When the NFL Draft begins selections in Arlington, Tex., April 26, the New Orleans Saints have the No. 27 pick in the first round.
Here is an in-depth look at the team’s needs, offseason changes, potential best fit and the selections by NFLDraftScout.com’s experts.
Who would you pick and why?
TOP 5 NEEDS
- Pass rusher: The re-signing of Alex Okafor and George Johnson was helpful, as was the signing of former Jets inside linebacker Demario Davis, but none of that significantly lessens the need to bring in a top-flight pass rusher from the outside. It’s too early to tell how effective Okafor will be after having a torn Achilles surgically repaired so there’s uncertainty even with what is on hand. A pass rusher, whether a defensive end or an outside linebacker, will be a target in the draft though it’s unlikely the value will be ideal at the 27th pick in the first round.
- Wide receiver: The productivity of running backs Alvin Kamara (81 receptions) and Mark Ingram II (58 catches) in the passing game last season masked the fact that there was little consistent productivity behind starting wide receivers Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. Willie Snead IV was expected to be the third guy last season, but a suspension for an offseason DWI and an injury that lingered upon his return derailed his season. He could still be a factor, but the Saints aren’t counting on that. Someone not yet on the roster will have an opportunity to compete for a prominent role. It’s almost certain that New Orleans will draft a wide receiver and this position will be a consideration in the first round.
- Tight end: The shortcomings of the wide receiving corps behind Thomas and Ginn are shared by the tight end position as a whole. In two seasons, Coby Fleener hasn’t replaced the productivity lost when Jimmy Graham was traded to Seattle after the 2014 season. The return of Benjamin Watson provides some insurance, but at 37-years-old he doesn’t upgrade the pass-catching aspect of the position the way the Saints want. Tight end could offer tempting value when the Saints pick late in the first round, but with Watson’s arrival and the fact that the position is considered a deep one in the draft, the Saints could hold off and address it in a later round.
- Defensive tackle: This position seems to have crept higher on the Saints’ list of needs. They pursued Ndamukong Suh and Muhammad Wilkerson, but didn’t land either free agent. New Orleans is young at the position and the continued development of Sheldon Rankins, Tyeler Davison and David Onyemata would upgrade the position even without any newcomers. But the Saints’ actions in free agency indicate interest in bringing someone in so defensive tackle is likely to be addressed in the draft.
- Offensive line: The Saints have to add depth on the offensive line. The retirement of Zach Strief and the loss of Senio Kelemete to Houston in free agency leaves virtually no reliable depth at tackle. Kelemete also was the primary backup at guard so the Saints could look outside, inside or at both when it considers offensive linemen to draft. The signing of versatile Jermon Bushrod, who began his career in New Orleans, helps but doesn’t fully fill the depth needs.
–BEST FIT: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland. Moore’s speed and athleticism enable him to succeed in the slot and split wide, which would give the Saints multiple options in their three- and four-receiver sets. Top-flight pass rushers are unlikely to last until the 27th pick and the arrival of Watson lessens the need at tight end, so wide receiver in general and Moore in particular could be the ideal target at No. 27.
–Rob Rang: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. Even after re-signing monstrous wideout Brandon Coleman, the Saints may opt to draft another big pass-catcher here with all of the top tight ends still on the board. Powerful and a proven difference-maker, Payne may offer too much value to let slip any further, however.
–Dane Brugler: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa. The Saints ranked near the bottom of the league in allowing chunk plays (20-plus yards plays). Despite drafting the defensive Rookie of the Year last season (cornerback Marshon Lattimore), more help is needed on the depth chart.
FANS ON THE CLOCK, ON THE RECORD
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