Trade! Ian Rapoport reported today that the Saints were planning a big trade up. This was music to my ears, as I've been touting the idea of New Orleans moving up for Lamar Jackson for months. The Saints have spent more time on Louisville's campus than any other team, and after just barely missing out on Patrick Mahomes last year, they should be more proactive in getting their next franchise quarterback. The Ravens, looking to move down in order to fill lots of needs, could be the perfect trading partner.
*** OTHER 2018 NFL DRAFT POSSIBILITIES: ***
1. Calvin Ridley, WR (at 27) - The Saints might see Ridley as the best player on the board, and someone who could fix their mediocre third-down offense.
2. Joshua Jackson, CB (at 27) - The top cornerback available would definitely interest New Orleans.
Pick change; previously Calvin Ridley, WR
Rd. 3, Pk. 27
Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana
The Saints wanted to sign Jimmy Graham this offseason, but failed to do so. Ben Watson was the consolation prize, but he's obviously not any sort of long-term solution.
Rd. 4, Pk. 27
Oren Burks, ILB, Vanderbilt
The Saints signed Demario Davis this offseason, but they could stand to add another linebacker in the middle rounds.
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.
Hurst is a former pro baseball player who walked on as a tight end for the Gamecocks. He has excellent size, speed and ball skills. He was primarily used as a move tight end. As a route runner, he is very smooth and quickly builds speed. At South Carolina, he wasn't asked to run a lot of traditional option routes and work back to the quarterback. However, he excels on vertical routes and crossers. He tracks the ball smoothly and has a big catch radius. He received the ball quite a bit on tight end reverses and proved plenty capable of making defenders miss or out-running them to the corner. He's more than willing as a run blocker and, while he lacks power, he does a nice job of shielding defenders. Hurst should be a Day 1 starter and has tremendous upside.
The Saints could easily have taken Pat Mahomes last year if he hadn't been taken one selection ahead of them. Drew Brees is expected back, but they are also keeping an eye on the future. Jackson has a lot of similarities to Mahomes, so Jackson could be a fit for New Orleans late in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.<br> <br>
In 2017, Jackson completed 59 percent of his passes for 3,660 yards with 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also averaged 6.9 yards per carry on the ground on his way to 1,443 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. Some team sources think that Jackson is worthy of being a top-10 pick and will rise in the leadup to the 2018 NFL Draft, similar to Pat Mahomes last year. One general manager told me they think Jackson could be deserving of going high in the first round because he's a taller and better version of Michael Vick. In speaking to multiple league sources including a few general managers, they think Jackson is being undervalued right now similar to Deshaun Watson a year ago. <br> <br>
Jackson has a great athletic skill set, including a powerful arm that can make all throws the NFL requires and some rare passes. While his tremendous running ability gets a lot of attention, Jackson is better passing from the pocket than he is given credit for. Jackson will take some shots and deliver good passes in the face of the rush. He also handled Bobby Petrino's scheme well. Jackson can be inconsistent with his accuracy, and he needs to add weight to his frame for the NFL. He also needs to develop maturity in his leadership skills as he can be of one of the guys too much. <br> <br>
Jackson (6-2, 216) set college football on fire in 2016 while winning the Heisman Trophy. He was a massive point-producer for the Cardinals. Jackson completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,543 yards with 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions on the year. He also ran for 21 touchdowns and 1,571 yards while averaging six yards per carry.
New Orleans is a team on the rise after a epic 2017 draft haul that included stardom-bound corner Marcus Lattimore and running back Alvin Kamara to go along with solid players in safety Marcus Williams, tackle Ryan Ramczyk, and linebacker Alex Anzalone. The Saints would love to be able to give head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees another opportunity to win a second Super Bowl after winning the championship back in the 2010. To do so, the team must be shooting to address needs that remain on the roster. The Saints could look at the positions of wide receiver, linebacker, or edge rusher early in this years draft. This means that general manager Mickey Loomis will likely be targeting one of edge rushers Sam Hubbard and Harold Landry, linebackers Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch, or receivers Christian Kirk, DJ Moore, and Courtland Sutton. With Landry, Vander Esch, and Moore off the board and despite receiver being perhaps the weakest position of the three, the Saints look to solidify the middle of the defense in Rashaan Evans.
