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NFL Draft 2021: Potential trade candidates for Saints in first round

The Saints have a few options this year

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints are in an interesting position in this year’s draft. At No. 28, they have two to three pressing needs depending on who you ask. On defense, they desperately need a linebacker and a No. 2 cornerback. On offense, they could really stand to have a wide receiver to complement Michael Thomas.

With the 28th pick, they can undoubtedly address at least one of these needs. However, finding the right guy is easier said than done, and it requires a different level of research. The Saints have another option.

In 2018, the Saints showed that they were willing to make big moves. With the 27th pick that year, they traded up to No. 14 with the Green Bay Packers to land Marcus Davenport. While the jury is still out on Davenport and the production hasn’t really been there, it may be time to make another, similarly big move.

This draft has several Top 15 teams alluding to being willing to move back, but the Saints should target someone in the 15-20 range to trade with in order to pick up someone like Jaycee Horn, Patrick Surtain or Caleb Farley. Here are some candidates that the Saints could swap with:

No. 15: New England Patriots

If Justin Fields is on the board at 15, then throw this idea out the window. He’s going to New England. But if Fields is deservedly picked before No. 15 (and the Patriots don’t move up for him), they have a bevy of needs that need to be addressed. One of those needs is cornerback, and when Bill Belichick takes a corner, it’s usually past the first round. The Patriots generally take pass rushers or safeties if they take a defensive player in the first.

The competitive situation for the Patriots is also unclear. They could be a quarterback away, but if last year is any indication, they have quite a few holes and might need a multi-year plan. While it’s fair to be wary of trading with the Patriots, it could be worth it for the Saints to explore.

New Orleans Saints v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

No. 17: Las Vegas Raiders

Although Jon Gruden has cooled down since his completely maniacal 2018 Draft Day, the Raiders’ willingness to make big moves in the early rounds is clear. For a refresher, the Raiders traded Khalil Mack, a 2020 second round pick and a conditional 2020 fifth rounder for the Bears’ 2019 first, 2020 first, and 2020 third.

Since then, the Raiders are in a very different spot and don’t need to be stockpiling early picks as much. The Raiders desperately need offensive line help, and if top talents are off the board early, they could be enticed by having multiple attempts to land it. The problem, of course, is that the Raiders’ cornerback needs overlap with the Saints’, so they may have to sweeten the pot to make this happen if it’s going to be made for Horn, Surtain or Farley.

No. 18: Miami Dolphins

This pick is a great, high-leverage one for the Dolphins, who have already moved up to sixth overall in the first round — ostensibly to land another playmaker for Tua Tagovailoa. It’s the kind of pick that can flipped easily if the right players are on the board, especially since picks 20+ can be a bit of a crapshoot.

The Dolphins need edge defenders and a running back. Taking edge defenders in the teens is risky business, and taking a running back in the first is usually a nonstarter. They should flip this pick. But it needs to be with the right team. The Saints could make themselves that team.

There are a lot of variables that could impact these trades. It seems unlikely that the Cardinals, Washington Football Team or Bears will move due to their positions and where they’re at in team building. Whether the Saints make a move or not is entirely dependent on what they perceive their window to be. There are a lot of questions with the new quarterback situation, and Ryan Ramczyk, Terron Armstead and Marshon Lattimore are all due contract extensions (not to mention Marcus Williams, who is still on a franchise tag).

With that in mind, nailing this draft is massively important if they’re going to retain those players. It doesn’t have to be a 2017-level success, but a few solid pieces are necessary if the Saints are going to seriously compete. If their defense stays as-is, it has a lot of opportunities to be exposed. And no Saints fan wants to go back to watching first-to-40 wins type football after the past few seasons.

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