Assigning Odds to Every Potential New Orleans Saints 1st-Round Pick
The New Orleans front office has been quite busy this offseason.
First, the Saints released a group of longtime veterans from their contracts, giving the team some breathing room from a salary-cap standpoint. New Orleans subsequently inked deals with a number of free agents, and as a result, the team appears to have a nice blend of returnees and fresh faces.
The draft will be the final major step in the Saints’ offseason bid to improve their squad in 2014, and the first-round pick will obviously be key.
The following are the favorites to be selected in the No. 27 overall slot by New Orleans, along with the odds of each player receiving a call from the Saints on draft day.
1. Dee Ford, Outside Linebacker, Auburn: 13-1
A short time ago, a small army of draft prognosticators had pass-rushing extraordinaire Dee Ford going to New Orleans in the first round.
While adding a talented pass-rusher like Ford would be tempting, it’s not the Saints’ most pressing need.
New Orleans’ dynamic duo of Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette rang up 24.5 total sacks last season, and both will return in 2014. In addition, the Saints will have the services of outside linebacker Victor Butler, who missed all of last season with an injury. Outside ‘backer Parys Haralson, who filled in admirably for Butler in 2013, was re-signed and brought back for another season as well.
With the Saints’ outside linebacker depth chart already somewhat filled out, adding another pass-rusher could probably wait until at least the third round.
2. Jason Verrett, Cornerback, TCU: 8-1
With the addition of 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, the Saints further solidified their secondary. The always solid Keenan Lewis joins Bailey in the defensive backfield at the corner spot, while free-agent signee Jairus Byrd and 2013 first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro will man the safety slots. The Saints also have corners Corey White and Patrick Robinson to lock down the nickel and dime positions.
Given the advanced stage of Bailey’s career, however, New Orleans may be looking to draft another cover man in the first round.
Jason Verrett is projected as a late first- to early second-round pick, and New Orleans could consider bringing him in to learn under Bailey and eventually start opposite Lewis.
The TCU product doesn’t have the lengthy frame that many NFL teams are trending toward, but he possesses top-notch man-to-man cover skills, and he’s also strong in run support.
3. Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Virginia Tech: 7-1
If Jason Verrett and Kyle Fuller are both still on the board when New Orleans is on the clock, the latter is probably the safer choice.
At 6'0", Fuller possesses ideal size for a corner. His physical style of play is considered a huge asset, and like Verrett, he’s adequate in run support.
The former Virginia Tech Hokie is well-suited for a zone coverage scheme, but he’s capable of holding his own in press-man coverage as well.
He may not be available by the time New Orleans makes its first-round selection, but if he is, don’t be surprised to see the Saints take him off the board.
4. Odell Beckham Jr., Wide Receiver, LSU: 6-1
The Saints have addressed a number of positions throughout the 2014 offseason, but wide receiver still remains as an area in need of attention.
Granted, New Orleans has strengthened its depth chart at receiver by re-signing veteran Robert Meachem to a one-year deal. Backup Joe Morgan will also return in 2014.
Neither Meachem nor Morgan is serviceable as a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver, however, and there’s a good chance New Orleans is planning to draft a wideout in Round 1.
Following his impressive showings at the combine and at LSU’s pro day, Odell Beckham Jr. is rocketing up draft boards. He’s now considered by many draft analysts to be the No. 3 receiver in the class, just behind Sammy Watkins of Clemson and Mike Evans of Texas A&M.
Beckham has elite speed, nifty moves in the open field and great hands. Considering the package he brings to the table, it’s unlikely that he’ll still be around when the Saints make their pick at No. 27. That doesn’t rule out the possibility of New Orleans trading up to get him, however, especially if the Saints view him as the missing piece who could take their offense to the next level.
5. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State, Wide Receiver: 4-1
While the odds of Beckham falling to the Saints aren’t great, the chances of them landing Brandin Cooks are better.
He is one of the fastest players in this year’s draft. His blazing speed and electrifying athleticism will provide an NFL team with a dangerous big-play scoring threat.
Sure, New Orleans may be more in need of a bigger possession receiver than a smaller, shiftier type, but Cooks would have a place in coach Sean Payton’s wide-open offense.
Tight end Jimmy Graham and wideout Marques Colston will almost certainly command much of the attention from opposing defenses. Cooks, meanwhile, could team with 2013 draft pick Kenny Stills to form a dynamic pair of big-play slot receivers. With quarterback Drew Brees spreading the ball around, this diverse quartet of receivers would give fits to defensive coordinators.
6. Marqise Lee, Wide Receiver, USC: 3-1
Brandin Cooks would provide New Orleans with an explosive scoring threat, but Marqise Lee is a more complete wide receiver.
The USC standout was once the consensus No. 3 receiver in the draft class, but the recent rise of Beckham and Cooks appears to have bumped him down a couple of slots. That’s not bad news for the Saints.
Lee has the ability to line up on the outside as well as in the slot, and he produced big numbers in a pro-style offense at USC. He’s quick off the line of scrimmage, runs solid routes and has fantastic run-after-the-catch abilities.
In truth, the New Orleans Saints have no shortage of choices in the first round. If they use the pick to address a need, they are most likely to target a wide receiver.
Besides the receivers mentioned above, others who could be viable options with the 27th pick include Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin, Penn State’s Allen Robinson and Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews.
The Saints could also go in a different direction, however, and draft the best overall player available with their first-round pick. Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Louisville safety Calvin Pryor and Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley could all be there for the taking, and New Orleans may find it too difficult to pass one of them up.
Either way, the Saints will be looking to make a significant splash in the first round of this year’s draft, as they attempt to get back to the Super Bowl in 2014-15.