Saints in NFL draft: Nick Underhill, Joel A. Erickson take control of war room in final mock draft
Most mock drafts are predictions. Not The Advocate’s. Instead of taking a wild stab at what the Saints might do, Advocate writers Nick Underhill and Joel A. Erickson play the part of the top two decision-makers in New Orleans. A draft simulator at Fanspeak.com handles the other 31 teams, and when it’s time for the Saints to pick, Underhill and Erickson talk it out and come to a selection to offer one look at what the team might be thinking when it’s on the clock.
1: QB Baker Mayfield, Browns; 2: QB Sam Darnold, Giants; 3: QB Josh Rosen, Jets; 4: Edge Bradley Chubb, Browns; 5: RB Saquon Barkley, Broncos; 6: G Quenton Nelson, Colts; 7: S Derwin James, Buccaneers; 8: CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Bears; 9: Edge Harold Landry, 49ers; 10: LB Roquan Smith, Raiders; 11: DL Vita Vea, Dolphins; 12: QB Lamar Jackson, Bills; 13: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Redskins; 14: CB Denzel Ward, Packers; 15: OT Mike McGlinchey, Cardinals; 16: G Isaiah Wynn, Ravens; 17: QB Josh Allen, Chargers; 18: OT Connor Williams, Seahawks; 19: DL Da’ron Payne, Cowboys; 20: G Will Hernandez, Lions; 21: Edge Marcus Davenport, Bengals; 22: WR Calvin Ridley, Bills; 23: C James Daniels, Patriots; 24: CB Jaire Alexander, Panthers; 25: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Titans; 26: DL Maurice Hurst, Falcons
Underhill: There are a lot of players I like here. There aren’t many players I have to have. This draft flattens about midway through the first round. We aren’t doing trades, but I would be heating up the phones, looking for a way to move back. You could get some additional ammo and maybe it allows you to take a swing at a quarterback like Mason Rudolph in the second round.
Erickson: I agree. In a vacuum, without knowing what the board looks like, I’d be trying to move back on the opening day of the draft and then try to move up with all those picks on Saturday. Last year, the Saints picked a bunch of players who were graded much higher than their draft slot; you want to avoid doing the opposite this year, if possible. I’ve been reading that people think the draft is strongest in the second through fourth rounds; with that in mind, will people be trying to trade back into the first round here?
Underhill: That’s the problem, but we heard some of the same thing last year about the draft being deep and there deals were made. There will always be a handful of teams targeting specific players. There could be good value in dealing back. The Packers traded pick 29 for picks 33 and 108 last year. The Seahawks traded pick 26 for picks 31, 95 and 249, and then flipped 31 for 34 and 111. If the value holds true, it looks like the going rate for a No. 27 are picks in second and fourth rounds. That could be appealing for the Saints since they dealt their second-round selection for Alvin Kamara last year.
Erickson: Plus, if they get a fourth-rounder, or a late third with a little luck, that pick might end up getting dealt to move up once the third round rolls along. For a lot of reasons, I’m kind of expecting to be on my toes throughout this entire draft, expecting the Saints to pick somewhere other than their original slot.
Underhill: So, we have to make a pick here. New Orleans was looking for a defensive tackle. Florida’s Taven Bryan is available. He’s an athletic pass rusher, has incredible burst, but is very raw and needs to improve his awareness. Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson, who has a nose for the ball, is an intriguing prospect. South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert could be a matchup nightmare in this offense.
Erickson: My guy here is Jackson. I like his length at 6-foot-1, but I really love his ball skills. Eight interceptions and 27 passes defended fits the profile of the defensive backs New Orleans likes to have in its secondary. Obviously, the Saints have depth at cornerback right now, but my philosophy is that you can never have enough good players at that spot.
Underhill: He appears to fit the size profile Jeff Ireland likes with his cornerbacks. The other thing is P.J. Williams’ contract expires after next season and Ken Crawley will be a restricted free agent. If there isn’t a need at the position right now, there will be one in the near future. Not all cornerbacks develop as quickly as Marshon Lattimore. Some time could be good. I’ll sign off on this pick, but I will say that I would also strongly consider the other two players here. Bryan could help the pass rush right away. His get-off is crazy. And I don’t know how anyone would match up with the Saints with Goedert on the field. He or Kamara would eat up linebackers in coverage.
Erickson: I agree on both counts. One of the benefits of the depth the Saints have assembled is that they could really go just about anywhere in the first round.
THE PICK: JOSH JACKSON, CB, IOWA
28: LB Rashaan Evans, Pittsburgh Steelers; 29: OLB Lorenzo Carter, Jaguars; 30: DT B.J. Hill, Vikings; 31: OT Kolton Miller, Patriots; 32. RB Derrius Guice, Eagles.
