With the NFL Draft within sight, I decided to make my official New Orleans Saints mock draft using Pro Football Network’s mock draft simulator, and let me just say, I love the results.
Pick 29: Lukas Van Ness (Edge)
With the Saints biggest need being a Defensive Tackle and all the rumors circulating about the Saints doing their due diligence on Kancey, he seems like the obvious pick. At first, I loved the idea of drafting Kancey, but the more I dig there’s one glaring issue with him: The Saints never draft D-lineman that are as small as he is. While there’s always a time for firsts, I don’t think it’s this year, especially with rumors he may land in top 20. So, instead, I’m picking Lukas Van Ness.
Van Ness is super strong and shows it by bull rushing opposing tackles all year. He has 4.58 speed and uses it to make plays in the backfield and in pursuit of the QB. He has experience playing inside and outside and can bring some athleticism and versatility to the Saints defensive front. He needs to learn a more diverse set of pass rush moves, but with some veterans on the roster, I’m confident he can do just that.
Pick 40: Drew Sanders (LB)
I’ve already raved about this kid in previous articles, but Sanders is an absolute stud at linebacker, and I would honestly be surprised if he’s still on the board for this pick. He led Arkansas in tackles and sacks last year with 103 and 9.5 respectively. He can do basically everything well from the linebacker position and would be a great replacement for Kaden Ellis.
Pick 74 via CLE: Tucker Kraft (TE)
I was offered a trade from the Browns to move back from 71 in exchange for picks 74 and 142. Zach Charbonnet was on the board, but I figured I could still find a good running back later (and I did), so I moved back and the Browns selected the Michigan RB at 71.
Kraft comes in at 6’5, 254 and uses his size very well in run blocking duties. He uses his frame to make contested catches and is surprisingly athletic for his size. His main weakness is his route running. He gets sloppy at the top of routes but makes up for it with great hands. He would slide into the TE2 spot behind Juwan Johnson and could see a good amount of snaps as a rookie.
Pick 125 via LAC: Tyjae Spears (RB)
I was offered another trade, this time by the Los Angeles Chargers. I gave up pick 115 in exchange for picks 125 and 239. I knew I would be able to get my guy Tyjae Spears at 125, so I figured why not pick up an extra late round pick?
I cannot say enough how much I love Tyjae Spears. He is everything you want in a running back and honestly, I don’t know why he isn’t ranked higher. He totaled 1,800 yards and 21 touchdowns last year at Tulane and was one of the best players at the Senior Bowl. He’s a very smooth runner and can run multiple routes out of the backfield. He is exactly the type of running back the Saints like and they should sprint to the podium to grab him with this pick.
Pick 142: Moro Ojomo (DT)
With the Browns other pick, I selected DT Moro Ojomo. He is a little undersized at the defensive tackle position, but he plays fast. He has a quick first step and uses it to his advantage against blockers that are bigger and slower than he is. Despite being a five year player at Texas, he is only 21 years old and that’s potentially his biggest strength. He still has a lot of growing to do and can take some time to learn and get stronger before stepping into a larger role.
Pick 146: Michael Wilson (WR)
Wilson played five years of college ball at Stanford where he was voted team captain. Wilson has battled some injuries during his college career, but has shown promise when he’s on the field. He is one of the best blocking receivers in this draft and gives 100% on every play. Although his college stats don’t stick out too much, he could become a solid rotational receiver and special teamer for the Saints.
Pick 165: Andrew Vorhees (OG)
With Andrus Peats future with the Saints in question, I figured picking up a guard in this draft made sense. Vorhees is a veteran guard from USC who has five years of starting experience. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury at the combine which allowed him to fall this far. He has some learning to do when he gets to the second level in run blocking, but he’s a solid pass blocker and could be a rotational player with some experience.
Pick 227: Nick Herbig (Edge)
Herbig was a three year started at Wisconsin. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with athleticism. The prototypical NFL edge rusher is getting smaller and more athletic every year, and Herbig possesses the traits of a potential NFL starter one day. At Wisconsin, 26% of his tackles resulted in tackles for loss. He uses his athleticism to get low and around bigger offensive tackles. He isn’t as strong as most edge rushers, but with an NFL strength coach, he can put on muscle and learn how to use his strength along with his agility.
Pick 239: Matt Landers (WR)
This pick is all about potential. Landers is 6’4 and can absolutely fly, boasting a 4.37 40-yard dash. Landers began his career at Georgia before transferring to Arkansas last season, and despite his size, he has really strong footwork. Surprisingly, he struggled with boxing out CBs and coming down with contested catches. He has high upside for a seventh-round receiver, and if he can learn to use his frame to boxout defenders and high point the football, he could earn some snaps as early as this season.
Pick 257: Malik Cunningham (QB)
At this point in the draft, you’re looking for any upside you can find in a player. Much like Landers, Cunningham has a ton of upside for a seventh-round pick but could also be a total bust. He was a very dynamic rusher but struggled as a passer in 2022. He could play a role similar to Taysom Hill, lining up at different positions on the field because of his dynamic rushing ability, but I don’t think he has a chance of being a legitimate starter in the NFL.
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