It is amazing how much can change in the NFL in just a couple of years. The New Orleans Saints have gone from the head coach/quarterback combination of future Hall of Famers Sean Payton and Drew Brees to former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Dennis Allen and Jameis Winston as his incumbent signal-caller.
Quarterback is obviously a position that can be upgraded, but the Saints also lost Pro Bowl LT Terron Armstead to the Miami Dolphins in free agency. There are also holes on the offensive side at wide receiver and tight end, with New Orleans struggling to find an offensive identity as Payton willed this team to a 9-8 record in 2021.
Definitively, the Saints lost Marcus Williams as a free agent, but they believe they have covered for the safety loss by signing former New York Jet Marcus Maye. Free agent safety Tyrann Mathieu could also be in option once everything clears up with the draft. In addition, the Saints have two picks in the top 20 and four in the top 100, so there is scope to trade around. Assuming they stick with what they have, this is how we see their draft going.
Round 1 (16 Overall) Chris Olave, Ohio State WR
Some projections out there have Chris Olave going to the Saints with their No. 16 overall pick. Being able to take one of the best tackles in the draft and then still having Olave slip to them at 19 would be a dream scenario.
This is a deep, wide receiver class, but the Saints need a No. 1 target as badly as anyone in the league. They are just three teams to have not had a receiver pass the 800-yard receiving mark in each of the last two seasons (Jets and Giants). Olave is arguably the smoothest route runner in the class, and he has the speed to stretch defenses alongside the returning Michael Thomas.
Round 1 (19 Overall) Tyler Smith, Tulsa OT
This is a reach on value, but it fills a huge need for the Saints with left tackle Terron Armstead leaving for the Miami Dolphins in free agency. Smith must clean up his penalties (16 last season), but he has the quickness and reactive agility to be a very productive left tackle
If it’s not Smith here, the Saints could look at Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann, but he’s also a project at the position. The best bet for a Day 1 tackle is Smith. If the coaching staff feels that Smith is not ready for action, Ryan Ramczyk can man the position until he is up to speed.
Round 2 (49 Overall) Nick Cross, Maryland S
Getting a young safety in the defensive backs rotation is a point of emphasis for the Saints throughout the NFL Draft weekend. Nick Cross runs a 4.34 40-yard-dash and is an aggressive and explosive playmaker. The modern safety needs to be able to cover as well as he hits, and in Cross, the Saints would have an anchor to build their secondary around over the next few seasons.
Round 3 (98 Overall) James Cook, Georgia RB
The NFL has been shifting towards offensive playmakers with defined skill sets, and James Cook falls squarely into that profile. Cook – brother of one of the NFL’s best backs in Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings – is too small to be an every-down back in the league. However, he is a touchdown waiting to happen every time he gets the ball. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry at Georgia, and his 4.42 40-yard dash is ideal for a running back in the modern NFL. Assuming Alvin Kamara is suspended for his off the field incident, Cook would be incredibly dangerous as a change of pace back.
Round 4 (120 Overall) Charlie Kolar, Iowa State TE
Getting down to the fourth round and lower in the draft, teams look for fits at positions or players high on their board that has fallen down the order. Charlie Kolar is a player that the Saints have been targeting as they have a real need for an athletic, playmaking tight end. The 6-foot-6.5, 252-pound Kolar has soft hands, excellent work habits, and understands how to use his body to create a massive target. As it isn’t, his elite measurements and statistical production would be far too much for the Saints to ignore here.
Round 5 (161 Overall) Jojo Domann, Nebraska LB
Jojo Domann is a touch undersized to be an every down-linebacker in the NFL. What Domann can be, however, is that hybrid linebacker/safety that teams are using more and more as offenses try to spread defenses and target favorable matchups. Domman filled the stat sheet at Nebraska (he had 72 tackles, two sacks, two picks, and two forced fumbles in 2021), and he would be drafted much higher if it weren’t for concerns about his durability. Domann plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he would quickly become a fan favorite in the Big Easy.
Round 6 (198 Overall) Neil Farrell Jr., LSU DT
The Saints might take a flyer on a quarterback here, but issues with depth along the defensive front make Neil Farrell Jr. a solid option. Farrell is a massive body at 6-foot-4 and 330 pounds, and he would instantly upgrade the Saints’ run defense rotation at the defensive tackle spot. In addition, he is a player with surprising quickness off the snap for his size, and he controls the point of attack while effectively taking on blockers. Farrell was a force at LSU, but poor testing measurables at the combine make him excellent value here.
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