The draft is approaching. The combine and pro days are over. The visits have piled up. In an NFL media world swirling with mock drafts and speculation, The Advocate's New Orleans Saints beat writer Nick Underhill unspooled eight thoughts to empty out his mental notebook of what's going down and what could go down with the Saints brass as they try to make key offseason decisions.
1. Adrian Peterson’s visit with the Saints went well. And while the former Minnesota Vikings standout running back left without a deal, the door isn’t closed on something happening down the line. It’s not clear if the two sides ever discussed money, but when that hurdle arrives, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. New Orleans might not want to go above – or even match – the $3.7 million Mark Ingram is scheduled to take home this season in an offer to Peterson. It’s odd to speak of him in these terms since he’s one of the best players of his generation, but if he were to sign in New Orleans, Peterson likely would serve as a backup.
When Kenny Vaccaro arrived in Africa, he was blown away by the differences.
3. We now know the Saints will be playing the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 1. It’s not yet clear if the team will fly out Friday, as some other teams have done in recent years, or if it will look to spend the whole week in England. If it’s the latter option, the best-case scenario for the Saints would be to play Buffalo the week before and make the trip over instead of returning home. We should get a better idea of how things will shape up this season with the schedule expected to be released maybe as soon as Thursday, according to the Detroit Lions president.
4. It was interesting to see Payton give such high praise to Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. In an interview with TheMMQB.com’s Peter King, the Saints coach said he has a “crystal-clear vision” for how to use McCaffrey. “He’s got the ability to make people miss, but also to make tough yards in the pile,” he said. “I’ve got a crystal-clear vision of the player. He’d be like Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush for us, kind of the Joker role. But I think you have to have him on a pitch count.” Does it mean anything? Maybe. Maybe not. Payton also openly shared what he thinks about Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson during a radio interview at the Super Bowl. The draft is quickly approaching, and all these mysteries will soon be solved, but the amount of effort put into trying to decipher the tea leaves will only intensify in the coming days.
5. The Saints are one of a handful of teams eligible to appear on “Hard Knocks.” When will we find out which team has been selected? Last year, it was announced in March that the Los Angeles Rams would appear on the program. The year before, the Texans were announced in May. The year before that, the Falcons found out their fate in June. So, there isn’t much rhyme or reason to it. If Payton sticks to the Saints' guns, putting this team on the program would be pretty boring. Each season builds up to an in-office video of the final cuts, and the coach has already said he would never appear on camera cutting a player. It might not make for great television if that element is stripped away, but it’s an honorable stance. Speaking out against access isn’t something journalists often do, but it’s OK for some things to remain private.
6. Reuben Foster had a good visit with the Saints last week. The Alabama linebacker is one of the more talented players in the draft but has questions to answer after being sent home during the combine following an incident during his medical check. We were told he did well during his meeting with the team, which is important since a recent story called into question his ability in the classroom. Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham and LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith and UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley were also part of the group that met with the team during Foster’s meeting.
New Orleans Saints beat writers Nick Underhill and Joel Erickson run through a unique NFL dr…
7. Say what you want about how the Browns are assembling their roster, but it’s clear they’ve placed a premium on acquiring picks and building through the draft. According to Jimmy Johnson’s draft value chart, Cleveland’s eight picks carry a value of 5,522.4 points. The next team, San Francisco, checks in with 3,644.8 points. The Saints, who have five picks in the first three rounds, rank sixth with 2,642.8 points. That gives New Orleans some flexibility to move around the board, but it’s Cleveland’s world.
8. The Saints currently have 74 players under contract. With seven picks in the draft, that means there are currently nine spots for undrafted players. Those numbers are sure to change as the summer goes on, and there will likely be a few other players added to the mix after the team gets a look at additional players during rookie camp. On Aug. 13 of last season, which was well into camp, New Orleans had 16 undrafted players on its roster. There always seems to be a few players who rise throughout the summer and end up not only making the team but making contributions during the season. Last year New Orleans had several players who hooked on as undrafted players on the roster, including Brandon Coleman, Josh Hill, Tim Lelito, Kasim Edebali, Ken Crawley, De’Vante Harris, Jake Lampman, Tommylee Lewis and Landon Turner, among others.