The 2014 NFL draft is here (starts Thursday at 8 PM ET/7 PM CT). The New Orleans Saints hold the 27th overall pick in the first round. They also hold the 58th, 91st, 126th, 167th, 169th and 202nd picks.
In all the Saints possess seven picks for the first time since 2007, despite not possessing a seventh round selection. While the Saints are always going to be open to the possibility of a draft day trade either to move up for a player they like, or move down and accumulate an extra pick or two, it is most likely that the Saints will make those seven picks without interruption.
Assuming that is true, the team figures to look in a few different directions in the first three rounds (the rounds where teams expect to nab a year one starter). The greatest need the team possesses lies at the center position.
There is no player in this draft worthy of being selected in the first round at that position. And the Saints are unlikely to use a second round pick on the position either. The third round, or later, is likely where Mickey Loomis, Ryan Pace and Sean Payton will try to identify a player who can handle the job of being Drew Brees’ caddy of sorts.
Other pertinent positions of need include: outside linebacker, cornerback, tight end, flex running back/returner and wide receiver. The Saints could also look for a player they believe can be groomed to replace Drew Brees. But that does not figure to be a high priority need.
Unlike most of the other teams in this draft, the Saints do not necessarily have to find even one immediate starter in this draft, which gives them the flexibility to literally draft the best player available at pick 27 and in subsequent rounds.
It also means they can be more aggressive than other teams if they so choose, since they need so little they may determine there is one player in this draft they absolutely must obtain the rights to for that players’ first few years in the league.
In what promises to be a wide-open and highly dramatic draft league-wide, the Saints embody that quite well. There is nothing absolute about the teams’ draft strategy this weekend.
It will be fascinating to see how it unfolds Thursday through Saturday and into the undrafted free agent signing period—where the Saints always excel.