Underhill and Erickson are in control of the front office again.
And this time around, we’ve got a little more freedom in our one-of-a-kind mock draft. First of all, a reminder on the ground rules: this mock draft isn’t an attempt to predict what we think will happen. The NFL Draft is far too unpredictable — as Philadelphia proved this afternoon — to try to predict how everything will shake out next week.
Instead, this is an exercise in dealing with the draft’s unpredictability. The Advocate’s beat writing team takes the role of the Saints’ top two decision-makers, and a Fanspeak mock draft simulator handles the general manager duties for the other 31 teams.
But we’ve added a twist. With trades dominating the draft landscape, we have the ability to make one trade, either up or down, depending on the value we see once the Saints are on the clock.
1. Carson Wentz
2. Jared Goff
3. Laremy Tunsil
4. Joey Bosa
5. Jalen Ramsey
Nick: OK, so there’s a big name on the board that we both like. Do we try to swing a trade with Baltimore for the No. 6 pick to take Myles Jack? The knee doesn’t scare me, and I think this is the spot to make a trade. The Ravens are always looking to move.
Joel: Man, this is tough. I’m a huge fan of Jack, have been since the beginning.
Nick: Are you discounting my membership in the Myles Jack Fan Club because I liked Jaylon Smith more at the beginning? I need a new place to hang out.
Joel: Maybe I am, a little. I think I’d just like it on the record that I was pro-Jack even when Smith was on the board. I always come out of these looking like the naysayer, I need to let people know I have at least one player I love at the top of the first.
But we’re dangerously on the verge of a 1,000-word tangent here, so I’ll get back to the task at hand. What do you think we’re going to have to give up here?
Nick: We both believe the Saints could use a few more picks. This would take New Orleans out of the running for a defensive end or defensive tackle in the first two rounds. But if you have a conviction about a player — and I do with Jack — then I’m comfortable with that sacrifice. I’m dangerously close to making this my catchphrase since I say it so much, but I’m more concerned about the next five years than what’s best in five months. I think I’d be willing to give up the first two picks to make this happen, but I have real concerns about the holes that would be left open by doing this.
Joel: I’ll play devil’s advocate here. There’s a chance we’d be moving up for a player who might drop to us anyway. Baltimore, San Francisco and New York could all use Jack, but all three teams might have bigger needs, and in a real-world situation, there are reports swirling now that his medical might drop him a couple notches on some team’s boards.
Nick: I think we wait and see what options we have. I’d also consider moving up for Buckner, but I’m not sure I’m ready to pull the trigger on a deal.
Joel: I’m on board with that. As much as I love Jack’s game, I also like draft picks, and there are a few spots on this roster that could use talent for the next five years. If you’re going to trade up here, I feel like it’s for the last missing piece to put you over the top.
Nick: I say put it up for auction and see what kind of offers we get. While I like a few guys, there is no one I have to have with Jack, Buckner and Rankins off the board.
Joel: Agree completely. Board didn’t fall the way we’d like from 5-11.
Nick: We have two proposals. The Chiefs are offering us a first (28), second, fourth and fifth. Denver is offering us a first (31), second, third and fifth. I like that Kansas City’s pick comes earlier, but I’m not sure it’s worth dropping from the third round to fourth to move up three spots. I think we have to take one of these deals.
Joel: That third-round pick feels much more valuable to me than Kansas City’s fourth-rounder. You keep hearing that the strength of this draft is late 1st through the third round or so, and although we’re dropping significantly in the first, we add two picks in the first three.
Nick: I’ll call Elway.
These are our picks now:
Round 1, Pick 31
Round 2, Pick 16
Round 2, Pick 32
Round 3, Pick 15
Round 3, Pick 31
Round 4, Pick 14
Round 5, Pick 5
Round 5, Pick 13
Round 7, Pick 16
Joel: I love our options here. First of all, with nine picks, I don’t feel pushed into a corner by needs, and there are some guys here that I really love. For example, Clemson’s Kevin Dodd is a favorite of mine. Dodd’s 275 pounds, knows how to get after the passer and plays the run well, too. Put him on the other side of Jordan, and the Saints have two very good all-around bookends.
Nick: I won’t argue the merits of taking defense. I think the Saints should focus on it as often as possible. That’s the only way to dig out of the gutter. But I think we can afford to let the board dictate our actions a little more now that we’ve acquired additional picks. Wide receiver is somewhat of a need. Treadwell, Doctson and Coleman are all gone. I don’t think Ohio State’s Michael Thomas survives until our next pick. He’s actually the receiver I think best fits what the Saints need. He can run the whole tree and stretch the field a little bit. I think the offense will be fine without another receiver. But I think it could become explosive with Thomas.
Joel: I can see that argument, and it’s a much deeper draft in the front seven than it is at receiver, by all accounts. Thomas works for me here.
Nick: The rest of the offense will be happy. Maybe I’m drifting into fantasy here, but imagine if C.J. Spiller comes back and looks like C.J. Spiller. How would defenses match up with Brandin Cooks, Coby Fleener, Thomas and Spiller? It’d be a nightmare for defensive coordinators. At the very least, Cooks, Fleener and (prime) Spiller all require extra attention. Thomas could develop into that kind of player, especially if he becomes a deep threat.
Joel: You didn’t even mention Willie Snead. How do I know this is the real Nick?
Nick: That’s implied. I’m not going to write that Drew Brees is good at football.
