In the first edition of Saintsinsider.com's "Saints Mock Draft," I attempted to work as GM for a day and navigate the Saints through the talent available this April.
This time, I'm purposely shaking things up a bit — partly out of what I've heard and partly out of exploring other scenarios the Saints could consider on draft day.
Remember it's not an exact science.
I'll include any player meetings I've heard of and how those meetings could affect particular picks.
Ready? Here we go.
First round — No. 10 overall
Why?: I've liked this guy since I saw him at the Senior Bowl. He can play any linebacker position and can be immediately competitive as a rookie. Our Scout.com personnel guru Tom Marino — a man with 35 years of NFL scouting experience — likes him too:
"He has outstanding playing skills, runs extremely well and has very good playing instincts," Marino said. "He has absolutely great intangibles."
Now the Saints traded for Jonathan Vilma, signed Dan Morgan and re-signed Mark Simoneau. But this defense ranked No. 26 in the NFL last year and needs help at all three levels. Plus, there aren't many youngsters in the bunch, so the Saints will have to re-tool at some point. You may as well start now with a player who could contribute immediately as a fourth linebacker, replace a starter if needed and, being a USC guy, could help keep Reggie Bush in town more often.
Alternate theory: Cornerback is a popular choice here, and the Saints met with Troy's Leodis McKelvin last week. The Saints are also giving USF's Mike Jenkins and Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie serious looks. I've seen all three linked to the Saints in mock drafts recently.
The only way I see the Saints taking a defensive tackle is if LSU's Glenn Dorsey or USC Sedrick Ellis somehow drop to No. 10. Then I would pull the trigger. Both have the potential to stabilize the interior defense and open up tackling lanes for the Saints' linebackers.
This doesn't strike me as an offensive pick, even though the Saints met with Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart on Tuesday. That's too high for a player of Stewart's caliber. But, if the Saints do release Deuce McAllister, the situation bears watching.
Second round — No. 40 overall
|Virginia Tech cornerback Brandon Flowers could be the perfect fit as a third cornerback in New Orleans' defense. (Miller Safrit/Scout.com)|
Jackson could slide into the third round after running only a 4.57 at his pro day. Plus, there are rumblings that Jackson would be better off at free safety, where his instincts, physical play and ball awareness would be a better fit. Talib isn't as polished as either player, and more than 51 percent of passes thrown his way last year were completed. Now, there are questions about Talib's off-the-field life after he admitted to several teams that he's tested positive for marijuana.
That leaves Flowers, who Marino called a "fast-twitch athlete" and a "short-area player." That means he's more quick than fast. Flowers runs consistently in the 4.5 range, so he could have issues with top-end receivers on deep routes. But, Marino said that Flowers makes up for that shortcoming with great ball skills, anticipation and instincts. Plus, he has a reputation as a hard-hitter that can help against the run.
The Saints have shored up the cornerback position by signing Randall Gay and Aaron Glenn. But they still need an injection of youth at the position, and Flowers would provide that. He could be an immediate contributor at the nickel corner position.
Alternate theory: The player getting the most love in mock drafts at this position is Auburn DT Pat Sims, so keep an eye on him. His stock has remained steady, but he hasn't had the most impressive offseason. Still, he's drawing comparisons to Minnesota DT Kevin Williams and has a reputation for shooting gaps well. Also keep an eye on Miami DE Calais Campbell here, a player being touted as a mid-second round pick who could offer the Saints' anemic pass rush some help.
Offensively, the Saints could stand pat here. They have the wide receivers they need and most of the mock drafts I've seen lately have one running back — Texas' Jamaal Charles — selected in the second round. The Saints would take a back if they release Deuce McAllister, and Charles doesn't fit the type of back the Saints would need in that scenario.
Third round — No. 78 overall
Why?: Let's assume that next week the New Orleans Saints release Deuce McAllister. They'll need a back that fits that mold, one that can add a more powerful counterpoint to Reggie Bush's scat-back ability.
