I spend countless time debating the draft and potential picks with fans on Twitter. It’s part of the job.
There are plenty of intelligent fans who present unique and interesting opinions to me on a daily basis, but the one I spend the most time discussing the draft with is Adam West. He’s well informed and constantly keeps me on my toes. He’ll catch you slipping when discussing someone’s skillset if you’re not on your game.
So, with that in mind, I thought it would be fun if we traded picks and discussed some prospects in a “media vs. fan” mock draft.
West makes the first pick. But before you read on, give him a follow on Twitter @askmetostay323.
Round 1, Pick 13 : Randy Gregory, EDGE, Nebraska
The Saints add one of the more divisive prospects in the draft by selecting Randy Gregory. The temptation of a top five talent falling into the Saints’ lap is too good to pass up. The Saints need to add more pieces to an underwhelming defense that could desperately utilize an injection of athleticism. The combination of Junior Galette, Cameron Jordan and Gregory would fortify a pass rush that was consistently a disappointment during the 2014 season. The red flags for Gregory are well documented but the Saints are banking on the positives to help the team making it back to the postseason.
Other players that may be available at 13 carry less of a gamble than Gregory, such as Kentucky’s Bud Dupree or Louisville’s DeVante Parker. yet the reward for being right about Gregory is one the team has to make if he falls on draft day.
Underhill: He scares me, Adam. No question he’s one of the more talented players in the draft — he might even end up being the best pass rusher to come out of this class — but this isn’t a question of talent and skill. It’s about his character and sensibility. I don’t really care that he smokes or smoked weed. More guys in the league probably partake more often than anyone would like to admit. What Gregory failed was an idiot test. He knew months in advance the exact date he was going to be tested and still got popped. That speaks volumes. It’s like doing something to get fired on your day off.
If you knew that he wasn’t going to be problem, then I’d be in full support of this pick. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know, and there are whispers around the league that at least some of his visits have been less then stellar. But I guess if there weren’t concerns, then he would be long gone before the Saints ever come on the clock. You have to gamble to get the talent.
West: He scares me too. But, I think if he’s there at 13 it’s a risk well worth taking. There are plenty of players that have been popped for the combine drug thing – most notably Justin Houston — and if anything the selection of Gregory would help keep the Saints’ Super Bowl window open a bit longer. Let’s say for instance his career arc is exactly like Aldon Smith’s — from a talent and knucklehead standpoint — would he then be worth it at 13? I think San Francisco would still probably take Smith with the seventh pick in the 2011 draft. You live with the talent for the production on the field. Bud Dupree is a complete projection. He’s athletic as hell, but is he Jamie Collins or Dion Jordan? Usually I’m not a gambler and would suggest anyone else here. but when the process started in December I thought it would be a pipe dream for the Saints to add Gregory. The opportunity to add him to the team after all that would be too good to pass up, in my opinion.
Underhill: I agree with that. If everything comes together, he could end up looking like one of the greatest steals in recent history. He could end up being this year’s version of Randy Moss. You have to roll the dice to reap the reward. I’m just not sure if I would be willing to take that chance if I were running the Saints.
With that said, my pick at 31 might seem a little hypocritical. …
Round 1, Pick 31: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
If this guy falls this far, I think you have to take him. He goes in the top 15 if not for his character concerns and (gasp!) I wouldn’t hate him as the 13th pick if all the edge rushers are gone.
His issues are different than Gregory’s. He clashed with his former coach and has since atoned, earning an invite to Washington’s pro day. There are plenty of checks and balances to be done to make sure those same issues don’t pop up again, and it looks like the Saints are taking care of that by meeting with him on three separate occasions this offseason. It’s also important to make sure that he loves the game. I mean, it might be unfair to question that, but it’s a reasonable concern considering he was booted from the program. If those things check out, I pull the trigger and further solidify a secondary that is going to look much different from last year.
The big question is if he falls this far. It’s possible his character issues are being overrated by draft experts.
West: I have NO qualms about taking Marcus Peters if he’s available there at 31. He’s a Top 15 player without the character issues; I just don’t know if I see him getting there. I think the Ravens are smitten with him (or at least that’s what they are making it seem) but if he’s there at 31 you take him gleefully at the podium.
