Saints draft primer: Ideal Saints mock draft and targets by round
By Najy Masri
It's finally almost draft time for the New Orleans Saints. Here is what we consider a best case-scenario and what Saints fans need to know in the build-up.
The New Orleans Saints enter the 2023 NFL Draft with a total of eight selections. Mickey Loomis and Jeff Ireland are known to upgrade the roster through free agency and approach the draft with a “best player available” philosophy. The Saints solved their primary offseason need with the signing of quarterback Derek Carr. However, the Saints approach to this year’s draft may center on solving depth issues along the defensive line as well as acquiring additional playmakers on offense. If the past is any indication, do not expect the Saints to finish the draft without using draft assets to move up in the draft to ensure the selection of a targeted player. Let's see what could shape up as the ideal Saints mock draft.
FIRST ROUND (PICK 29) – DT Mazi Smith Michigan
First Round Bubble – DT Calijeh Kancey Pittsburgh, OG O’Cyrus Torrence Florida, DT Bryan Bresee Clemson, TE Micheal Mayer Notre Dame, CB/S Brian Branch Alabama
The Saints had the 27th ranked run defense in 2022 and lost starting defensive tackles David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle in free agency. Despite the additions of Khalen Saunders and Nathan Shepherd this offseason, defensive line remains a concern entering the 2023 draft.
Mazi Smith has amazing athletic traits for his 6’3”, 337 pound frame. Despite not testing at the NFL combine, Smith logged 22 reps of 325 pounds on the bench press and had almost a 30" vertical at his pro day. New Orleans made no secret last year of their affinity for massive Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis, and like Davis, Smith has the ability to take on double teams to maintain gap control while showing a quick first step in getting upfield.
Calijeh Kancey is another consideration, but the Saints do not usually budge from their requisite size even in the unlikely circumstance he is available at 29. O'Cyrus Torrence and Michael Mayer are prototypes for their positions but are also not expected to be available late in the first round. This is also an opportunity for the Saints to finally trade back with a team looking to move up for a quarterback such as Hendon Hooker and gain that coveted 5th year rookie option, a strategy not employed by Loomis and company in the last 20 draft-day trades but something to be considered as the heart of this draft lies in day two selections.
SECOND ROUND (PICK 40) – RB Jahmyr Gibbs Alabama
Second Round Bubble – DE Adetomiwa Adebawore Northwestern, OG Cody Mauch North Dakota State, DT Keannu Benton Wisconsin, TE Darnell Washington Georgia, OG Steve Avila TCU, TE Luke Musgrave Oregon St, QB Hendon Hooker Tennessee
Alvin Kamara may go down as one of the most beloved Saints of all time. However, Kamara, in addition to likely facing a multi-game suspension this upcoming season, carries a cap hit of $19 million in 2024 and 29 million in 2025. Jahmyr Gibbs displays lateral foot speed and dynamic receiving traits similar to Kamara himself. He could easily fill in for Kamara this season while potentially allowing the Saints to move on from Kamara’s albatross contract in future years.
If the Saints don’t address defensive line first round, Adetomiwa Adebawore or Keannu Benton would be excellent selections. Both players played in this year’s Senior Bowl and Adebawore had a top 30 visit with the Saints this past month. Cody Mauch and Steve Avila would both provide insurance for starting guards Andrus Peat and Cesar Ruiz, both of whom are in the last years of their contracts. The Saints could add to their tight end room with the selections of either Darnell Washington or Luke Musgrave, both massive pass catchers who could play combine with the ascending Juwan Johnson to give the Saints multiple weapons at that position.
THIRD ROUND (PICK 71) – DE Isaiah Foskey Notre Dame
Third Round Bubble – RB Zach Charbonnet UCLA, RB Tyjae Spears Tulane, RB Devone Achane Texas A&M, DT Siaki Ika Baylor, S Antonio Harrison Texas A+M
Isaiah Foskey fits the aforementioned prototypical size the Saints look for at the defensive end position. Foskey, a 6’5’ 264 pound edge rusher, ran an impressive 4.58 40 and recently broke the Notre Dame record for career sacks previously held by Justin Tuck. Foskey would inject some youth and athleticism to a unit that includes an aging Cam Jordan and the unproven Payton Turner.
As can be seen by the bubble, this is clearly the round the Saints should consider adding to their running back room if they don’t choose Gibbs in round two. Tyjae Spears impressed at this year’s Senior Bowl and Zach Charbonnet posted an extraordinary 9.68 Relative Athletic Score. Devone Achane showed explosive traits at Texas A&M and the Saints thought enough of him to bring him to New Orleans for a pre-draft visit. Siaki Ika would be a solid fallback option along the interior defensive line in the third round if not addressed earlier. Antonio Harrison likely provides the best value at the safety position in the entire draft.
