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2022 SB Nation NFL mock draft: Saints select Penn State S Jaquan Brisker

An offensive lineman here would have been great, but it was impossible to pass on an immediate plug-and-play defensive back.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Rutgers at Penn State Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

To recap, so far the New Orleans Saints have selected QB Kenny Pickett out of Pitt with the 16th pick in the SB Nation mock draft, and then grabbed WR Garrett Wilson out of Ohio State three picks later. That leaves the Saints needing an offensive tackle, safety, tight end, and defensive tackle by the time the Saints came on the clock again with the 49th pick.

For the 49th pick, it would have been great if an offensive tackle fell for great value in the second round. Because this didn’t happen, we looked at the defensive side of the ball. With Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker still available, we were able to address a position of need for New Orleans without reaching for player with a third round grade.

Brisker is a safety who can play both a strong safety and free safety role on this defense, an almost identical situation the Saints will have with 2022 signee Marcus Maye. Here’s what NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein has to say about Brisker, PFF’s 40th ranked prospect:

Athletic safety prospect whose versatility and toughness will endear him to coaches during the evaluation process. Brisker continued to pick up elements of the defensive scheme and his play has steadily transformed from hesitant in 2019 to downright instinctive in 2021. He has the versatility to become a moving chess piece in a variety of coverages and has the size and talent to match up with both “Y” and “F” tight ends. He played with a banged-up shoulder in 2021 so his 2020 tape is a clearer indicator of his run support acumen. Brisker is an ascending talent with the NFL traits to become a long-time starter as a Day 2 draft pick.

If we’re talking about the Saints and we’re talking about draft prospects, you know RAS (“Relative Athletic Score”) is going to come up. The New Orleans front office historically targets players who score highly as elite athletes, and Brisker fits the profile to a “T.”

With Malcolm Jenkins departing for retirement and Marcus Maye capable of filling in as either a strong safety or free safety, the Saints have the option of adding the best pure safety available, regardless of positioning. Brisker gives the Saints the ability to add another player to play alongside Maye and move around the defensive formations to try to confuse opposing quarterbacks.