Draft Decisions

NFL Draft Preview: Saints

Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is the Senior Football Editor for Rotoworld's NFL Page, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) leads Rotoworld's college football and NFL draft coverage. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential solutions in May's draft.

For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by team draft preview schedule.


No. 1 Team Need: Cornerback

Silva's analysis

Keenan Lewis emerged as a borderline shutdown corner in his first season with the Saints, but 32-year-old bookend Jabari Greer was a cap casualty, and 2010 first-rounder Patrick Robinson is a bust. Despite the addition of short-term fix Champ Bailey, cornerback could easily be GM Mickey Loomis' first-round target. Bailey turns 36 in two months. Defensive boss Rob Ryan utilizes press-man concepts in the back end, so expect New Orleans to target a big, physical corner in the draft.

Norris' options

First day option: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State - Gilbert did not play a lot of press coverage last year, with only 22 percent of his snaps qualifying according to Greg Peshek. With that said, I bet many will look at GIlbert’s 6’0/202 lbs frame and 33 1/8” arms and see a prospect who can thrive in press. The corner struggles most when mirroring breaking routes, allowing some separation due to tightness. At the college level Gilbert could catch up, the question is if that will translate in the NFL. Gilbert certainly has ball skills, which helps tremendously.

Second day possibility: Pierre Desir, Lindenwood - Desir also played some off coverage, and looked capable, but he best projects in a press scheme. This issue is, Desir was not tested in many of these situations. The experienced corner understands how to stick close to his assignment, obtain vision, and attempt to disrupt the catch. He is willing to be physical within five yards.

Third day flier: Keith McGill, Utah - McGill was miscast while at Utah, as they asked him to line up in off coverage far too often. Some are even projecting a move to safety for McGill, but I really liked what I saw when he was able to press. As long as he does not lose off the snap, McGill can battle with receivers on the edge.

Video: Norris on New Orleans' top need

No. 2 Team Need: Outside Linebacker

Silva's analysis

Junior Galette is a steal on his $1.4 million salary, but the Saints are thin behind him. Returning from last June's ACL tear, Victor Butler can only be viewed as a wild card. Parys Haralson is a run-stopping role player. Another impact outside rusher could give Ryan's unit a big spark.

Norris' options

First day option: Kony Ealy, Missouri - Ealy is difficult to figure out, and I don’t think his production matches the tape. Ealy lined up from a variety of spots and was possibly most successful when inside. However, he is frequently being projected on the edge, either in a three point stance or standing up. From a 3-cone perspective, which is one of two Combine tests I think best project future success, this makes sense. Ealy, from a testing perspective, can move extremely well for someone his size. My biggest issues are with his power on first contact and a lack of consistent leg drive that follows. He worked around blockers more than through them.

Second day possibility: Scott Crichton, Oregon State - Evan suggested an impact edge rusher. That could be Crichton, but do not expect him to do other things associated with “3-4 OLBs” like drop into coverage. Rob Ryan would understand this, however, and put Crichton in a position to rush one on one from the outside. Crichton converts speed to power thanks to powerful hands and a high motor.

Third day flier: James Gayle, Virginia Tech - Gayle’s flashes come when winning on first contact due to a jolt of power. He lacks counter athleticism and balance, but as a third day pick with a fairly high success rate (when put into perspective), he is worthy of a fifth-round pick.

No. 3 Team Need: Center

Silva's analysis

The Saints declined to re-sign incumbent C Brian De La Puente despite minimal interest elsewhere, suggesting coach Sean Payton was looking forward to moving on from the three-year starter. New Orleans should feel good about the rest of its line with Terron Armstead and Zach Strief back at tackle, and Ben Grubbs teaming with Jahri Evans at guard. Center is a pretty glaring weak spot. 2013 UDFA Tim Lelito would start there if the season began today.

Norris' options

First day option: Marcus Martin, USC - Teams will be deciding between Martin and Weston Richburg as the top centers. I project the Saints preferring Martin due to his larger experience at guard, which would allow the team to possibly move him off the anchor spot in 2015 if one of the two starters departs. Martin can be extremely powerful, especially when finishing plays after generating initial movement or locating defenders at the second level.

Second day possibility: After Martin and Weston Richburg, I do not see a second day center in this class.

Third day flier: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma - Ikard is a move center and will absolutely lose on occasion against powerful interior defensive linemen when asked to occupy them one on one. But he is very agile for his size, so if used properly, Ikard could seal reach blocks, help on double teams, and get to the second level to be a roadblock.

Saints 2014 Draft Picks (7)

First Round (No. 27)

Second Round (No. 58)

Third Round (No. 91)

Fourth Round (No. 126)

Fifth Round (No. 167)

Fifth Round (No. 169)

Sixth Round (No. 202)

Saints Current First-Team Offense

QB: Drew Brees

RB: Pierre Thomas

FB: Erik Lorig

WR: Marques Colston

WR: Kenny Stills

TE: Jimmy Graham

LT: Terron Armstead

LG: Ben Grubbs

C: Tim Lelito

RG: Jahri Evans

RT: Zach Strief

Saints Current First-Team Defense

RE: Cameron Jordan

LE: Akiem Hicks

NT: Brodrick Bunkley

ILB: Curtis Lofton

ILB: David Hawthorne

OLB: Junior Galette

OLB: Victor Butler

LCB: Champ Bailey

RCB: Keenan Lewis

FS: Jairus Byrd

SS: Kenny Vaccaro

Source URL: https://www.nbcsports.com/edge/article/draft-decisions/nfl-draft-preview-saints