NFL

30 mock drafts link Saints to 14 different first-round prospects

We’re less than two weeks away from the start of the 2021 NFL draft, but there’s still little to no consensus on where the Saints might go with their first round pick. I surveyed 30 of the latest mock drafts from across the media landscape, and found that they’ve linked New Orleans to 14 prospects — at five different positions. Wide receiver was most popular (12 mock drafts), with linebacker (8) and cornerback (7) just behind.

Just one player was mocked to the Saints more than three times: Florida Gators receiver Kadarius Toney, who went to New Orleans in four separate mock drafts, or 13.3% of our sampled writeups. Hardly anything to draw conclusions from. Still, here’s a quick recap of what recent draft experts are saying about the Saints and the No. 28 pick:

WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

Nov 30, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers wide receiver Rashod Bateman (13) catches a touchdown pass in the first quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports:

“According to ESPN’s Mike Triplett, the Saints are one of only three NFL teams who have not drafted a wide receiver in the past two years. New Orleans has a couple of intriguing players like Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith and Deonte Harris, but needs a legitimate starter with Emmanuel Sanders gone and a new quarterback taking over.”

Matthew Freedman, The Action Network:

“At this point in Round 1, almost anything goes — especially with a team like the Saints, who don’t have many glaring weaknesses. But they did part ways with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders this offseason, and Bateman is a worthy replacement. There’s a lot to like about Bateman. Before a five-game 2020 campaign in which he had 472 yards, he was an impressive 60-1,219-11 receiving in 2019 as a sophomore.”

LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa

Nov 14, 2020; Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA; Tulsa Golden Hurricane linebacker Zaven Collins (23) looks over the Southern Methodist Mustangs offense during the game at Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Tulsa won 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Kelly, The Ringer:

“The Saints boast plenty of talent on defense but could stand to get a little younger on that side of the ball. Collins would be a nice addition there, and offers the skill set to play off the ball on early downs and line up from multiple spots in subpackages, where his pass-rushing and blitzing talent could be put to good use.”

Mel Kiper, ESPN:

“The Saints haven’t been able to add players this offseason because of their salary-cap constraints, so this is their best chance to get a player who can make an immediate impact. They have to hit on their pick if they want to extend their championship window with Drew Brees retired. Collins is a versatile linebacker who was the only FBS player to have at least four sacks and four interceptions last season. He wasn’t asked to rush the passer much, but he still got four sacks. He could play outside or middle linebacker for New Orleans. He’s a fun defender to watch.”

Peter Schrager, NFL Network:

“Collins is a 6-foot-5 gazelle at LB, able to cover in space and also get to the QB. The Saints are in a fork-in-the-road period as a franchise, with questions at several areas. Collins is the type of impact player who can help in Year 1.”

LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky

FILE – In this Nov. 10, 2018, file photo, Tennessee wide receiver Marquez Callaway (1) escapes from Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis (44) in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

Dane Brugler, The Athletic:

“Davis is an impressive size/speed athlete who trusts his eyes to lead him to the football. He only started one season, but it was a productive one season with 10.2 tackles per game and three interceptions, including a pick-six vs. Tennessee.”

John Clayton, The Washington Post:

“The Saints might prefer [Zaven] Collins, but they don’t have the draft capital to move up to get him. After losing Alex Anzalone and Kwon Alexander, they have a need for a linebacker, but they could also target a receiver here.”

CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech defensive back Caleb Farley (3) lines up during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Miami, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Jonathan Jones, CBS Sports:

“Farley was my CB1 in January, but as other corners tested well and Farley underwent another back procedure, he dropped to the bottom of the first. That’s great news for the Saints, who lost Janoris Jenkins in free agency.”

Rob Rang, Fox Sports:

“The March 11 release of Janoris Jenkins freed up some money for New Orleans, but it also created a significant hole opposite young, shutdown corner Marshon Lattimore. Durability concerns will push Farley down the board a bit, but he’s a top 15 talent.”

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports:

“Farley was our CB1 until he underwent a back procedure several weeks ago. His camp says he’ll be ready in time for the season. If he’s healthy, the Saints could find one of the best players in this draft class at the bottom of Round 1.”