My pick for 44 would be probably be my toughest. The Saints have not had an athletic LB since Vilma and I fully expect them to address it in the draft, but I’m clueless as to when. That said …
Round 2, Pick 44: Phillip Dorsett, WR, University of Miami
Without Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills, the Saints must address replacing those number of targets. While his skillset is similar to Brandin Cooks, they are different players in how they “win” on the field. Payton could use Dorsett to take the top off of defenses and also run plenty of clearouts for other players to work, much like he utilized Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem in years past. Dorsett is not a finished product and heavily relies on his blazing speed to win, but the potential is there to develop into more. By selecting Dorsett the Saints could be potentially passing up on linebackers Eric Kendricks and Stephone Anthony, but there’s a good chance that a linebacker will be there in round three. Also, a player like Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith would also a solid addition at 44, but the 4.2 that Dorsett consistently runs in the 40-yard dash is too good to pass up.
Underhill: You’re lucky. There are only a couple players I would be OK with at this spot instead of one of the athletic linebackers (assuming one is available). Dorsett is one of those guys. I considered him at 31, but decided to go with Peters instead, who, as mentioned, very possibly could be off the board before then.
In general, I hope the Saints hit defense early and often since I think a good wide receiver could be had a little bit later, but I think Dorsett has the ability to be a special talent. I’m with you on him being different from Cooks. If you watch both players, you’ll notice some overlap in the skillsets, but they get open in different ways. I can only imagine the nightmare he and Cooks would create for opposing defensive coordinators.
I know some would rather have a bigger receiver with a large catch radius, but with cornerbacks getting bigger, having quicker receivers is a good way to create mismatches.
The Saints have talked about how this draft will be about improve the defense, but I’m going to go offense again.
Round 3, Pick 75: A.J. Cann, G, South Carolina
This might not be an immediate need for 2015, but the Saints need to think about life after Jahri Evans and Tim Lelito can’t be considered a long-term option until he proves otherwise.
Cann is a solid run blocker, which falls in line with some of the other moves made this offseason, but he needs to improve in the passing game. That’s fine, since he can spend a year filling in behind the top guys while he refines his technique.
Look, it’s not a sexy pick. But I think it’s one that’s needed and could pay off in the future.
West: I completely agree with the position you selected but I have no idea who the Saints should take between A.J. Cann, Tre Jackson, Laken Tomlinson or Ali Marpet. Offensive line players are just one position I don’t typically devote much time to watching on DraftBreakdown.com. I think the edge might go to Marpet, if nothing more for the obscure school connection (Jahri Evans, Jermon Bushrod and Terron Armstead are also from small schools), but whoever it is would push Tim Lelito for the spot at left guard and eventually replace Evans next year.
Round 3, Pick 78: Trade!
With the second third rounder — and we may actually have to “switch” the usage of how the thirds are use for this to work due to value — but the Saints ship a pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for the rights to acquire linebacker Mychal Kendricks. There are rumblings that Kendricks may be on the block with the acquisition of Kiko Alonso and with DeMeco Ryans’ deal being extended by a year. After passing on upgrading an linebacker in the second round, this atones for that and the Saints finally land the athletic linebacker the defense has desperately been missing. It should be noted that Kendricks is in the last year of his deal and would need to somehow be extended, but that is something to worry about later. The defense now has injected a variety of youth with Gregory, Peters and Kendricks, and all are positions of need.
Underhill: I like where your head is at. Getting better at linebacker is at the top of my wishlist for the Saints — yes, even ahead of getting an edge rusher. I know that’s likely blasphemy to some Saints fans, but I think there’s an element lacking within that group. However, I’m not sure the draft lines up for the Saints to get one early. I’m not sure the value makes sense at 31 if someone like Peters falls, and Dorsett is hard to argue with if he’s there at 44. Swinging a trade might be the best way to address this need.
