Another day, another mock draft. This time it’s ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay teaming up for three-round mock draft (Insider required) that has the New Orleans Saints start strong and then end with a couple of head-scratching picks.
A run of receivers in the first fifteen picks, including Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson (8th overall to the Atlanta Falcons), USC’s Drake London (10th overall to the New York Jets), and Alabama WR Jameson Williams (15th overall to the Philadelphia Eagles), left the Saints without a bunch of options at the 16th pick. Tackles Ikem Ekwonu out of NC State (5th to the Giants), Alabama’s Evan Neal (9th to the Seattle Seahawks), and Mississippi State’s Charles Cross (13th to the Houston Texans) left the Saints without many options there either. Quarterback Malik Willis out of Liberty was also off the board, landing in the NFC South to the rival Carolina Panthers 6th overall.
This left some of the top prospects on the board as LB Nakobe Dean out of Georgia, LT Trevor Penning out of Iowa, DT Jordan Davis from Georgia, Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett, and Alabama WR Jameson Williams, all of whom fit with the Saints needs.
In Kiper and McShay’s’s mock, the Saints passed on Kenny Pickett and instead opted to replace Terron Armstead on the left side of the offensive line by selecting Trevor Penning:
Kiper’s pick: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
With two first-round picks now, the Saints could keep their picks or try to move up for a quarterback. If they keep them, they have to get a starting right tackle. And ultimately, if they think they are a contender, they should focus on guys who can play immediately. Penning is a nasty finisher.
In the two picks immediately following the Saints’ selection at 16, a pair of defensive players - Georgia DT Jordan Davis and Michigan DB Daxton Hill - were picked, leaving the Saints with yet another opportunity to draft Kenny Pickett if the team so desired.
Instead, the Saints take the best receiver on the board, picking Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave:
19. New Orleans Saints (via PHI) McShay’s pick: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Mel took care of Terron Armstead‘s replacement at offensive tackle (Penning), so I’ll fi nish the fi rst-round job forthe Saints with a receiver. Michael Thomas hasn’t been on the fi eld much over the past two seasons, and thedepth chart is pretty weak beyond him. Olave is a smooth route runner with the ability to make vertical plays.
Pickett ended up going one pick later to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and fellow RAS-star, Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder, was the last pick of the first round, going 32nd overall to the Detroit Lions. Ole Miss QB Matt Corral was first quarterback taken in the second round, 40th overall to the Seattle Seahawks.
When the Saints were on the clock with the 49th pick, the were left with few options at glaring positions of need, so they opted for North Carolina signal-caller Sam Howell:
49. New Orleans Saints
McShay’s pick: Sam Howell, QB, UNC
I promise I’m not making this pick solely because Mel has drafted the first four quarterbacks. Let Howell develop— his footwork, for one, needs some work — behind Jameis Winston and see what you have. His touch on the deep ball stands out on tape.
At the end of the third round, the Saints made their first pick on the defensive side of the ball, selecting Baylor safety JT Woods:
98. New Orleans Saints
Kiper’s pick: JT Woods, S, Baylor
Baylor has produced several talented prospects recently, and could have two safeties in the top 100 picks this year. Woods had nine picks over the past three seasons, and he has big-time track speed. He could take some reps as a third safety as a rookie.
Woods is an elite-speed strong safety who lacks the strength and weight to play a significant amount of snaps in the box. Even still, he put up high RAS numbers, meaning a team like New Orleans could very well be interested.
JT Woods is a SS prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.42 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 50 out of 843 SS from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/kqaS0v8ACs #RAS pic.twitter.com/t0SjlrBVds— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 8, 2022
Speaking of RAS, North Carolina QB Sam Howell did not test to have a RAS score generated, so it is unclear how his metrics would have looked compared to a high-RAS guy like Kenny Pickett or Desmond Ridder. That being said, the pick of Howell in the third round seems even less likely when considering Howell only satisfied five of Bill Parcell’s seven rules for a quarterback prospect.
If the board indeed fell this way into the third round and New Orleans already selected Penning and Olave, it might make sense to skip quarterback all together in this draft and see if last year’s third round prospect, Ian Book, could continue to develop instead. UCLA tight end Greg Dulich (selected 59th overall by the Green Bay Packers) would be a viable replacement option with the 49th pick. Another interesting option there could have been rising draft star Nick Cross, a safety out of Maryland. He’s only 20-years-old and has elite size and speed to be a free safety star in the future to replace the departed Marcus Williams.
If the Saints grabbed Cross with the 49th pick, the JT Woods selection with the 98th pick probably has to get re-thought. LSU defensive tackle Neil Farrell, Jr. could make a lot of sense there to help plug the middle of the Saints defensive line.