33: CB Carlton Davis, Browns; 34: RB Kerryon Johnson, Giants; 35: RB Sony Michel, Browns; 36: OLB Uchenna Nwosu, Colts; 37: WR D.J. Moore, Colts; 38: CB Donte Jackson, Buccaneers; 39: DE Sam Hubbard, Chicago Bears; 40: WR James Washington, Broncos; 41: CB Mike Hughes, Raiders; 42: G Braden Smith, Dolphins; 43: TE Mark Andrews, Patriots; 44: DL Taven Bryan, Redskins; 45: OLB Rasheem Green, Packers; 46: C Billy Price, Bengals; 47: QB Mason Rudolph, Cardinals; 48: S Ronnie Harrison, Chargers; 49: RB Ronald Jones II, Colts; 50: S Justin Reid, Cowboys; 51: DE Arden Key, Detroit Lions; 52: WR Christian Kirk, Ravens; 53: OT Chukwuma Okorafor, Bills; 54: DT Nathan Shepherd, Chiefs; 55: WR D.J. Chark, Panthers; 56: Frank Ragnow, Bills; 57: OLB Duke Ejiofor, Titans; 58: S Jessie Bates III, Falcons; 59: WR Courtland Sutton, 49ers; 60: S Rashaan Gaulden, Steelers; 61: TE Mike Gesicki, Jaguars; 62: G Austin Corbett, Vikings; 63: DE Breeland Speaks, Patriots; 64: LB Jerome Baker, Cleveland Browns.
65: DT Harrison Phillips, Bills; 66: OT Brian O’Neill, Giants; 67: LB Micah Kiser, Colts; 68: OT Martinas Rankin, Texans; 69: DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Giants; 70: LB Malik Jefferson, 49ers; 71: TE Dallas Goedert, Broncos; 72: WR Daesean Hamilton, Jets; 73: CB Isaiah Oliver, Dolphins; 74: OT Tyrell Crosby, 49ers; 75: WR Anthony Miller, Raiders; 76: DT Tim Settle, Packers; 77: CB Anthony Averett, Bengals; 78: S Marcus Allen, Chiefs; 79: DE DaShawn Hand, Cardinals; 80: WR Equanimeous St. Brown, Texans; 81: TE Hayden Hurst, Cowboys; 82: RB Nick Chubb, Lions; 83: QB Kyle Lauletta, Ravens; 84: OT Orlando Brown, Chargers; 85: OT Geron Christian, Panthers; 86: G Wyatt Teller, Chiefs; 87: LB Josey Jewell, Rams; 88: TE Dalton Schultz, Panthers; 89: S Terrell Edmunds, Titans; 90: CB Tony Brown, Atlanta Falcons
Erickson: I’m immediately reminded of something Ireland said at the NFL scouting combine: when you don’t have as many picks in the first two days, you have to watch a lot of players you like come off the board in front of you, and I felt that acutely.
Underhill: Looking at how the board fell, if we were making trades, I would have aggressively tried to move up for Goedert or South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst, who both fell into the third round. If we had moved down from 27, we could have selected Rudolph, defensive end Sam Hubbard, Bryan or an interior offensive lineman in the second, and then used the fourth acquired in that deal to move up for one of the tight ends. That would have been a good start to the draft.
Erickson: I like those trade scenarios; taking a look back at the possibilities underscores what we said about potentially trading down at pick No. 27. As far as what we’ve got here, the board we’re working with has Georgia’s Trenton Thompson as a talented three-technique who has had some medical issues; Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis, a player I like because he owns the NCAA record for punt-return touchdowns; Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin; and Indiana tight end Ian Thomas, among others.
Underhill: My inclination is lean toward the player who could help the pass rush or a tight end. But I also like Rutgers pass rusher Kemoko Turay. He’s 6-foot-5, weighs in at 252 pounds and ran a 4.65 40-yard dash. He’s similar to Obum Gwacham in his build but is more physical. Turay could use a little coaching up as a pass rusher, but is explosive, tackles and pursues well, and also looked good in coverage, a trait defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who likes to mix in zone blitzes, could put to use.
Erickson: Two shoulder surgeries for Turay in 2016 give me some pause, given the Saints’ recent history with rookies dealing with shoulder problems, but I’m not opposed to adding pass-rush help here. I’d always thought of Turay as a linebacker, but at 6-5, there’s room to add bulk if he needs it in the run game.
Underhill: I feel like Turay could satisfy a need and the value isn’t bad. I’d like him a little bit more in the fourth than the third, but I don’t feel like it would be a reach to select him here. I’m not married to having to take any position. There aren’t any glaring holes on the roster. The biggest one, honestly, might be the sixth offensive lineman. That’s basically a starter on this team, but I don’t see any that would be worthy of this pick.
THE PICK: KEMOKO TURAY, DE, RUTGERS