WR Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU

Dec 7, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. (6) makes a catch against Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Tyson Campbell (3) in the first quarter of the 2019 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Erickson, Pro Football Focus:

“The Saints have the most vacated end-zone targets from last year, which could put them in a position to draft a wide receiver with a nose for scoring. LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr. ranks 12th in end-zone targets over the past two seasons, and his PFF receiving grade on those targets ranks fourth-best (93.5). He and Michael Thomas could form a formidable duo with Marshall lined up out wide. Since the start of 2019, Marshall owns the league’s highest passer rating generated (158.3) when targeted from an out-wide alignment.”

Sam Monson, Pro Football Focus:

“With some combination of Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill at quarterback for the Saints now that Drew Brees has retired, the Saints need to add weaponry rather than rely on the football IQ of a Hall of Famer as they once did. Terrace Marshall Jr. always played second-fiddle at LSU, but he has elite size in a draft that isn’t full of it at the top end.”

Charlie Casserly, NFL Network:

“Adding a complement for Michael Thomas is in order, and the Saints stay in state to find one. Marshall offers size, speed, versatility and determination to carve his own niche from the LSU WR tree.”

QB Davis Mills, Stanford

Dec 19, 2020; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive back Quentin Lake (37) misses a tackle on Stanford Cardinal quarterback Davis Mills (15) as he scrambles for a first down in the first half of the game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Edholm, Yahoo Sports:

“Whoo, boy. We’re not certain Mills will crack the top 32 picks, but a landing spot here wouldn’t be a stunner. The Saints have bypassed QBs left and right over the years in an effort to add more immediate firepower. With Drew Brees gone, the Saints are left with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. They could roll the dice on Mills — whom they’ve done their homework on — after his limited body of work (11 college starts) but promising upside. Every few years we see teams late in Round 1 draft QBs (Jordan Love, Lamar Jackson, Paxton Lynch, Teddy Bridgewater) with an eye on locking them in with the fifth-year option.”

WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss

Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Edwards, CBS Sports:

“New Orleans brings in an explosive wide receiver capable of making significant contributions after the catch for Jameis Winston and/or Taysom Hill.”

Todd McShay, ESPN:

“The cap-strapped Saints roster took a hit in March, with multiple impact players heading elsewhere for more money or, in the case of Drew Brees, retiring. Will it be Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill at quarterback — or both? Regardless, New Orleans has to have more weapons in the pass game, especially with Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook not coming back. Moore operates mainly out of the slot, and he has the hands and burst to pick up big chunks of yardage. He was second in the nation to DeVonta Smith in catches and yards last season.”

WR Rondale Moore, Purdue

Nov 17, 2018; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Purdue Boilermakers running back Rondale Moore (4) celebrates in the end zone after a touchdown in the second half against the Wisconsin Badgers at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Conor Orr, Sports Illustrated:

“I had a tough time picking between Moore and someone like Asante Samuel Jr. here, but it comes down to New Orleans’s clear pivot to a more positionless offense with Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston (unless the Saints make a huge trade up for a quarterback, in which case, please disregard). Moore can be a difference maker for the Saints. He can line up in the backfield and, along with Alvin Kamara, create a dizzying array of backfield orbit motions to puzzle defenses. Had Drew Brees not retired, I probably would have leaned cornerback.”

CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern

Northwestern defensive back Greg Newsome II (2) in action against Stanford during the second half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Ryan Phillips, The Big Lead:

“The Saints badly need to fix their secondary, and while they could use another receiver, a ton have come off the board already. Newsome has the upside of an elite corner, with excellent length and speed. He plays much bigger than his 6-foot, 192-pound frame and has a knack for timing his breaks to arrive when the ball does. His 4.38 40-yard dash at Northwestern’s Pro Day turned heads. He has a chance to be a shutdown guy in short order.”

DE Joseph Ossai, Texas

Sep 21, 2019; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns linebacker Joseph Ossai (46) looks to the referee after tackling the Oklahoma State Cowboys running back Chuba Hubbard (30) at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News:

“The Saints lost Trey Hendrickson opposite Cameron Jordan in free agency and can rebound well with Ossai playing end for Dennis Allen.”

