The New Orleans Saints hope to make another run and look to fill as many of their holes as possible in the 2017 NFL Draft seven round mock
Things haven’t turned out the way the New Orleans Saints have hoped over the past few seasons. Three years in a row, they have finished 7-9 despite some amazing performances by quarterback Drew Brees.
The veteran quarterback has gone for 4,952 yards with 33 touchdowns in 2014, 4,870 with 32 scores in 2015 and then 5,208 yards with 37 touchdowns this past season. For most franchises that equates to a whole lot of wins. For the Saints, it hasn’t. The main culprit, of course, has been their defense.
While New Orleans was first overall in total yards and in passing yards on offense, they were the worst in the NFL in passing defense and only five teams finished worse in total yardage surrendered. If the Saints want to give the 38-year-old Brees one more shot at a championship, that needs to change.
In an effort to obtain enough weapons, New Orleans was part of a pretty big trade this offseason. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks was sent to the New England Patriots along with a fourth-round selection in exchange for the Pats’ first-round pick and one of their third-round picks in the upcoming draft. Could that deal provide New Orleans enough ammunition to get their defense back to respectability?
Dec 27, 2016; Annapolis, MD, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons quarterback John Wolford (10) throws as Temple Owls defensive lineman Haason Reddick (7) applies pressure during the second quarter at Navy-Marine Corps. Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1, Pick 11: Haason Reddick, LB — Temple
The Saints need defensive help, badly. They were the worst team in the NFL against the pass, but that doesn’t mean they were good against the run either. New Orleans finished the season 14th in the league with 101.6 yards per game given up, but that had more to do with teams having to win shootout style games thanks to the Saints high scoring offense.
With their first of two picks in the first round, they decide to go for someone they think is a legitimate game-changer that can help in stopping the run, while also providing an occasional pass rush. That player is a former walk-on at Temple, Haason Reddick.
Although he played a lot as an edge rusher for the Owls, he is better suited for a linebacking role at the next level according to some. Where he plays isn’t as important as the fact that he is simply an athletic freak.
The 6-1, 237-pound Reddick posted an impressive 4.52-second second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. He continued to display his athleticism with a 36.5-inch vertical leap and 133-inch broad jump. Reddick also had 24 bench reps to show off his strength.
His final season in college, Reddick recorded 65 tackles with 9.5 sacks and one interception. There is a bit of rawness to the former Owl’s game. However, his production in college and athletic traits are simply undeniable. He’s the type of high-upside playmaker the Saints need to be targeting.
Jan 2, 2017; Tampa , FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Quincy Wilson (6) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes 30-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
And the Saints are back on the clock to finish up the opening round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Again there are several ways this team can go thanks to there being so many holes. Perhaps the biggest of their holes resides in their secondary. In an attempt to shore that up they grab Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson.
While Wilson was put to the test often for the Gators and always rose to the occasion according to SI.com’s Chris Burk:.
Wilson fits the outside cornerback mold. He’s big (6′ 1″, 211 pounds) and likes to play in the hip pocket of the receiver he’s defending. That includes both at the line, where Wilson stands his ground with an aggressive press technique, and downfield, as he plays through receivers to get to the football. Clean catches are hard to come by when Wilson is in the vicinity.
Wilson is a no-fear, no-nonsense defender. The Gators did not hesitate to pit him against top wide receivers—Laquon Treadwell, Calvin Ridley, etc.—and he often rose to the occasion.
For the Saints, adding Wilson vastly improves a very young secondary that features Kenny Vaccaro and Vonn Bell at safety as well as P.J. Williams at corner.
Nov 14, 2015; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive lineman Carl Lawson (55) walks on the sidelines during the first quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2, Pick 42: Carl Lawson, EDGE — Auburn
The Saints recorded just 30 sacks in the entire 2016 season. They got the best production from defensive end Cameron Jordan, who recorded 7.5. Next to him was defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who recorded 6.5. They were able to re-sign Fairley and hope to see even more in terms of development out of 2016 first-round pick Sheldon Rankins. The rookie defensive tackle had 20 tackles and four sacks after being selected 12th overall out of Louisville.
It feels like they can become a really strong defensive line with just one more move. Perhaps this is it as Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson is available early in the second round. Lawson is a potentially elite edge rusher who could provide an amazing rush opposite Jordan.
Bleacher Report’s Connor Rogers highlighted what makes Lawson special in this tweet where Lawson is able to turn up the field in a blink of an eye to attack the passer.
Lawson slides a little lower than what his talent suggests due to some injury concerns in the past. A cracked hip and a torn ACL caused the defensive end to miss time while with the Tigers. He managed to stay healthy and recorded 9.5 sacks in 2016.
