New Orleans Saints 7-Round Mock Draft: Post-Combine Edition
Saints Will Look To The 2014 NFL Draft To Address Major Needs
The 2013 NFL Season was bittersweet for most New Orleans Saints fans. The eventual Super Bowl Champions, the Seattle Seahawks, eliminated them from the NFL Playoffs. On one hand, this marked just another season that the Saints failed to make it back to the Super Bowl. On the other, the 2013 season was a transition for one entire unit, the defense, who switched to a 3-4 base under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Although the Saints currently have one of the five-worst salary cap situations in the entire league, they also don’t have that many holes to fill on their roster. Their biggest needs—cornerback, wide receiver and edge rusher, are also the positions that are the most talent-heavy in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Starting on the offensive side of the ball, it was quite evident that Drew Brees needed an infusion of talent at the wide receiver position in 2013. Mid-round rookie wide receiver Kenny Stills had flashes of excellence and served as a situational deep threat, but he couldn’t move the chains underneath—an essential component of the Sean Payton offensive scheme. Marques Colston seems to have lost another step and the Saints should look to what is undoubtedly the best wide receiver draft class in the last decade to provide Brees another weapon.
Hopefully, after releasing Roman Harper, Will Smith and Jabari Greer, and creating $16.9 million in salary cap space, the Saints will be able to retain right tackle Zach Strief. With plenty of salary cap already allocated to both guards, Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans, it seems less likely that they will be able to re-sign free agent center Brian De La Puente. The Saints will need to find a center in free agency or the draft.
On defense, Ryan’s defensive scheme and on-point play calling can hide many of their weaknesses. The Saints’ roster was one of the least talented on the defensive side of the ball in 2013, aside from one breakout campaign by Cameron Jordan. Even so, they improved from the worst statistical defense in 2012 to a top 10 defense by most measures this past season.
Please remember, the Saints have six draft picks as of now because they previously traded away their seventh-round selection.
Without further ado, the slideshow above features a full mock draft that I believe matches the Saints’ need with the best values in the draft.
Dan Schneier is a New York Giants writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @pff_dansc, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network through Google.
Round 1, 27th Overall – Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State (Cornerback)
A sound argument can be made that Darqueze Dennard is the best cornerback in this year’s draft class. An even better argument can be made that he is the best cornerback for Rob Ryan’s scheme. Originally, considered a top 15 overall pick, Dennard’s forty-yard-dash time, 4.51, is likely to drop him to the end of round one. This is foolish—he is the best press-man coverage cornerback in the draft by far. Dennard was tested in single coverage more than any other cornerback in 2013, and he consistently won his matchup. He possesses excellent technique and football IQ and he is an aggressive tackler. The Saints have a major need at cornerback, and with Dennard they are getting the best in his class and a perfect fit.
Round 2, 58th Overall – Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt (Wide Receiver)
Due to the overall depth and top-end flashiness of this year’s wide receiver class, Jordan Matthews has flown entirely under the radar. At 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds he clocked a 4.46 forty-yard-dash—one of the better size and speed combinations in the entire class. More importantly, he enters the draft as one of the most polished receivers in the entire class. Heis known for his football IQ, route running and willingness to work underneath and move the chains. Not only will the Saints be drafting for value with Matthews, but they will also be filling a need on the offense that Colston struggled to fulfill in 2013.
Round 3, 91st Overall – Christian Kirksey, Iowa (Linebacker)
Christian Kirksey is a player who is going to be underrated based on questions about his size. Like many underdrafted Big Ten prospects before him (Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman, Paul Poslusczny), judging strictly from his on-field performance he should be a first-round pick. Kirksey’s game compares most to Sean Lee, as he is a rangy linebacker that excels in pass coverage. He can play all the different linebacker spots in any scheme. For my full scouting report, click here.
Round 4, 122nd Overall – Adrian Hubbard, Alabama (Outside Linebacker)
Billed as a bit of a tweener prospect, Adrian Hubbard had his best season in 2013 when he finally got ample playing time. Hubbard is a perfect fit for Rob Ryan’s hybrid 3-4 defense that sometimes features a 4-3 look. Hubbard is a lengthy prospect at 6-foot-6, 257 pounds and should immediately make an impact as an edge rusher for the Saints on situational passing downs.
Round 5, 155th Overall – Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin (Wide Receiver)
When evaluating Jared Abbrederis, please never look up his bench press at the NFL Combine (hint: he had under 5 total reps). Aside from his ability to push a metal bar, Abbrederis completed an underrated career this past season that he began as a walk-on. Look up his highlights against Ohio State from this season—when matched up across from top-end cornerback prospect Bradly Roby, he torched him for 204 yards on 10 catches and added a touchdown. Some scouts say he runs the best double-move out of all the prospects at his position. With Colston’s time running out fast, this is perfect draft for the Saints to re-tool at the wide receiver position.
Round 6, 186th Overall – Tyler Larsen, Utah State (Center)
Many so-called draft experts have discounted Tyler Larsen because he didn’t start for a major conference school. Larsen did not run the forty-yard-dash at the NFL Combine, and it has led to his draft stock dropping even further. With players like Larsen, you just have to trust what you see on the field. He was one of six finalists for the 2013 Rimington Trophy, which is given annually to the most outstanding center in college football. Also, his combine wasn’t a complete miss, as he posted 36 bench press reps, good for the second-most among all offensive linemen.