THIRD ROUND (PICK 102) – WR Jonathan Mingo Ole Mis
- Saints trade Picks 115, 146, and 257 to the 49ers for Pick 102
Late Third Round Bubble - DT Gervon Dexter Jr Florida, CB Cam Smith South Carolina, S Quan Martin Illinois, LB Yasir Abdullah Louisville, S Jammie Robinson Florida State
The Saints’ propensity for trading up at some point in the NFL draft plus the 49ers surplus of compensatory picks (3) in the third round make these teams likely trade partners. In this draft-day trade, the Saints gain an additional day two selection at the end of the third round without having to sacrifice any 2024 draft picks.
Jonathan Mingo, whose draft stock is surging, may not be available at this point in the draft, but if he is, the Saints would be aggressive in moving up to select him. Mingo's athleticism was on full display when he posted a 9.86 RAS at the combine and his specialty is contested pass-catching, a trait that Dennis Allen has said is a priority in adding to the wide receiver room alongside Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, and Michael Thomas.
Gervon Dexter's athletic upside would also be an interesting addition, especially given his familiarity with Saints defensive line coach Todd Grantham, who served as Florida's defensive coordinator two years ago. New Orleans could also look to add to the secondary with Cam Smith and Quan Martin, both of whom had private workouts with the Saints this offseason.
Yair Abdullah, who scored a 9.38 RAS and has vast experience on special teams, could be the Kaden Ellis replacement the team is looking for. The Saints could also use their extra third round pick to draft a versatile Florida State defensive back in Jammie Robinson, much like they did with PJ Williams in 2015.
FIFTH ROUND (PICK 165) – QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson UCLA
Fifth Round Bubble – DT Karl Brooks Bowling Green, RB Kendre Miller TCU, DT Keondre Coburn Texas, RB Dewayne McBride UAB, G Sidy Sow Eastern Michigan, LB DeMarvion Overshown Texas, CB Cory Trice Jr Purdue, WR André Iosivas Princeton
Dorian Thompson-Robinson is the perfect complement to Derek Carr and Jameis Winston. Winston’s contract was restructured in such a way that it is essentially a one-year deal. Thompson-Robinson possesses the high upside athletic traits that teams should look for in a developmental quarterback.
Dewayne McBride and Kendre Miller are two running backs who both had top 30 visits with New Orleans, as did cornerback Cory Trice Jr. DeMarvion Overshown also visited with the Saints, and provides the size the team prefers in a MIKE linebacker.
The Saints have done well in the past with day three offensive lineman selections, and Sidey Sow, with his athletic traits, could add to that list. Brooks impressed at the Senior Bowl and had ten sacks as a senior in a David Onyemata type role. André Iosivas in particular, also had a productive Senior Bowl and measured an astonishing 9.96 on the Relative Athletic Score, possessing traits similar to last year's Christian Watson.
SEVENTH ROUND (PICK 227) – OG McClendon Curtis Tennessee-Chatanooga
Seventh Round Bubble – WR Justin Shorter Florida, LB/S Marte Mapu Sacamento St, CB Jarrick Bernard-Converse LSU, WR Rakim Jarrett Maryland, QB Stetson Bennett, CB Kaleb Hayes BYU, OG Andrew Voorhies USC
A contingent from New Orleans, including head coach Dennis Allen, met with Curtis at the Senior Bowl. McClendon Curtis was a team captain at Tennessee-Chatanooga and could eventually succeed Andrus Peat or Cesar Ruiz if either was not resigned at the end of next season.
The Saints used one of their top 30 visits on Rakim Jarrett, and him or Justin Shorter could fill the WR5 role for New Orleans this season. Jarrick Bernard-Converse or Kaleb Hayes could provide some quality depth for the Saints in the defensive backfield. The wildcard of the draft remains two-time national champion Stetson Bennett, who could eventually serve as a quality backup quarterback to Derek Carr in New Orleans.
Two injured players could make for interesting IR stash candidates. Marte Mapu, who tore his pectoral muscle prior to his pro day, is a productive small school hybrid L/S while Andrew Voorhies, who tore his ACL at the combine but still managed to lead the event with 38 bench press reps while injured, could factor into the OG mix next year.
1) DT Mazi Smith Michigan
2) RB Jahmyr Gibbs Alabama
3) DE Isaiah Foskey Notre Dame
4) WR Jonathan Mingo Ole Miss
5) QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson UCLA
6) OG McClendon Curtis Tennessee-Chatanooga
Feel free to leave your thoughts about the selections or the targets in the comments section Saints fans. Who Dat!