going to throw on deeper patterns, so he has room to step into it.

The primary concerns you’ll hear with Newman are about his games late in the season, mainly against Clemson and Syracuse — where he barely combined for 100 passing yards.

But do me a favor and go watch those games, and tell me what he was supposed to do with the ball. His top two receivers were out, and there was not a soul getting any separation out there, as he’s getting pressured frequently.

So, basing you concerns off of those late-season games where he had little options to make plays seems a bit short-sighted.

Overall, with Newman I see a ton of potential as a playmaker and some fixable issues in the pocket. If he’s available on day three of the draft, he’ll be a steal in my opinion.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

CHRIS EVANS

Chris Evans is a true ‘eye test over results’ type of prospect. He hasn’t really had a full season’s worth of production since 2017 due to injuries and being suspended for academic purposes in 2019. And he’ll have to atone for these concerns.

But when he got his opportunities, he sure made good use of them. As a freshman in 2016, he burst onto the scene, racking up 614 yards on 7.0 yards per carry and breaking 28 tackles in the process. The next year, he had 682 yards on 5.1 YPC and broke 34.

In 2016, his 4.15 yards after contact per rush attempt was tied for 17th-highest among 288 qualifying ball carriers. And over 52% of his rushes went for 15+ yards, which ranked T-24th.

His pad level, elusiveness, change-of-direction ability and body control are top-level for his position.

And not to mention, he’s a pure three-down back, with the ability to exploit mismatches against linebackers.

He caught 49 of his only 56 targets in his college career and forced 16 missed tackles on these catches.

If you want a complete back at a great value in the draft, who can make dudes miss consistently and has sticky hands, look for Evans on Day three.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Brianna Paciorka/Pool via News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

JOSH PALMER

Coming from the same school as Marquez Callaway at Tennessee, Josh Palmer suffered from the same challenges those Vol offenses created — poor QB play and a lack of opportunities to display a full repertoire as a receiver.

The most yards he ever received for in a season was 484 in 2018. And in 2020, he had 475.

Primarily an outside WR who ran almost exclusively deep patterns, in Knoxville, Palmer was not really given the chance to put on a show from a route-running standpoint, despite his talent in that area.

I mean the guy put on a route-running show in one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl, literally putting corners on the ground.

And of course, he has deep speed and a second gear when he breaks into the open field.

(This touchdown above is on future first-round pick Patrick Surtain)

He averaged 15.4 yards per reception throughout his college career, including a freshman year where that number was at a whopping 21.0.

At 6’2” 210 pounds, Palmer has the size and speed to be a potent deep threat. But what really continues to excite me when watching him is that change of direction ability and chops when running routes.

While his overall PFF receiving grade in 2020 was 71.9, his grade against man coverage was 77.8. That tells me the offense and situation was holding him back from showcasing his ability to simply beat guys 1-on-1.

So, if you can look past the stat sheet, the context and eye test tell you this guy can play. And a complete receiver like Palmer would be a steal if he falls to Day three.


What do you think of these prospects? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @AndrewBell_98.