There has been a gigantic shift in this writer's New Orleans Saints seven-round mock draft this week after the culmination of the East-West Shrine Game, and other All-Star games played this past weekend.
This mock draft has become a more defensively heavy draft. Though it remains the opinion of this analyst that the Saints should look to make a big splash early in the draft on the left tackle of the future, it seems less and less likely that it will happen.
Instead, the Saints will be in position to replace another huge hole with the departure of Sedrick Ellis via free agency. The tremendous defensive tackle and end talent allows the Saints to fill those holes early in the draft, while the real depth of the draft lies in other positions, which is perfect for the Saints.
Here is the latest Saints mock draft.
Florida DT Sharif Floyd excelled in his junior season at Florida. As a result, he decided to forego his senior season to make himself eligible for the NFL draft.
Floyd plays well in the run game and possesses tremendous pass-rushing skill.
He is the perfect fit for the Saints as a defensive tackle. Is he a reach at No. 15, though?
Lavar Edwards was the third defensive end for an incredibly deep defensive roster at LSU this past season. Though his playing time was limited, Edwards' impact certainly was not.
In nickel packages, and substituting for the starters, Edwards provided tremendous pressure off the edge and solid play against the run.
Edwards would be able to contribute in year one in a similar manner to the way he did in 2012 with the Bayou Bengals. Over time Edwards appears to be a guy who can develop into an every-down defensive end, unlike Junior Galette and Martez Wilson.
Gavin Escobar was a surprise junior to leave school this season at San Diego State. Yet Escobar is a player who was extremely productive in three seasons on Montezuma Mesa.
Early declaree Ronnie Hillman left the school as a redshirt sophomore a season ago, only to be selected in the third round by the Denver Broncos. Expect a similar fate for Escobar. If the Aztec early departure lasts until this pick, he is a must pick for the Saints—a team desperate for a young tight end to groom to become the second guy when the team elects to rid themselves of veteran David Thomas.
Escobar does not project to be the same kind of blocker that Thomas is, but with effort, he has every ability to do the job well. Escobar's stock should continue to rise as teams review the film and see a gifted pass-catcher with great athleticism.
Combined with Jimmy Graham at tight end, the Saints could possess a dynamic duo at tight end that rivals the Patriots' duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Devonte Holloman is a prospect whose svelte physique can be a bit misleading. Though listed at 246 lbs., he looks and moves like a 225-lb. safety. His tremendous speed and range fits Steve Spagnuolo's preference in an outside linebacker.
Holloman was, of course, an underrated player in South Carolina's tremendous defenses in 2012. He remains underrated even as he enters to the draft process, though his play in college All-Star games ought to help his stock.
Mario Benavides oddly played in the NFLPA All-Star Game on Saturday afternoon in Carson, CA. It was a game that brought together mostly fringe NFL prospects.
It is no wonder that Benavides shone brightly and stood out as by far the best player on the field. That is good news for his stock.
Time will tell if Benavides takes advantage to the point that he moves back up draft boards. If not, he is a steal for the Saints in the early part of the sixth round.
He is the lone player to remain in the Saints' mock draft throughout the early parts of the draft process.
Few players pop off a screen the way Demetrius McCray did on a fourth-quarter interception in the NFLPA College All-Star Game on Saturday.
His explosiveness to go from defensive back to full speed ahead as a returner is something seen rarely at the NFL level.
Despite the play, McCray's stock is likely to remain rather flat throughout the draft process because he went to Appalachian State.
But if the Saints are able to combine McCray with similar plays such as Rafael Bush and Elbert Mack, the turnovers would come quite often in 2013 and beyond.