Nov 26, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears quarterback Davis Webb (7) signals to a teammate during the first quarter against the UCLA Bruins at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3, Pick 76: Davis Webb, QB — Cal
As mentioned earlier, quarterback Drew Brees is 38 years old. He’s still playing at an elite level, but there has to be some concern as to when that will change. The last thing the Saints want is to be the team that struggles mightily when their franchise player walks away from the game. In order to prevent that, they need to have a young guy grooming and waiting in the wings.
That’s why they select Davis Webb, the strong-armed quarterback out of Cal with their first of two picks in the third round. There is some growing belief that Webb could go as early as Round 1, but that seems crazy given his lack of accuracy on anything other than the deep ball. The third round seems to be a much more realistic landing spot for the 6-5, 229-pound gun slinger.
Webb started his career at Texas Tech, where he was under center for two seasons as a starter and one on the bench. He completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 5,557 yards with 46 touchdowns and 22 picks. Webb lost his job to Patrick Mahomes, and then transferred to Cal.
He again had a decent year, completing 61.6 percent of his passes for 4,295 yards. He added another 37 touchdowns and 12 interceptions to his career totals. He shouldn’t start right away and could benefit from learning behind a guy like Brees for some time.
Sep 10, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers wide receiver Taywan Taylor (2) catches a pass as Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) defends at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tide defeated the Hilltoppers 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3, Pick 103 (Compensatory via Patriots): Taywan Taylor, WR — Western Kentucky
They lost Brandin Cooks, which will sting. It made sense though that the Saints felt they could succeed without him. New Orleans still will have Willie Snead and Michael Thomas — the rookie who had 92 receptions for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns. — at receiver. There’s also tight end Coby Fleener and the team even saw 46 passes find their way to running back Mark Ingram.
Still, losing a playmaker like Cooks will have an affect. To lessen the sting of that, the Saints use the second pick acquired in that trade to get a potential replacement. The choice is wide receiver Taywan Taylor of Western Kentucky.
Taylor was a production machine at Western Kentucky, recording 253 receptions for 4,234 yards and 41 touchdowns — 34 of which came over his final two seasons. Standing 5-11 and weighing 203 pounds, he looks the part of a slot receiver. His route running fits that mold as well, and he could develop into a real weapon in the Saints vertical offense.
Although he averaged more than 17 yards per reception in each of his final three seasons, Taylor isn’t necessarily a burner as evidenced by his 4.50-second time in the 40-yard dash. Instead, he is a smart route runner who can hurt teams after the catch.
Mar 4, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Tennessee-Chattanooga defensive end Keionta Davis speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Round 6, Pick 196: Keionta Davis, DE — Tennessee-Chattanooga
This will test the patience of Saints fans everywhere. Day 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft will end shortly after their second third-round selection, and then they won’t pick again until the sixth round. There will be a long pause in the action for a team that just had four picks in two days.
Then, when they do pick, it won’t be the same well-known playmakers who graced the early part of the draft. Instead, the Saints will do what most teams do in the later stages — look for something they can work with. That leads them to Tennessee-Chattanooga defensive end Keionta Davis.
Davis had 31 career sacks for the Mocs, a team whose most notable player ever has been wide receiver Terrell Owens. Of the 31 sacks for Davis, 24 came in his final two seasons. He excelled as an end for Tennessee-Chattanooga, but at 6-3 and 271 pounds, he has the ability to move inside and play some tackle as well.
While Davis won’t be a player to start immediately, but he has great strength and has a lot of desire to make up for his lack of a defined position in the pros.
Oct 15, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack running back Matthew Dayes (21) carries the ball during the first half against the Clemson Tigers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Round 7, Pick 229: Matthew Dayes, RB — North Carolina State
With their final pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints go for some depth at running back with North Carolina State’s Matthew Dayes. The young running back has the ability to help as a pass catcher according to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, which could give him a role with a team like the Saints who like to use such players on third-downs:
Runs with patience and presses line of scrimmage to set up his cuts. Outstanding peripheral vision with ability to find back-side cuts. Sees to second level. Operates with controlled, choppy feet in tight quarters for maximum body control. Subtle wiggle on second and third level to create more yardage. Able to gear down and make the sharp, downhill cuts on stretch plays. Solid pass-catching option.
Dayes twice had 32 receptions for NC State and topped 1,100 yards rushing as a senior. He isn’t a threat to steal anyone’s job, but can provide a shifty back that can be successful as a change of pace player.