March 20, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton answers questions from reporters during the annual NFL meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
We are a week out from the 2013 NFL draft and the New Orleans Saints are still a mystery. With obvious holes at offensive tackle and all along the defense, it is hard to predict how head coach Sean Payton and Co. will proceed.
We’ll attempt a prediction anyway.
Mock drafts are all the rage this time of year, and no team may be more interesting to mock than the Saints. Quarterback Drew Brees is without a franchise left tackle and the defense is coming off the worst statistical season in NFL history.
Sounds like the recipe for an entertaining mock.
Below you will find an updated mock for the Saints based on team needs and how the Saints could behave each round. For the purposes of this mock, we will ignore the fact the Saints could trade down. Read on to find out how the Saints bout with the 2013 NFL draft could play out.
First round (No. 15 overall) — Menelik Watson, OT, Florida St.
September 29, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Rashad Greene (80) is congratulated by offensive linesman Menelik Watson (71) after they scored a touchdown against the South Florida Bulls during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The biggest hole in New Orleans is at left tackle. Protecting Brees has to be a priority no matter what. Outside linebacker is a popular pick here, but with Victor Butler, Martez Wilson and others duking it out for playing time, the team may be better than some think at the spot.
Unfortunately for the Saints, this pick puts them in a position to miss out on potentially the top three tackles in the draft—Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson.
That’s fine, because Florida State product Menelik Watson should still be on the board. Watson is a mauling tackle at 6’5″ and 310 pounds and is the definition of a raw prospect. Still, Watson could come in and start right away thanks to his sheer athleticism and will do just fine thanks to Brees’ ability to get rid of the ball quickly.
Third round (No. 75) — John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Mar 21, 2013; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman John Jenkins runs a drill during Georgia pro day at the University of Georgia. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
After offensive tackle, defensive tackle needs to be the next position addressed. The Saints have the personnel of a 4-3 team but are attempting to switch to a 3-4.
That can’t be done without a proper nose tackle, and Brodrick Bunkley has never played in a 3-4.
Enter John Jenkins, a 6’4″ and 346 pound mammoth who made his collegiate living on the interior of the Georgia defensive line. Jenkins is a dominating presence who disrupts all types of plays by clogging lanes and over-powering multiple offensive linemen at the same time.
Just what the doctor (or Rob Ryan?) ordered.
Fourth round (No. 109) –Cornelius Washington, OLB, Georgia
Jan 26, 2013; Mobile, AL, USA; Senior Bowl south squad defensive lineman Cornelius Washington of Georgia (83) against the Senior Bowl north squad during the first half of the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
With the two biggest needs out of the way, the Saints can now look to add more talent in the form of pass-rushers.
That’s where Cornelius Washington comes into play here in the fourth.
Washington is likely going to last until the fourth round because he was not properly utilized during his time at Georgia and was overshadowed by names like Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones.
This could end up being the steal of the draft. Washington is a pure pass-rusher in every sense of the word. He’s oozing with talent, and while not an every-down player yet, will be exactly what the Saints need on the outside edge of the defense in passing situations for years to come.
Fifth round (No. 144) — Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
Oct 20, 2012; Fort Worth, TX, USA; TCU Horned Frogs wide receiver Josh Boyce (82) runs a pattern during the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Texas Tech won 56-53. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Devery Henderson is gone, so the Saints need a burner in the slot. Yes, Joseph Morgan fills that role, but it can’ t hurt to add more talent late in the draft.
Josh Boyce out of TCU is sort of fast. Try 4.34 40-yard dash fast. He’s a prototypical slot receiver at the NFL level who will fit well with the Saints aerial attack and could see extensive playing time in his rookie season if he has an impressive offseason.
Sixth round (No. 183) — Josh Johson, CB, Purdue
Nov 10, 2012; Iowa City, IA, USA; Purdue Boilermakers cornerback Josh Johnson (28) during the first quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports
The Saints are searching for answers at the cornerback position and found at least one in the form of Keenan Lewis. Picking a corner here is not going to allow the Saints to rid themselves of the ridiculous Jabari Greer contract, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Purdue’s Josh Johnson is known for being a physical corner who plays well in all kinds of coverages. So what makes him fall to the sixth round? He was the slowest corner at the scouting combine.
Johnson may not have the speed to make it as a corner, but he could also see time at safety as a run defender—another area of need for the future in New Orleans.