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.
I know that Sean Payton likes the top-four quarterback prospects and a signal-caller is in play for New Orleans in the first or second round. Thus, don't be surprised if the Saints take Deshaun Watson or Pat Mahomes here. They also could target Davis Webb in the second round. However, the Saints could use a few cornerback upgrades and a true No. 1. I think New Orleans will target Marshon Lattimore or Marlon Humphrey as that No. 1 corner.
Humphrey has height, length and athleticism. The 6-foot, 197-pounder is a very good cover corner with size, quick feet, loose hips to turn and run, and physicality. He is very good at running the route and preventing separation. The one flaw that Humphrey has is playing the ball as there were receptions he allowed when he was in good position but didn't play the ball well over him. That could be corrected with good coaching. Surveying teams across the league, Humphrey and Marcus Lattimore are the consensus top corners.
Humphrey totaled 33 tackles with two tackles for a loss, two interceptions and five pass breakups in 2016. To open the year, Humphrey put together an excellent game against USC as he shut down wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, holding him to one catch for nine yards. Humphrey also had an interception returned 18 yards for a touchdown and a tackle for a loss in the contest. Aside from one mistake, Humphrey was very good at defending Washington speedster John Ross in their playoff matchup. Against Clemson and Mike Williams, Humphrey did well covering Williams overall but did allow some receptions over him.
After redshirting in 2014, Humphrey had an excellent debut to help Alabama win the 2015 season's National Championship. He earned a starting job across from Cyrus Jones and was the Crimson Tide's top corner. In 2015, Humphrey totaled 45 tackles with three interceptions and eight passes broken up. He was an Alabama legacy as the son of Bobby Humphrey, a former first-rounder who played for the Dolphins and Broncos.
Rd. 1, Pk. 1
Taco Charlton, DE/3-4OLB, Michigan
If Obi Melifonwu is available I think the Saints would be ecstatic and run the card up there. There is a good chance, however, that Melifonwu will be off the board. The Saints could use another edge rusher upgrade. Here's an end to pair with Cam Jordan. From what I've heard the Saints love Charlton, so I don't think they would pass on him. That being said, you can't rule out a quarterback.
Entering the 2016 season, Charlton flashed for Michigan but was mainly a backup and also was used inside at tackle. In 2016 though, he racked up 9.5 sacks, 43 tackles and 13 tackles for a loss as the bookend defensive end with the stout Chris Wormley. The 6-foot-6, 277-pounder Charlton is athletic with versatile size and length to be a base end in a 4-3 defense or a standup linebacker in a 3-4.
Charlton is fast, explosive and has serious upside to develop in the NFL. Teams feel he could go top-10 and should go in the top half of the first round.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
The Saints could use multiple cornerback upgrades. This pick could also be Davis Webb as they are looking hard at getting a young quarterback.
Jones would have been a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft if it weren't for a torn Achilles suffered at his pro day. That injury could cost him his rookie season and drop him a few rounds this week.
In 2016, Jones recorded 39 tackles with six passes broken up, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. He was superb as a cover corner for the Huskies. The 6-foot, 186-pounder finished the year by shutting down Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Jones has excellent feet, quickness, and fluid athleticism to run with receivers and prevent separation.
Jones had an excellent 2015 season as one of the top cornerbacks in the nation. For the year, he recorded 10 passes broken up, four interceptions, 45 tackles and three forced fumbles. He also showed coverage skills as a freshman with five pass breakups and two picks.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Duke Riley, OLB/ILB, LSU
The Saints grab some linebacker competiton.
Riley (6-0, 232) was a backup before coming on as a senior. He had an impressive game against Alabama in 2016 and got better as the year progressed. Riley totaled 93 tackles with nine for a loss, 1.5 sacks, one pass batted and one interception for the season.
Riley is a fast and physical linebacker who would fit as a Will - weakside - linebacker in a 4-3 defense.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
The Saints grab a receiver to help replace Brandin Cooks.
Stewart (5-11, 204) is a sleeper receiver who could be a nice value pick. He totaled 54 receptions for 864 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior. Stewart is tough recevier with functional speed. Teams are grading Stewart as a late second-round to early third-round pick.
Rd. 6, Pk. 6
Javarius Leamon, OT, South Carolina State
The Saints grab some offensive line depth. Leamon is a great athlete who could be another Terron Armstead.
Rd. 7, Pk. 7
Channing Stribling, CB, Michigan
The Saints get more secondary competition and hosted Stribling.
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.