Rashaan Evans would most likely be the highest remaining player on the Saints draft board from the players listed above. The greatness of quarterback Drew Brees allow them to look to address the receiver position later in the draft or relying on their guy Michael Thomas along with newcomers Ted Ginn Jr. and Cameron Meredith. Currently, New Orleans has the previously mentioned Anzalone with the very pedestrian talents of AJ Klein, Manti Te'o, and Demario Davis at the linebacker position. Evans would be an immediate impact starter on the defense and be able to bring share his Alabama championship winning experience with his teammates. Alabama is a college program that is loaded with NFL talent every year. Due to this, Evans had to sit behind NFL players like Reuben Foster and Reggie Ragland during his tenure as a Crimson Tide. In 2017, Evans was able to finally explode onto the scene by posting 74 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 6 sacks during the teams 2017 National Championship season. Even as a reserve on the 2015 National Championship squad, he recorded two sacks in the final game against Clemson. Evans like many Alabama linebackers before him will successfully translate to the pro game making him a safe selection. He may not be a superstar like CJ Mosley or Donta Hightower, but look for him to stay out of trouble unlike 2017 alumni Reuben Foster and have better production than 2016 draftee Reggie Ragland.
Unlike last year, there may not be an O.J. Howard type of player at tight end who is the consensus top guy at the position. New Orleans seems to want to upgrade the tight end spot, so they could be interested in one of the top three at the position this year. Taking all factors into consideration, it wouldn't surprise me if Dallas Goedert was their preferred option. Mike Gesicki really doesn't offer anything as a blocker and Hayden Hurst is set to turn 25 in August. Goedert will not turn 25 in August and he at least could offer something as a blocker. Plus Rob Gronkowski is his idle, which is not a bad thing. He doesn't get to play with Gronk or catch passes from Tom Brady in this scenario, but catching passes from Drew Brees is not such a bad fate for the FCS product.
TRADE ALERT: NO Saints trade 2018 third round pick (#91), 2018 fourth round pick (#127), and 2019 sixth round pick for OAK Raiders' #75 pick overall.
Sean Payton has made it clear that he's not the biggest fan of this year's class of quarterbacks. However, I do find it hard to believe that he won't be looking around for a capable backup/heir for Drew Brees. So the thought of trading up for Mason Rudolph could shock many, but I'm sticking to this pick. I think the Saints are thinking if they can have a talented kid learn behind Brees before he retires, the future could be secure. Rudolph has similar mechanics that Brees has: a strong arm and true pocket passer nature.
Show/Hide Other Mocks with Mason Rudolph Going to Saints
Rd. 1, Pk. 14
Marcus Davenport, DE
MILLEN DAVENPORT Grade
What...??? You don't trade a future first-round pick for a non-quarterback, especially in a draft class that is absolutely loaded on the defensive line! This is absolutely atrocious. I wouldn't have minded this pick at all if the Saints were stationed at No. 14, but to give up this much for a raw edge rusher. Ugh.
I don't get it. The Saints had such a great 2017 NFL Draft class. How could they screw up this much? The only way this makes any sense is if the Saints know the world is going to come to an end before the 2019 season. This is a Millen grade all the way.
Rd. 3, Pk. 27
Tre'Quan Smith, WR
The Saints signed Cameron Meredith, but they can't be overly confident about his health. Tre'Quan Smith has the potential to be a solid, No. 2 possession receiver in the NFL. His best attribute might be his blocking, so he'll help Alvin Kamara break for more long runs. Smith makes sense in this range.
Rd. 4, Pk. 27
Rick Leonard, OT
MILLEN DISAPPOINTED THE PARROT DIDN'T SPEAK Grade
Uhh... what? Rick Leonard was not a draftable prospect. He's a super-raw tackle who's still learning the position. He wasn't on many teams' radar as a non-UDFA player. He could've been acquired following the draft.
Rd. 5, Pk. 27
Natrell Jamerson, S
Natrell Jamerson is going to play special teams for a while, but he's a smart, instinctive player who could eventually develop into a starter. This is a logical pick, as Jamerson was drawing fifth-round grades.
Rd. 6, Pk. 15
Kamrin Moore, CB
Kamrin Moore seems like he could be a solid slot cornerback in the NFL one day. He fits the range in the fifth or sixth round, and New Orleans may want him to take over for Patrick Robinson in a couple of seasons. Moore will play special teams in the meantime.
Rd. 6, Pk. 27
Boston Scott, RB
This is a reach, but we're in the 200s now, so it's not a huge deal. I didn't have Boston Scott as a draftable prospect, and there were better running backs available.
Rd. 7, Pk. 27
Will Clapp, G/C
I had Will Clapp in the fifth round. He's a smart, versatile interior lineman who can play both guard and center. He needs to work on pass protection, but could be a stout run blocker. I could see him starting one day.