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Bulking up the line: defensive linemen the Saints can draft

Tuttle, Onyemata departures create an urgent draft need.

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The “cap god” Mickey Loomis has made some impressive moves so far this offseason. Adding Jamaal Williams, Derek Carr, and Nathan Shepherd while resigning most of your top offensive producers is an impressive feat with such limited cap space.

However, one of the “cap casualties” this season was not just one, but two starting defensive linemen along with DE Marcus Davenport.

Although the New Orleans Saints have recently signed free agents Nathan Shepherd (NYJ) and Khalen Saunders (KCC), there is still an undeniable need for more talent at defensive tackle. In fact, more and more mock drafts are showing the Saints drafting a defensive tackle in the first round.

Luckily, there is some fantastic DT talent available in the draft that might be available at pick number 29 or 40.

Here are some of the DT prospects that could be available for New Orleans.

  1. Calijah Kancey - Pitt

PFF Overall Rank: 13

PFF Position Rank: 2

Given their current depth chart, Loomis should have Kancey triple-circled on his draft board. In just 33 games with Pitt, he recorded 91 total tackles, 16 sacks, and 34.5 tackles-for-loss. He only weighs in at 275 pounds, but his quickness and agility are his money makers.

He’s had an amazing career at Pitt, and his athleticism was on full display at the combine. He could very easily go before pick number 29, but he is certainly worth moving up a few spots. Kancey is my top choice for pick number 29.

2. Bryan Bresee - Clemson

PFF Overall Rank: 34

PFF Position Rank: 3

Bresee is another great candidate for the Saints’ first round pick. In his 25 games at Clemson, he recorded 51 total tackles, nine sacks, and 15 TFL. The former top high school prospect is incredibly agile for his size and penetrates most pockets with ease.

Like Kancey, he very well could be gone before pick number 29. If he’s still on the board, Bresee is another player that I truly believe is worth trading up for if Kancey is gone. He can have an immediate impact on this defense as a rookie.

3. Mazi Smith - Michigan

PFF Overall Rank: 20

PFF Position Rank: 4

Although he’s not a top-three DT prospect, Smith might be the best available option for the Saints’ first-round pick. He had a ridiculous 2022 season with Michigan, recording 48 total tackles.

If the Saints are committed to drafting a DT in the first round, Smith would still be an excellent option and deserves to be picked as high as pick 29. He’s primarily a run-stopper, which was an issue for New Orleans last year.

4. Siaki Ika - Baylor

PFF Overall Rank: 65

PFF Position Rank: 5

Ika might be the only option on this list that would probably not be a great idea to pick in the first round. However, he’s still one of the country’s best linemen and could make an immediate impact for Dennis Allen and the Saints. He played four college seasons, two with LSU and two with Baylor, and recorded 70 total tackles and 10.5 TFL during his career.

Ika could be a great option in the second or third round if the Saints draft a different position in the first round.

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