Judging by what could be out there, Forte could be the perfect selection — and not just because he played locally. He's 6-foot-2, 217 pounds and could probably add 10 pounds pretty easily. As it stands now he can run a 4.44 40-yard dash time and he has spent most of the offseason under the radar. But I watched him at the Senior Bowl and saw a back that can do some big things in the NFL, especially as part of a tandem. Scouts are comparing his nimble feet to Cleveland back Jamal Lewis, another power back. He's also drawn comparisons to Arizona's Edgerrin James for his lower body strength and control.
If the Saints do release McAllister, taking Forte might be the perfect replacement.
Alternate theory: If the Saints keep McAllister, I could see them taking a center here, but my first mock draft pick — Pollak — appears to be a second-round value now. So I would take Notre Dame's Jonathan Sullivan. He still needs some polishing, but he has the skills to be a competent NFL center. Also watch for USC G Chilo Rachal, a player some scouts say could have been a first-rounder in 2009 if family issues hadn't prompted Rachal to leave school early. Also, Central Florida RB Kevin Smith could be available here, too.
Defensively, my second-round pick in my first mock draft — Arkansas DT Marcus Harrison — appears to have fallen into the third round and could be a solid value here. He's a bit limited, though, as he's only seen as a run stopper.
Fourth round — No. 109 overall (traded to N.Y. Jets for Jonathan Vilma)
If Vilma is healthy and productive at his pre-Eric Mangini level, this deal will have been a steal for the Saints.
Fifth round — No. 146 overall
C Steve Justice, Wake Forest
I'm not sure Justice will fall this far, but there's a chance and if so the Saints should pounce. Scout.com's Tom Marino considers him the best pass-blocking center in the draft. Most scouts love his quickness and technique. He could be a little bigger — he's only 293 pounds — but Faine was effective at practically the same weight. His pass blocking skills would be a real asset in the Saints' offense.
Alternate theory: Wide receiver, linebacker and defensive tackle are all positions to think about here. But as the Saints head into the sixth round, they'll likely have addressed their top needs and will be looking to add value, regardless of position. The Saints still need a young tight end, and Notre Dame's John Carlson and Missouri's Martin Rucker could drop to this pick. I think Rucker would be the better long-term selection.
Sixth round — No. 178 overall
DT Carlton Powell, Virginia Tech
First Mock Draft selection: WR Pierre Garcon, Mount Union.
Why?: I've ignored the defensive tackle position to this point, and that might be a mistake on my part. But there's only so much you can do in a mock draft, right? Powell could be a productive NFL player, and he's the right size and height (6-foot-2, 288 pounds) for New Orleans' offense. But like any sixth-round pick, he'll need to become a more consistent player on the NFL level and settle into a special teams or platoon role to start. He's a run-stuffing tackle that compares to the New York Jets' Dewayne Robertson, so Powell could be an asset.
Alternate theory: The Saints would be smart to take the best available player on the board here.
Seventh round — No. 218 overall
WR Pierre Garcon, Mount Union
First Mock Draft selection: CB Jonathan Zenon, LSU.
Why?: Because this guy can flat out play. His average numbers for the Division III power were 62 receptions, 1,095 yards and 15 touchdowns. He runs a 4.42 40-yard dash and his size (6-foot, 210 pounds) lends him to being a slot receiver. Oh, and he is a national champion in the 4x100 relay. If he has better hands than Devery Henderson, the veteran could be out of a job real soon. He can also return kicks. I had the Saints taking him in the sixth round in my first mock, but it appears as if he would only require a seventh-round pick now. At this point in the draft, it would be worth taking a shot at someone like Garcon.
Alternate theory: The Saints could address defensive end here with Iowa's Bryan Mattison, who one scouting service said could be a better pro than Ken Iwebema. Our Scout.com expert Tom Marino selected UNLV's Jeremy Geathers in his recent seventh-round mock draft.
Matthew Postins covers the Saints for Saintsinsider.com. He is an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association.