The NFL Draft is a day away. Finally. But still, the hours until 8 PM feel like an eternity. The New Orleans Saints won’t see the podium (as of now) until the 11th pick, so Saints fans will have to wait even longer for the long awaited moment.
Who will it be? As always, we can’t say for sure. But as we enter into the final legs of mock draft season, things have gotten a great deal clearer. We can say with some certainty where certain players are likely to fall. There are still some huge mysteries, in this draft class more so than most. Gareon Conley and the recent sexual assault allegation are the latest wrench in the projections. I’ve heard reports that the allegations may turn out to be bogus, and whether or not teams can clear his name in time will determine how far if at all Conley will fall. Off the field issues notwithstanding, Conley is an excellent cornerback who could be a great fit for the New Orleans Saints. If they can clear his name, he’d fit in nicely at pick 11.
Without knowing any better, I’m going to have to bracket Conley and leave him off my final board. We have great information that leads us to our picks, and leaving in a wild-card like Conley wouldn’t do our readers justice.
Let’s get started.
With the eleventh pick in the draft, the New Orleans Saints select…
Haason Reddick — Temple, linebacker
I want to be clear about something that won’t sit well with Saints fans: if Christian McCaffrey is still here at 11, the Saints will pick him. Yes, even with Adrian Peterson. He’s just too good of a fit in Sean Payton’s offense. He could easily lineup in two-RB sets with one of Ingram or AD. This offense would be better than 2011.
But McCaffrey is unlikely to make it down this far. He could come off the board before Leonard Fournette, who I don’t imagine the Saints would select at this point even if he fell.
And if McCaffrey’s gone, Reddick is the Saints pick. Not Barnett, not Taco, not Humphrey. The Saints will come into the draft, especially the 11th pick, with a BPA mentality. And while Derek Barnett or a CB might address a bigger need, Reddick has the highest upside and — despite claims to the contrary — has a pretty high ceiling as well.
Dennis Allen is a creative defensive schemer. The Saints, under Allen, have a history of rolling out three-safety sets. That tendency is largely due to personnel. If the Saints land Haason Reddick, expect to see many more three-LB sets. Allen could sneak Reddick on the field for early downs alongside Ellerbe and A.J. Klein, and then line him up as a pass-rusher on third downs and passing situations.
Reddick’s greatest attribute is his versatility, something that the Saints value very high. He can play MLB or WLB in a pinch with little to no growing pain. He can cover, he can run and hit, he can explode off the line and bend around tackles. It would take him a few years to reach his full potential, but even then he’s ready to contribute immediately. He wouldn’t be the staring base DE, but he’d be a game changer in his first year and a defensive superstar within a couple of seasons.