Nick: I see three options here: Vernon Butler, Chris Jones and Shilique Calhoun. Jones is one of my favorite players in the draft, to the point that I would consider him with the No. 12 pick. To me, he’s easily the best available player here. However, defensive end is getting thin. Maybe you look a little harder at Calhoun.
Joel: Out of those three, I think I like Jones, even though I’m not as high on him as you are. Calhoun’s a tweener who could play either a 3-4 outside linebacker or a defensive end. Operating on the assumption that we’re expecting Hau’oli Kikaha to primarily play the Jack position next season — and the Saints already have Davis Tull and Obum Gwacham — adding Calhoun feels like it’s sort of overkill. If we take a defensive end, I’d rather get an all-around type. Jones, on the other hand, could be the kind of interior pressure player the Saints are sorely lacking.
Nick: Part of the reason I like Jones is because there’s room for improvement. He gives in too early sometimes, and there are times where you’d like to see him play harder. Despite all that, he was still very productive. According to Stats Inc, he finished last year with 30 pressures, 12 hurries, 18 knockdowns, 27 run disruptions and 11.5 run stuffs. Those are all traits this defense could use. Even if Nick Fairley is good, Jones would give the Saints a natural replacement in 2017.
Joel: It’s a Nick Underhill kind of board today. Chris Jones is the pick.
Joel: Now that we have all these picks in the first three rounds, it really changes the way you look at the board. New Orleans needs a guard, but the board is full of interior offensive linemen, and we pick again in half a round. With that in mind, I’m taking a hard look at Su’a Cravens, the outside linebacker-safety hybrid, from USC.
Nick: Cravens is a nice consolation prize after deciding not to make an offer to move up for Jack. He could do a lot of different things and would give Dennis Allen another toy to play with on defense. It would be interesting to see what kind of stuff he could design with Cravens and Kenny Vaccaro on the field. And even if he doesn’t immediately start, the Saints could use some quality depth behind Dannell Ellerbe.
Joel: I like Cravens better as a linebacker than a safety. Whatever the listed position, if he can play right away in the nickel, Cravens can team with Vaccaro to shut down some of the problems the Saints had last season covering running backs and tight ends.
Nick: And if we’re being honest, that was the biggest problem on defense last season. I know the run defense was bad. There were issues with coverage. But the linebackers struggled all year covering the flats and other passes to running backs. The need at linebacker lessened a little bit with the offseason moves, but Cravens would add needed insurance behind Ellerbe and help alleviate some of the issues.
Joel: Cravens is the pick.
Nick: We might be coming up on something a little unrealistic here. I’m noticing that Boise State outside linebacker Kamalei Correa hasn’t been selected yet. I’m not sure he falls this far. It would be incredible value if he does. He’s kind of a tweener. I’m not sure he immediately plays end and would probably be limited to subpackages early on. I think you take the talent and figure it out at this point in the draft.
Joel: You’re a much bigger proponent of athletes with a high ceiling than I am. I don’t see the fit in the Saints defense. Kikaha had similar dimensions, to be sure, but he played defensive end at Washington, making his transition easier. To my knowledge, Correa’s played only linebacker, and I’d rather take somebody who needs to grow into their body to fit in Allen’s defense a couple of rounds later than this.
Nick: I also don’t see a natural fit for him out of the gate as a three-down player. But I do believe his first step and initial burst are special. He’s an unrefined pass rusher and managed to record 19 sacks over the last two seasons largely by beating guys off the line. I think he could be a weapon as a sub rusher and could develop into more of a three-down player over time. Anyways, I really don’t think he lasts this long. It’s probably unrealistic if we take him here, and I got you to give in on the first two picks. Who are you looking at?
Joel: I like Notre Dame’s Nick Martin here, and not just because he’s Zack’s brother. Nick can play either guard or center, and although the Saints have a lot of versatility with Senio Kelemete right now, Martin can play guard right now and serve as an option to move to the middle and replace Max Unger somewhere down the line.
Nick: Nick Martin it is.
Nick: Am I crazy, or does this seem like an advantageous time to double up on interior offensive linemen and grab Joshua Garnett?
Joel: Or we can grab Correa. These general managers we’re working with are begging us to pick him. There’s also a chance here to double up on defensive tackle, if we want to have a bunch of depth there after Fairley’s one-year deal is up. Notre Dame’s Sheldon Day, Temple’s Matt Ioannidis and Texas’s Hassan Ridgeway are all right around this spot.
Nick: Fanspeak.com is crazy if they think Correa drops this far. But weird things happen every year. I won’t be able to look myself in the mirror and respect myself as a human if I let him fall any further. The integrity of this exercise is at stake.
Joel: This is really the point of these mocks, too. Plenty of stuff’s going to happen next week that nobody sees coming. Heck, plenty already has. We got ourselves extra picks in part so we could take a flyer on a talent like this. Correa it is.
Nick: Fanspeak literally froze after we stole Correa. The rest of the league couldn’t handle us stealing that pick. They flipped the board and went home.
Joel: And here we had four picks left. There were lots of possibilities. A cornerback or safety, perhaps? Another wide receiver?
Nick: I would have been OK with any of those. I might have even thought about using a pick on a kicker or another interior offensive lineman. I think the big thing we learned today is that Cleveland moving down is a good thing for the Saints. There will be trade possibilities if Lynch falls to 12. If he goes before 12, that pushes another defensive player down. These are all good things for New Orleans.
Joel: We’ll have to do this again one more time before the draft. Who knows? By then, another team might have traded into the top 10.
Nick: And we didn’t even get to have the Jaylon Smith discussion in the next round. Next time.