And Kendricks would be a great option. He’s athletic, can rush the passer, and is solid against both the pass and run. New Orleans has a lot of linebackers who excel at various things. Kendricks does enough of everything to make him unique to the other guys on the roster. If he can be had for a third-round pick, I’d pull the trigger and worry about the details later, as you said.
I’m going back to offense in the fifth round.
Fifth round, Pick 148: Darren Waller, WR/TE, Georgia Tech
He’s raw. He might be a project. But I see a 6-foot-6 receiver who clocks in at 4.46 in the 40-yard dash and I’m intrigued. I think Sean Payton will be too. He loves big, athletic receivers and Waller would be afforded the time to come along at his own pace, if needed.
I’m not entirely sure how to look at the receiver corps. On some days I’m optimistic about the prospects of Brandon Coleman, Seantavius Jones, and Joe Morgan. I don’t feel as optimistic on other days. We honestly don’t know enough about any of those guys to get an accurate read on this group. You can see them having success. You can also see them enduring some struggles. Getting a second body in to compete for a spot and to develop for the future can’t be a bad thing — especially when that guy is 6-foot-6, has great speed and a huge catch radius.
And if Waller can pick up the skills play tight end, which is where some project him, all the better.
West: I like that pick – it’s round five and now is about the time that teams start drafting strictly for potential purposes and Waller checks all those boxes. It allows Josh Hill and Ben Watson to be the starters and let Waller come into his own. Best case scenario if he excels in training camp and preseason, then maybe Ben Watson could be cut and replaced. It’s possible.
For the final pick of our mock, I’ll close it out with one of my favorite players in the draft overall…
Round 5, Pick 154: Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska
I don’t know if Bell would be available in Round five, but if he was, he would be an absolute steal. I have compared him to a bigger Kenny Stills (ironic considering the round and first name), and some have also said a bigger Marvin Jones, but he would be the perfect fit to start rebuilding the wide receiver corps.
Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston, Dorsett, Bell, Morgan, Jones and Coleman would be the new group of guys for Brees to get the ball to, and obviously Colston won’t be there much longer. Nebraska was notorious for running the ball to the point of excess, but that helped Bell in terms of blocking on the perimeter. I have no idea why the hype for Bell isn’t more but he’s a baller, plain and simple. I also considered other others particularly USC linebacker Hayes Pullard, or USC defensive back Josh Shaw, but the player that Bell could become is way too good to pass on. And, no character concerns!
Overall, the theme for this draft is simple: swinging for the fences. After a disaster of a draft in 2014, sans Cooks, this is a draft that the New Orleans Saints MUST hit on to ensure that all the trades and moves made in the offseason are justified. There probably has not been a bigger draft for Payton and Mickey Loomis to hit on since 2006. This draft class carries the potential to completely blow up in the Saints face (the first round selections of Gregory and Peters to be exact), but at least they gambling on upper-echelon type of prospects.
Last year, the Saints drafted Khari Fortt, who did not look good as a prospect on tape and then was a knucklehead that got cut. At least if Gregory (or Peters) don’t work out there’s a good chance they will at least have a couple of seasons of high performance that would somewhat justify the selections. However, with all the picks we made, all the check marks of “need” are completely met. The team adds a potential elite pass rusher in Gregory, a cornerback that can be a No. 1 in Peters, a dynamic receiver with Dorsett, finally an addition of an athletic linebacker in Kendricks, Evans’ replacement in Cann and potential weapons in Waller and Bell.
Payton has consistently said all offseason that the trades made were to upgrade the defense, our mock has hit on that greatly through the picks and trades. An upgraded defense to avoid shootouts while the offense can play in the same vein of the Dallas Cowboys — ball control and shot plays, but relying on the ground game to protect Brees. The only thing lacking was choosing Brees’ potential successor, but oh well.
Underhill: I’m with you. I like the picks. If they all work out, then the Saints get two top talents in the first round, a solid receiver in the second, and big piece with the trade in the third. If it doesn’t work out, then it has the potential for complete disaster. You have to take your shots.
My only regret here is that we did not get a defensive tackle in the first five rounds. I think getting better at defensive tackle has been greatly underrated by pundits. But I can live with this haul.