With the NFL draft less than a month away, the New Orleans Saints are looking to enhance their roster for another possible Super Bowl run. Fortunately for the Saints, an aggressive free agency period has put General Manager Mickey Loomis in a position to draft the best player available, rather than focus on a single need. This doesn’t mean that no position should take priority over any other. Quite the contrary- going into the draft the Saints’ biggest need has to be wide receiver.
As it stands now, the offense will be rolling with Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, and not too much beyond that. With Colston aging and all the other options being inexperienced, the Saints are lacking a good number one wide receiver to go with All Pro tight end Jimmy Graham.
Though Stills made some good strides last season, he would be best fit as a slot receiver rather than the number two option. Nick Toon, who the coaching staff is high on, is still a question mark, as well as Joe Morgan coming off an ACL injury, and Andy Tanner.
Luckily for the Saints, this year’s draft class is stacked with receiver talent, especially in the first and second rounds. The first round features guys like Marqise Lee and Brandin Cooks, both Biletnikoff award winners. Other than them, hometown kid Odell Beckham and Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin have also been mentioned in mock drafts.
However, the Saints have always been a team that drafts best available rather than need. With this being the case, if the Saints bypass receiver in the first round, there is some good value in the second round and beyond.
The second round this year has some first round talent. The two most notable prospects are SEC receivers Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss) and Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt). Both are tall receivers with sub 4.5 speed. In a less loaded draft, both these players would be sure fire first rounders.
Also, both have over 35 inch verticals (Moncrief hitting almost 40 inches), which is the basketball type of skill that Payton likes for jump ball situations, especially in the redzone.
All the prospects talked about up to this point are well known. However, Sean Payton and company have shown that they are very adept at picking up late round talent (a la Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, Lance Moore, Joe Morgan, etc). Therefore it would be appropriate to talk about a couple of late round guys (especially if you want to look smarter around the water cooler).
First, there is Jared Abbrederis out of Wisconsin, projected to go somewhere in the middle to late 4th (higher or lower depending on where one looks). Some scouts say he is the best route runner in the draft. He proved himself against higher competition in college, burning Ohio State’s Bradley Roby (projected first round corner) for over 200 yards on 10 catches. His lack of top end speed and overall athleticism leaves something to be desired, but his hands and route running are some of the best in the draft.
The other late round guy to look at is Rutgers receiver Brandon Coleman, projected in the 5-7 rounds (and possibly rising). Coleman is one of the tallest receivers in the draft at 6-foot-6, but lacks blazing speed, running a 4.56 40 time. His size would allow him to be a great red zone target. He has good hands and is able to pluck jump balls out of the air relatively well. However, Coleman’s problem is his difficulty dealing with physical play, which is odd for someone his size. Either way, it would be no surprise if the Saints’ coaching staff see Marques Colston 2.0 in his frame and possible projection.
As it has been said many times by scouts everywhere, this is one of the most talented receiver drafts. That being the case, even if the Saints don’t go receiver in the first round, there are plenty of options sprinkled through the draft. All in all, they will be looking for a playmaker who can take a top off the defense, and more importantly, take advantage of the extra attention that has to be paid to Jimmy Graham, which is currently lacking on their roster. Whatever the case, the possibilities are abundant, which will make for a very exciting draft for the Who Dat nation in 2014.