I don't think the Saints would've expected Vernon Hargreaves to be available a couple of weeks ago, but there has been a growing sense that the Florida cornerback could slip. If so, New Orleans will definitely consider him at No. 12. The Saints have some major injury concerns at cornerback, and they may consider Hargreaves to be the best player available.
*** OTHER 2016 NFL DRAFT POSSIBILITIES: ***
1. Sheldon Rankins, DT - It was pretty tight between Rankins and Hargreaves for this pick. Almost a coin flip. Hargreaves edged out Rankins by a bit.
2. Jack Conklin, OT/G - New Orleans has a major hole in the inside of the blocking unit, which is problematic because the Saints greatly value interior blocking. Keeping Drew Brees healthy in the final few years of his career is extremely important if the team wants to have any sort of Super Bowl aspirations.
The Saints cut Junior Galette and still need a replacement. Lawson could form a dangerous pass rush with Cam Jordan and Hau'Oli Kikaha.
While teams have told me they gave Lawson a second-day grade, in speaking with a variety of teams they think that Lawson could be a mid- to late first-rounder. I think the team that likes him enough to take him will probably do so in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Lawson played really well in 2015 with 60 tackles, 25.5 tackles for a loss, 12.5 sacks and one forced fumble. The 6-foot-2, 270-pounder has speed and strength on the edge. Lawson looked good with his power and speed, giving Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley a lot of issues.
Lawson is a smooth pass-rusher, but lacks explosion and is not twitchy. In 2014, he was a backup and totaled 34 tackles with 11 for a loss and 3.5 sacks. Given his body type, he could fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Rd. 2, Pk. 16
Artie Burns, CB, Miami
The Saints continue to bolster their vulnerable pass defense with a talented cornerback.
Burns turned in an impressive junior season with six interceptions, 36 tackles and five passes broken up. As a sophomore in 2014, he had 40 tackles, six breakups and zero interceptions.
Burns lost his mother suddenly during his junior year. With his father incarcerated, Burns (5-11, 193) has custody of his younger brothers and his own son to support. Thus, he entered the 2016 NFL Draft. Sources say that Burns is grading out on the second day and they like his skill set. He had a strong performance at the combine where he ran well and looked good in the field drills.
Pick change; previously Austin Johnson, DT
Rd. 3, Pk. 15
Geronimo Allison, WR, Illinois
The Saints get their replacement for Marques Colston.
Allison (6-3, 200) absolutely dominated the defensive backs at the East-West Shrine. For the Illini in 2015, the senior totaled 65 receptions for 882 yards with three touchdowns. He had 41 catches for 598 yards and five scores as a junior.
Sources say they really like Allison's skill set. He has quickness for a 6-foot-3 receiver and runs good routes. Allison also has big, soft hands. He is very good at attacking the football away from his body and locking it in. The quickness and those route-running skills could be seen in his red-zone scores. He also has length and height. The one issue that sources say Allison needs to improve is strength.
Rd. 4, Pk. 14
Christian Westerman, G, Arizona State
New Orleans traded Ben Grubbs last offseason and cut Jahri Evans this year. Adding some young guard talent is necessary.
Westerman (6-4, 305) has physical talent with a combination of strength and some athleticism. He was a reliable blocker for the Sun Devils over the past few seasons. Westerman had an up-and-down Senior Bowl, but was very good at the combine.
Rd. 5, Pk. 13
Landon Turner, G, North Carolina
The Saints have a big need at guard, and they could use two draft picks to improve the interior of their offensive line. New Orleans has shown interest in Turner.
This honestly is one of my favorite picks so far of this draft. Pairing him next to John Jenkins (with Cameron Jordan on the end) forms an extremely daunting duo of extreme road grader mauler in Jenkins with electric undersized pass rusher in Rankins. Rankins is also pretty versatile so he can be moved around a bit. A bit undersized, Rankins is often compared, maybe unfairly, to Aaron Donald. While maybe a bit ambitious he does have a similar skillset in that he is undersized and a freakish athlete able to shoot gaps and use dynamite spin moves to beat blockers. Watching his tape it’s ridiculous how often he spends time in the backfield. Really his biggest weakness, and rightfully so, is just his lack of size, bulk, and strength. Will he be able to adjust and not be pushed around by bigger interior lineman in the NFL? That’s the big question here and something that I think teams will be willing to bet on, especially given the immense success of Donald in recent years.
The Saints have added to their defense in free agency but are still lacking the big bodies upfront with Robinson he gives them the big body presence they so desperately need.
