Underrated Prospects Saints Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 7, 2021

Underrated Prospects Saints Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints' first draft in the post-Drew Brees era will not feature a grueling search for a quarterback.

    The NFC South side got Jameis Winston to re-sign to compete for the position alongside Taysom Hill.

    With the quarterback depth chart figured out, the Saints can focus on other positions of need in the 2021 NFL draft.

    Since the Saints pick in the latter parts of most rounds, their coaching staff will have to unearth some underrated gems to round out the draft class after the No. 28 pick.

    In 2017, the Saints had a ton of mid-round success by taking Marcus Williams, Alvin Kamara, Alex Anzalone and Trey Hendrickson in the second and third rounds. They also took Michael Thomas in the 2016 second round and Tre'Quan Smith in the 2018 third round.

    Wide receiver is one of the positions New Orleans could look at on the second or third day to fill the void left by Emmanuel Sanders' free-agent departure.

    The Saints could also fill out their defensive depth chart at linebacker or defensive back. One of the mid-round picks could be used on a pass-rusher to replace Hendrickson, who left for Cincinnati in free agency.

Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    Kadarius Toney got lost in the national discussion a bit during the SEC season because of the dominant performances of his Florida Gators teammate Kyle Pitts and Alabama's DeVonta Smith.

    Toney took center stage in the SEC Championship Game, when he hauled in eight catches for 152 yards and a score.

    That performance was an extension of the receiving form he displayed in the final stretch of the SEC campaign. Toney finished with four 100-yard outings in his last five games. He found the end zone in all of those contests.

    New Orleans could look to Toney as a deep threat to complement Thomas. The Saints have Smith to play alongside their top wideout, but he does not have as much downfield speed that Toney could bring to the team.

    Toney is likely a second-round or early third-round pick in a draft that is deep at wide receiver for the second straight year.

    At No. 28, the Saints will miss out on Smith, Ja'Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle, but they could still leave Cleveland with a solid offensive piece for Winston or Hill to throw to, or they could wait until the second round to nab a playmaker of Toney's caliber.

Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Andre Cisco could be the perfect protege for Malcolm Jenkins to mentor as a starting safety.

    Cisco stood out in his first two seasons on an average Syracuse team by putting up back-to-back 60-tackle seasons. The junior safety could be available for the Saints to take in the second round, where they found Marcus Williams in 2017.

    Jenkins is still a fine player to have commanding the defensive backfield, but the Saints could not go wrong with bringing in a younger player to take over in a year or two.

    If Cisco adapts well to the NFL, he could turn into a valuable secondary asset in a division where keeping Christian McCaffrey and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' dangerous wideout group at bay is a difficult task.

Elijah Molden, CB, Washington

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    If the Saints want to attack a different area of their secondary in the draft, Elijah Molden could be an ideal selection as a slot corner.

    If New Orleans selects a corner, it could combine that rookie with Chauncey Gardiner-Johnson and Marshon Lattimore as a three-man unit in five-DB sets.

    Molden jumped on to the draft radar with four interceptions, 12 passes defended and 49 solo tackles as a junior. Like many other 2021 draft prospects, Molden did not get a full season to impress scouts, which is why the 2019 numbers are important to his evaluation.

    The Saints may miss out on the top corners since Caleb Farley and Patrick Surtain II could go higher than No. 28.

    South Carolina's Jaycee Horn is an intriguing pick because he is the son of former Saints wideout Joe Horn, but he might not be around at No. 28.

    If the Saints could pick up Horn or Asante Samuel Jr. at No. 28, they will not have to take another corner, but they need to do their due diligence on Molden and others in case the top corners are not available.


    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.