The New Orleans Saints have plenty of work left to do this offseason. Moves the team makes early in free agency will likely set the tone for the Saints’ strategy in the 2022 NFL Draft. Our friends over at Pro Football Network just put together a great mock draft for the Saints that works well regardless of what the Saints do in free agency:
18) New Orleans Saints: Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi
With the departure of Sean Payton, the New Orleans Saints go into this season with a new coach. Will they also have a new quarterback by the end of April? Jameis Winston is a free agent. Taysom Hill is currently the leader of a quarterback room that doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence in returning to the days of Super Bowl contention.
Matt Corral has certainly proven himself to be a leader during his Ole Miss career, both vocally and physically. While he’s not without his flaws, Corral has exceptional arm talent in terms of his ability to zip the ball into tight windows and fling the pigskin from multiple arm angles. Like Howell taken above him, he’s added a gritty run game to his armory this season. Having Alvin Kamara as a quick pass option out of the backfield will be key to his success.
This was definitely an interesting move. Corral was the third quarterback off the board, behind Liberty QB Malik Willis who went 9th overall to the Denver Broncos and North Carolina QB Sam Howell, who went 11th overall to the Washington Commanders. If the Saints were to sign Jameis Winston at quarterback on anything other than a one-year deal, the team team could still draft a quarterback in the first round. Even if the Saints were to sign a player like Teddy Bridgewater, it wouldn’t be a terrible decision for New Orleans to grab their future franchise quarterback if they think one is available at the 18th pick.
Speaking of possible franchise quarterback, Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett, a player who many view as the top QB in this year’s draft class, didn’t even crack the first going, falling to the 47th overall selection with the Indianapolis Colts. Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder fell even farther, going 83rd overall to the Philadelphia Eagles.
If the Saints were to sign Jameis Winston on a two-year (or longer) deal, it’s possible the Saints go wide receiver with their first pick, and Alabama WR Jameson Williams was here for the taking. Williams was mocked 22nd overall to the Las Vegas Raiders.
49) New Orleans Saints Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
100) New Orleans Saints Zachary Carter, DT, Florida
119) New Orleans Saints Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
137) New Orleans Saints Markquese Bell, S, Florida A&M
112) Washington Commanders Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
The Saints passed on a wide receiver with their first round pick, and then grabbed arguably a first round talent in the second round in Penn State’s Jahan Dotson. Dotson is an excellent outside receiver with both the speed and route-running ability to make big plays down the field. Coupled with a guy like Michael Thomas who is so comfortable playing inside the hashes if necessary, and the Saints could have an elite duo at wide receiver.
The rest of the mock draft has the Saints addressing other positions of need. The interior of the defensive line struggled at times last season, especially during the absence of David Onyemata. Zachary Carter from Florida helps plug that hole. If Terron Armstead were to walk in free agency, Jahan Dotson’s teammate, Rasheed Walker, a three-year starter at Penn State, could be a plug-and-play starter. Safety is an under-the-radar need for the team with Malcolm Jenkins on the wrong side of thirty and CJ Gardner-Johnson a free agent next offseason. Everyone saw the struggles of the team at tight end last season when Adam Trautman failed to take massive strides forward. Late round picks of S Markquese Bell out of Florida A&M and TE Jake Ferguson out of Wisconsin, address both positions. Ferguson flashed during the Senior Bowl, and the Saints have historically targeted players who perform well at the game.
All in all, it was a pretty solid mock draft for the Saints, The team was able to address every position of need they needed to address, including both a potential quarterback of the future and high upside wide receiver. It’s generally been assumed that if the Saints were to draft a quarterback with their first round pick, they will have to miss out on one of the elite receivers, but this mock had things play out differently. Just imagine if the Saints are able to address quarterback in free agency how that sets up for the Saints in this year’s draft.