Scouting report: Body beautiful for an interior lineman. Well-proportioned with powerful, tree trunk legs make it tough to move him off the spot. Has boom in his punch and dislodges guards and centers if they try and wait on him. Pure power to toss a one-on-one block aside. Athletic enough to give reasonable chase to the ball. Well schooled in using length to stuff cut blocks. Has frame and length to eat blocks and allow linebackers to run free. Heavy tackler. Running backs do not break his tackles and he rarely fails to finish when he?s locked in on his target. Able to generate pocket push when he gets it cranked up as a pass rusher. Boss man in the locker room and in practice helping to hold teammates accountable. Coming into the draft with relatively fresh legs playing just 57 percent of Alabama?s defensive snaps over last two seasons. Has brute force to match NFL power immediately.
Other possibilities: Jarran Reed DT, Cody Whitehair OG
Remember everything I said about the Giants, think of that but now the players where black and gold instead of red, white, and blue and you have an apt description of the Saints D. Outside of Cam (the other Cam) not much jumps out, though they do have a back end that I believe is suffering from the lack of help up front as there is talent there in Byrd and Vaccaro. Lawson can help with that, he is bigger bodied for an 4-3 end, much like Cam which should allow him to be much more physical up front and help in the run. He may not out up the sack numbers that Bosa or Floyd may, but he doesn't have to, Cam and him just need to pressure the QB to get throws that can allow Byrd and Vaccarro to get turnovers.
Second Option: Darron Lee
This one is too easy for the Saints, who have a tendency to take a combination of fallers and safe picks with no character issues. Vernon Hargreaves fits both categories and fills a huge need for New Orleans at corner. Delvin Breaux was a revelation last year, but Brandon Browner was a disaster and was cut last month. The rest of the defense was atrocious as well, surrendering more points than any other team in the league. Adding a shutdown corner like Hargreaves can't do anything but help.
1. Jack Conklin - The offensive line for New Orleans was a problem last year outside of left tackle Terron Armstead. Conklin could play on the right side or at guard.
2. Kevin Dodd - Similar to the offensive line, there was only one consistently good performer for the Saints' defensive line, Cameron Jordan. Dodd opposite of Jordan is scary for opposing QB's.
3. Vernon Butler - As mentioned earlier, the D-line for the Saints was terrible. Defensive tackle is a big need as well, with Vernon Butler the top prospect available, Louisiana native as well.
The Saints need help everywhere on their defense so any pick would not be a bad pick for them. The Saints drafted two linebackers last year in Stephone Anthony and Hau'oli Kikaha. Both of these young players are future building blocks. However, Dannell Ellerbe and David Hawthorne could not stay healthy or contribute much of anything. New Orleans needs another pass rusher off the edge which it will receive with the pick of Floyd. Floyd has the ability to go much higher than this based upon his combine. Floyd experimented some at inside linebacker this year but is better suited for the role of a pass rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4. He could stand to add some bulk which would help him in setting the edge in the running game and to work on his drops in coverage something he did not do a lot of at Georgia. Overall a steal for New Orleans at this spot.
Show/Hide Other Mocks with Leonard Floyd Going to Saints
Rd. 1, Pk. 12
Sheldon Rankins, DT,
This isn't a great pick by any means, but it's definitely a solid one. Sheldon Rankins was expected to go in the 12-16 range, so this is obviously the top end of it. The Saints spoke about their dire need at three-technique defensive tackle at length during the offseason, so it's hardly a surprise that they pulled the trigger on the athletic Rankins, who should be able to provide an immediate boost to New Orleans' horrid defense. Generating a pass rush on Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston is crucial, and Rankins should help with that.
Rd. 2, Pk. 16
Michael Thomas, WR,
I'm sure many expected the Saints to select an edge rusher, a linebacker or a defensive back, but a receiver was needed as well. With Marques Colston gone, the only options Drew Brees had at receiver were Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead. A No. 2 wideout was needed, and Michael Thomas was seen as one of the better receivers available heading into the second round. This is another solid selection from New Orleans.
Rd. 2, Pk. 30
Vonn Bell, S,
The Saints are making some solid picks in the draft this year, and this one certainly qualifies. It's actually New Orleans' best choice, just based solely on a value perspective. Bell was projected by some to be chosen at the end of the first round, or perhaps at the top of the second frame. It was a surprise to see him fall this far, but the Saints won't complain, as Bell adds much-needed depth to the secondary.