Going Deep: Predicting New Orleans Saints eight picks in 2018 draft

— By Howard Balzer, NFLDraftScout.com —

The New Orleans Saints have eight picks in the NFL Draft, including No. 27 in the first round April 26 in Arlington, Tex.

Here is a look at the Saints’ five-year draft record with roster tallies reflecting totals as of the end of the 2017 season. Below that are the team’s current needs heading into this draft and our projection for all their 2018 picks.

SAINTS’ FIVE-YEAR DRAFT BREAKDOWN

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017

TOTAL PICKS 5 6 9 5 7

STARTERS 2 0 1 3 2

BACKUPS 0 0 3 2 5

OTHER TEAMS 2 2 3 0 0

OUT OF LEAGUE 1 4 2 0 0

TOP 3 NEEDS IN 2018 DRAFT

  1. Pass rusher: The re-signing of Alex Okafor 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.
  1. 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 to. 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.
  1. 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. Snead 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, but the addition of Bears restricted free agent Cameron Meredith could help provided he is able to recover from a torn ACL.

Below is a list of all eight of the Saints’ picks, with players suggested by NFLDraftScout.com.

SAINTS 2018 Draft (Eight picks)

Rd./overall pick: Player selected

1-27: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa (6-0, 196, 4.48)

3-91: Da’Shawn Hand, DL, Alabama (6-4, 297, 4.83)

4-127: Chris Herndon, TE, Miami (6-4, 253, 4.75)

5-147: Marcell Ateman, WR, Oklahoma State (6-4, 216, 4.62)

5-164: Colby Gossett, G, Appalachian State (6-5, 311, 5.20)

6-189: Kylie Fitts, DE, Utah (6-4, 263, 4.69)

6-201: Frank Ginda, LB, San Jose State (6-0, 235, 4.69)

7-245: Jaryd Jones-Smith, T, Pittsburgh (6-6, 317, 5.22)

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