The New Orleans Saints are going to head into the late-April, early-May 2021 NFL Draft with a plethora of positions that could use upgrades. The most notable will be wide receiver, cornerback, and linebacker.
The Saints entered the offseason handicapped by the salary cap, but they have since clearly more than nine figures in cap space, freeing up the team to re-sign Jameis Winston and slap the franchise tag on Marcus Williams.
With the 2021 NFL Draft at the end of next month, what positional group should the New Orleans Saints target with their first-round pick?
New Orleans did clear the space they needed to. They kept the pieces that will maintain their ability to dominant. However, they may quickly figure out that gutting a team’s depth is going to cause major issues.
While the team wasn’t able to bring back Trey Hendrickson or Jared Cook, they released Janoris Jenkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Nick Easton, and Kwon Alexander. Alex Anzalone is also a player that is unlikely to return.
Most of those players have now signed elsewhere with Hendrickson teaming up with Vonn Bell in Cincinnati, Jenkins headed to Tennessee, and Sanders in Buffalo. Their absence may be able to be supplemented by the team’s draft class.
Prior to Winston’s official return, some mock drafts had the Saints as favorites to land Mac Jones.
However, their most critical position will be cornerback, and it should be Caleb Farley or Asante Samuel Jr. that they take with the No. 28 overall pick. Patrick Surtain II may also be an option at the end of the first round.
Nonetheless, the point isn’t who the Saints but what positional group they should target. Without a true No. 2 cornerback, that’s going to be the most pressing need. The Saints added Zach Baun last offseason. He was a third-round pick yet played limited snaps last season.
As for receiver, the Saints have Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris who should be able to step up with Sanders not returning.
The cornerback slot does have C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Patrick Robinson, but neither is necessarily the player New Orleans will permanently want guarding the opponent’s second-best receiver.
Gardner-Johnson was typically used as the team’s nickel cornerback and may not serve as a solid full-time No. 2. Samuel Jr. or Surtain could certainly fill the void and should be at the top of the Saints’ big board come late April.