Updated March 4, 2018
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.
New Orleans and New England saw their 2017 seasons fall short of a championship because of some holes on the defensive side of the ball. The Saints anticipate Drew Brees returning to New Orleans, and the Patriots are obviously in win-now mode for the rest of Tom Brady's career. In speaking to sources at both teams, they both like some of the same prospects late in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Both teams are open to taking the best player available, especially New Orleans, and they also would prefer to add talent to the defensive front seven. Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans is a player they both like. Evans would fill a big hole for the Saints, and the Patriots have missed Jamie Collins since dealing him to Cleveland. Adding Evans to go with Dont'a Hightower would give New England a physical linebacking corps that also can contribute to the pass rush.
Another player both team sources mentioned liking was Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard. Hubbard is in the late-first-round to early-second-round area, and both teams are in need of more edge-rushing talent.
A third player both teams like is Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith. They both think that it is unlikely Smith slides that low in the first round, but they say it isn't impossible. Smith is not a big linebacker whom sources say has weighed in the 220s while at Georgia. That is not much bigger than a pro safety, and with that size, he is limited to being a Will (weak side) linebacker. Typically, non-pass-rushing linebackers slide in the draft. While they don't think Smith will get to the late first round, they say it isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Cornerback is another position that could be in play for both teams even though the Saints landed Marshon Lattimore a year ago. New Orleans sources say they always will consider corner, especially ones with size that fit their scheme well. New England could consider a first-round cornerback as a potential replacement for Malcolm Butler.
The Patriots are an aggressive team in terms of trades, so moving up or down is always a possibility. New Orleans also could consider moving down, being without a second-round pick. Between being open to move and targeting similar players, it could make for an exciting end to the opening night of the draft, courtesy of the Saints and Patriots.