DE Jayson Oweh, Penn State

Penn State defensive end Jayson Oweh (28) fights off a block by Ohio State offensive lineman Thayer Munford (75) during an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. Ohio State defeated Penn State 38-25. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Doug Farrar, Touchdown Wire:

“Since the Saints appear to be going with the two-headed beast of Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston at quarterback, the onus will be on defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to make up for the shortfall on offense. And since the Saints lost Trey Hendrickson in free agency, the need for another edge guy is pressing — Marcus Davenport runs hot and cold, and the great Cameron Jordan turns 32 in July. Cornerback is another possible need, but let’s give the Saints a rocked-up edge defender in Oweh, who recorded no sacks in 2020, but did record 20 total pressures in just 171 pass-rushing snaps. Oweh needs refining work with his hands, but that could be said of 90% of the EDGE class every season, and the upside is formidable. Oweh is also an outstanding run defender with 21 stops last season.”

LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame

Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (6) defends against Alabama during the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Anthony Broome, Maize N Brew:

“JOK is a much better player than his draft slot would indicate, but it was hard to find a spot for him. He is a Swiss Army knife that fits the hybrid mold that modern defenses are starting to shift to running.”

Trevor Sikkema, The Draft Network:

“This just feels like a Saints pick; not really the position everything thinks they’ll go for, not sure if they exactly need him as a hybrid player, and yet the thought of him next to Demario Davis to rotate around with Malcolm Jenkins could be enough for them to get some extra speed and physicality on their defense.”

Mile High Report:

“Thanks to their cap situation the Saints will enter the draft with a bevy of needs and so far down the board they’re left waiting to see what falls. J.O.K. would give them an extremely talented second level defender with the range and ability in coverage to quickly find playing time at Will and help to ease the pain Malcolm Jenkins departure will cause in 2022.”

CB Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State

Florida State defensive back Asante Samuel Jr. (26) celebrates breaking up a pass against Notre Dame in the first half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind.,Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network:

“If the Saints don’t make an ultra-aggressive move up the board to grab a sliding quarterback, finding a cornerback who can make plays on the ball would be a priority. Samuel answered any lingering questions about his speed at FSU’s pro day.”

Maurice Jones-Drew, NFL Network:

“The Saints replace Janoris Jenkins with a young playmaker offering a high IQ and NFL pedigree. Expect Samuel to contribute from the jump.”

Alain Poupart, Sports Illustrated:

“The Who Dat Nation is clamoring for a cornerback with Marshon Lattimore’s pending legal issues and no movement on a contract extension. New Orleans released CB Janoris Jenkins and LB Kwon Alexander in cap-saving moves, but also did not extend a new contract to LB Alex Anzalone. Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton have to make decisions to counter the speed of skill players within the NFC South. After Horn, Newsome, Surtain and Farley off the board, expect the Saints to draft Asante Samuel, Jr.”

WR Kadarius Toney, Florida

Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney (1) runs for a touchdown after a catch during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Alabama, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Jason Pruett, Draftplex:

“For a team historically loaded with weapons, the receiver depth chart is awfully thin for the Saints at the moment. Kadarius Toney would give them an explosive playmaker to use down the field and in space.”

John Daigle, NBC Sports:

“The Saints have an abundance of holes to fill after restructuring every other contract and releasing a handful of impactful veterans to squeeze under the $182.5 million cap threshold. Toney would step right into Emmanuel Sanders’ previous role since the former played 71% of his collegiate snaps from the slot, totaling the nation’s sixth-most yards (784) and receptions (55) from that alignment last year. Slight concern here since Toney only played wide receiver for two years at Florida.”

Matt Williamson, Pro Football Network:

“Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara are phenomenal weapons, but the Saints could use another explosive player with the ball in his hands. Adding Kadarius Toney to Sean Payton’s arsenal is a nightmare for defenses.”

Cynthia Frelund, NFL Network:

“No change here from 1.0, but if a quarterback like Mac Jones is available … Hmm … Interesting that a college player who lined up in the slot as much as Toney did lands here, joining a pro in Michael Thomas who crushes from the slot. Well, the pairing is driven by Toney’s YAC and tackle-braking ability. PFF counts that he broke more than 30 tackles over the past two seasons.”

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