Saints Players Who Will Be Most Impacted by 2021 NFL Draft Picks

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 21, 2021

Saints Players Who Will Be Most Impacted by 2021 NFL Draft Picks

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints' first-round draft strategy may be affected by the underwhelming performance of the team's opening selection in 2018.

    Marcus Davenport has not lived up to the expectations of the No. 14 overall pick, which has left the Saints a bit thin in the pass rush alongside Cameron Jordan. 

    If the Saints feel that the 24-year-old can't play a full set of games, or contribute in the sack column, they could look at edge-rushers with the No. 28 pick this year. 

    New Orleans has a handful of other needs that could be filled in the 2021 NFL draft, which could affect the standing of certain players. 

    Wide receiver will be under a close microscope, with Tre'Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris looking to replace the departed Emmanuel Sanders. 

    If the Saints aren't confident enough with their current crop of wideouts, they could look to the deep wide receiver class for more competition underneath Michael Thomas. 

Marcus Davenport

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Davenport recorded 1.5 sacks and made a single start in his third NFL season. That was a significant dropoff from the six takedowns over 13 appearances he produced in his sophomore campaign. 

    With his fourth season coming up, the Saints have to make a decision on whether they can trust the 2018 first-round pick to recover from his down season or add high-level competition to the spot opposite Jordan. 

    The No. 28 pick could be an interesting spot for edge-rushers to be available. According to Bleacher Report's NFL draft experts, Miami's Jaelen Phillips is the second-best in the position and the No. 27 overall prospect. 

    If the draft falls in that direction, New Orleans could be in the market for every top pass-rusher with the exception of Michigan's Kwity Paye. 

    If the Saints look in another direction there, they may end up with a steal in the second or third round. B/R's Justis Mosqueda rated Florida State's Joshua Kaindoh as the best power-rusher in the class, but he is the 13th-ranked player at his position. 

    In that scenario, the Saints could use one of their three Day 2 selections to land competition for Davenport.

Tre'Quan Smith

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    The Saints need to replace the 726 receiving yards and 61 catches that Sanders recorded in his final season with the franchise. 

    With the 34-year-old off to the Buffalo Bills, New Orleans has two options to fill in the depth behind Thomas: Draft more receivers or trust Smith and the other wideouts already on the roster. 

    Smith, 25, doesn't have a 500-yard season in his three years in the NFL. That is fine for a No. 3 or No. 4 wideout, but those totals aren't good enough in the pass-heavy league for a secondary target. 

    The fourth-year player does have a consistent touchdown volume. He had five in his first two seasons and four in 2020. 

    Smith could have internal competition from Callaway, Harris and Lil'Jordan Humphrey, who all flashed signs of potential when Thomas was hurt last season. Callaway was the only member of the group with over 200 receiving yards, though. 

    The second and third rounds could produce a plethora of solid pros at wide receiver. Iowa's Ihmir Smith-Marsette recorded over 13 yards per catch in his last three seasons; Purdue's Rondale Moore has some of the best speed in the draft; and the team should be familiar with LSU's Terrace Marshall Jr., who had 23 touchdowns in the last two years. 

    Those three players are among the many options the Saints could have on Day 2 to give Jameis Winston more weapons in his first season as the starting quarterback. 

Latavius Murray

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    Brett Duke/Associated Press

    The Saints will not be after a running back in the first or second rounds, but it would do them some good to look hard at the potential late Day 2 and Day 3 running backs. 

    Latavius Murray is 31 and Alvin Kamara is tasked with a heavy workload in both facets of the offense, so the arrival of a young back could ease that burden. 

    In 2020, Kamara had 187 carries and 83 receptions. He led the team in receiving yards with 756, a title that was earned because of Thomas' injury layoff. 

    Murray only had 26 targets to go along with his 146 carries and found the end zone on just five occasions. He likely is not going to see a massive uptick in targets at his age. 

    If the Saints want to take some pressure off Kamara in the passing game, they could look at a potential third-down back with high pass-catching abilities. 

    Since 2015, New Orleans has selected four running backs in the third round or later. Only Kamara in 2017 panned out, but that was one of the team's most successful draft picks in the last decade. 

    Missouri's Larry Rountree III comes with four years of experience and a double-digit reception total in each of his last three seasons. 

    If the Saints prefer a younger back they can mold into a better pass-catcher, Louisville's Javian Hawkins could be an option. He had a career-best 16 catches last season and produced 16 rushing scores in his last two campaigns. 

              

    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference and ESPN.com.

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