New Orleans Saints' Day 2 2014 NFL Draft Primer
The New Orleans Saints made a bold move in the first round of Thursday’s NFL draft. They exchanged their first-round pick (No. 27 overall) and third round pick (No. 91 overall) with the Arizona Cardinals to gain the 20th overall pick.
With the 20th pick they took Oregon State do-it-all man Brandin Cooks. In trading up the Saints limited their options for the remainder of the draft—but felt it was worth the risk for a player like Cooks who brings a new element to the offense, one vacated by the loss of Darren Sproles.
In losing their third-round pick, the Saints now have to fit three needs into one pick—center, corner, outside linebacker. Obviously the Saints still have their fourth, two fifths and a sixth-round pick.
But no one expects to gain starters in those rounds. Rounds one through three are generally where starters are expected to come from. The Saints must reevaluate quickly as to which position is in most dire need immediately, and thus which one must be addressed in the second.
There is also the possibility of moving back into the third round via a trade.
The Saints have a lot of options on Day 2. Let’s preview how they may handle the second day of the 2014 NFL draft.
Day 1 Recap and Analysis
The New Orleans Saints selected Brandin Cooks with the 20th overall pick in Thursday night’s first round. As I wrote in my instant reaction piece, Cooks is essentially Darren Sproles with a hint of Reggie Bush.
In saying that, it is easy to assume that I’m dismissing Cooks’ ability as a receiver. Back in February—when I first evaluated Cooks—I believed he was much more than your typical “flex back”. But given the Saints’ current roster composition, that is likely the role he’ll fill.
The fact he is able to go deep and high-point a football makes him that much more of a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. With Sean Payton calling plays, and Drew Brees slinging the football, the Saints will take advantage of those abilities.
The trade-up to No. 20 makes sense, even though it cost the Saints a valuable third-round pick. The Saints are fortunate in that they didn’t have a ton of needs coming into this draft.
They were able to find and acquire a player who just might take their offense to the next level. Who thought that was even possible?
Updated Needs for the New Orleans Saints
The entire offseason emphasis for the New Orleans Saints has been to acquire playmakers. Defensively, we saw that in adding Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd. In adding Brandin Cooks, the offense received a jolt and a guy who can fly around the Superdome turf making big play after big play.
By selecting Cooks, they found a player who truly plays receiver but can also fill their “flex” role. They killed two birds with one stone.
Was it a need? In my opinion, no. But the Saints knew what they wanted and got it. Kudos!
On Day 2, the Saints are likely to look for a solid cover corner who doubles as a playmaker. There is one player in particular who fills both of those qualifications.
They can also look at a center—the one spot on the team where the 2014 starter remains in question. Outside linebacker, inside linebacker and a few other spots could be targeted as well. Here are the needs, listed in order:
Cornerback was one of the greatest needs coming into the draft. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers bringing Megatron Jr. (Mike Evans) into the mix—pairing him with Vincent Jackson—finding a bigger, physical corner to match up against them is of paramount importance (note: the Falcons of course already present a similar challenge).
Staying with the playmaker theme, the best fit for the spot is a player who also has a knack for taking away the football and making things happen with it once the ball in his possession.
It’s pretty simple, Tim Lelito remains the presumed starter heading into OTAs and training camp. That could change if the Saints choose to take a center in the second round, or even later.
Southern California center Marcus Martin was the presumed pick for the Saints if they stayed at No. 27. It’s unlikely he’ll be available at pick No. 58.
There are a few other solid options—some of whom may have second round grades next to their name.
Coming into this draft, I identified eight players as “elite” pass-rushers. Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, Marcus Smith and Dee Ford among them are all off the board after one round. The only two remaining among that group are BYU’s Kyle Van Noy and Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu.
If either of those two players are available at No. 58, they’d have to be in consideration for the Saints. Otherwise, the Saints may just have to go with the guys they have in the building at the position (or do what they often do and find someone from a no-name college to develop into a star).
This position is needed mostly for depth. Selecting an inside linebacker any earlier than the fifth round would probably be a luxury. That doesn’t mean the Saints won’t look for one earlier, only that they can allow this need to come to them.
As mentioned previously, tight end isn’t a huge need. But there are enough talented players at the position that taking one in the fourth, fifth or sixth round makes a ton of sense. Ideally, a guy who can double as a great blocker and receiving threat is the goal.
Benjamin Watson fills that role now, but is aging and 2014 is likely his last year of superb productivity. His replacement could be found in this draft.
Day 2 Targets
Many of the Saints’ targets heading into the first round of the draft are, of course, off the board. That said, there are still some really good players on the board—ones who fit the Saints’ scheme and positional priorities.
Marcus Martin, C, Southern California
Martin would have been a “reach” in the first round. In the second round, though, he’d be quite a find. In fact, if the Saints could find their starting center in the second round—at Pick No. 58 no less—it would be borderline amazing.
Martin is an early second-round player and would present tremendous value.
Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State
Richburg is considered by many analysts to be the second-best center in the 2014 draft class. His size is more comparable to the average NFL center, whereas Martin looks like a tackle.
He is considered by Rob Rang to be a similar player to Jacksonville’s Brad Meester, in that he is a good athlete who also possesses the strength and ability to handle himself well in a “phone booth”.
Kyle Van Noy, OLB, Brigham Young
Van Noy will probably be off the board well before the Saints pick at No. 58—assuming they pick there. If not, he is an ideal fit as a player who projects as a 7-8 sack guy in his prime, but can also cover backs and tight ends.
He isn’t the explosive pass-rusher some of the other “elite” outside ‘backers promise to be, but can become one of the best 3-4 outside linebackers from this draft.
Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
Attaochu may still be available when the Saints select at No. 58. If so, he should be among the players the team picks from in that slot.
Attaochu looks and plays a lot like Marcus Smith—a player who came off the board at pick No. 26 to the Philadelphia Eagles. With similar size and even better fundamentals, Attaochu projects as a 10 sack player in his prime.
Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
With five corners coming off the board in Round 1, there’s a chance the Lindenwood product comes off the board early in the second round. If he does not, the Saints almost have to take the 6’1” corner.
A big, physical corner who proved to be a playmaker in college, Desir would fit the Saints quite well.
What Are the Experts Saying?
"Asking defenses to cover tall trees like Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Benjamin would be almost unfair."
Brugler had the Saints taking Marcus Martin in the first round. Maybe with the Saints selecting a receiver in the first round, he’d simply flip the order and have them take Martin in the second, or Weston Richburg.
"Rob Ryan loves long, rangy corners with press-man skills. McGill is a talented cover man the size-strength combination to match up with the big-bodied receivers dominating the NFC South."
This pick fits into what the Saints have already done. If Brooks is right that McGill fits what the Saints are looking for in a corner, then this pick would be a very solid one.
In Matt Miller’s final seven-round mock draft, he did not include analysis of picks outside the first round. But he agreed with me that Attaochu would be an excellent pick for the Saints.
4 Predictions for Day 2
The New Orleans Saints only have one pick on Day 2 as of now. It is the 58th overall pick.
Saints Stay Put at Pick No. 58
Given how aggressive the New Orleans Saints have been this offseason, staying put at No. 58 is actually newsworthy.
Though the Saints have never been one to accumulate extra picks or stay in a slot if they feel they need to move up for a player they want, it seems likely they will do so in the second round Friday night.
Saints Select a Center
If Marcus Martin is still available at No. 58, he will almost certainly be the pick. If he is not, and Colorado State Weston Richburg is available, then the All-Mountain West performer who started every game of his college career will be the pick.
Saints Package Picks to Move Back into The Third Round
It's impossible to know exactly for whom, or to what position the Saints will move up. But it is quite likely they'll use their additional fifth-round pick (from Philadelphia via New England) to move back into the third round for whichever player they like that is available.
If Attaochu or a corner falls, expect that player to be the pick.
Saints Will Draft a Defensive Playmaker
Again, it's impossible to know just which player the Saints have rated highly on their board. And it's impossible to know if that player will fall into the third round. They may even look at their projections and take that guy with the 58th pick, then come back in the third to get their starting center.
Updated New Orleans Saints Mock Draft
First Round, Pick No. 20: Brandin Cooks, WR/RB/KR/PR, Oregon State
Cooks is already a Saint, thanks to the first-round trade that cost them a third-round pick.
Second Round, Pick No. 58: Marcus Martin, C, Southern California
Everybody and their mother believed the Saints would take Martin in the first round. He could fall to 58, meaning the Saints pretty much have to take him here.
Third Round, Pick No. 66: Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
The Redskins did not possess a first-round pick and would seemingly like to add to their total in this talent-laden draft. To get up to pick No. 66, the Saints give up their second fifth-round pick (No. 169) and a 2015 second-round pick.
They continue their aggressive approach to take the best pure pass-rusher remaining in the draft.
Fourth Round, Pick No. 126: Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
The Saints clearly want a long, rangy press-man corner, as Bucky Brooks noted in his second-round selection of Utah DB Keith McGill. The Saints wait until Day 3 to get that guy.
Cockrell is thought to be a possible Day 2 selection but falls here and the Saints happily snatch him up.
Fifth Round, Pick No. 167: C.J. Fiederowicz, TE, Iowa
Having grabbed all of the top needs to this point, the Saints can take Fiederowicz—a player Ben Watson can mentor to eventually take his place. The Iowa senior has the talent and mentality to become a great blocking tight end, who can also stretch the field as a key target down the field.
Sixth Round, Pick No. 202: Andrew Jackson, ILB, Western Kentucky
The Saints consider a kicker here, as well as a developmental quarterback, but they figure they can get either of those in undrafted free agency.
I’ve gone with Jackson in my last few mock drafts and will stick with him until it becomes obvious he will not, in fact, be the pick.