Saints' Top 2021 NFL Draft Targets

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IApril 26, 2021

Saints' Top 2021 NFL Draft Targets

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    It's been a fairly quiet offseason so far for the New Orleans Saints, who haven't had the salary-cap space to make many moves during free agency. Instead, any news surrounding the team has been about the players it has lost since the end of the 2020 season.

    Quarterback Drew Brees has retired, while cornerback Janoris Jenkins, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, linebacker Alex Anzalone and tight end Jared Cook all signed with new teams during free agency. But now, New Orleans is going to finally have an opportunity to fill some of the holes on its roster.

    The 2021 NFL draft is set to take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and the Saints will likely be looking to bring in players who can make an impact for them soon. They still have a talented roster and can be contenders in the NFC, and that may be evident with their draft strategy.

    Although New Orleans won't be on the clock until the No. 28 overall pick, it owns eight selections over the seven-round draft, and it's always possible to acquire more via trades. So the Saints are going to be busy and will have a lot of work to do.

    Here's a look at three players New Orleans should target during the first few rounds of this year's draft.

Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss

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    Bruce Newman/Associated Press

    The Saints may trade up from No. 28 in search of a top-tier cornerback, but if they stay put and many of the top corners are off the board, it could be wise for them to turn their attention to Elijah Moore, an exciting playmaker who could help make up for some of their losses on offense.

    Emmanuel Sanders won't be back in New Orleans, and Michael Thomas had some struggles during an injury-riddled 2020 campaign. Beyond the latter, the Saints don't have a ton of receiver depth. Moore would quickly fix that.

    The 21-year-old played 32 games over the past three seasons at Ole Miss and was a contributor throughout his college career. However, he took his game to another level in 2020, when he had 86 receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games and was named a first-team All-American. Although he's only 5'9", he has a skill set that could fit in well in New Orleans' offense.

    "The Saints could shift Moore all around the field, much the same way they already do with running back Alvin Kamara," Luke Johnson of wrote.

    Either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill is going to succeed Brees at quarterback in 2021. Adding Moore to the offense would help whoever lands the job.

Kelvin Joseph, CB, Kentucky

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    If the Saints don't draft a cornerback in the first round, they will have to do so in the second round with the No. 60 pick. New Orleans needs somebody to start opposite Marshon Lattimore and fill the void left by the loss of Jenkins.

    Kelvin Joseph doesn't have a ton of experience, so it may be a bit of a risk to immediately plug him into the defense. But the 20-year-old flashed his potential in his lone season at Kentucky in 2020, with 25 tackles, four interceptions and five pass deflections in nine games.

    At the Wildcats' pro day in March, Joseph boosted his draft stock by posting an unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.34 seconds, per NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah. So, while there could be other teams also interested in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana native early on Day 2 of the draft, the Saints should do what's necessary to put themselves in a position to make sure he'll soon be returning home.

    While Joseph won't be the most experienced cornerback on the board, he will be one of the most talented. And that should intrigue New Orleans.

Hunter Long, TE, Boston College

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Cook is gone, but the Saints' new starting tight end may already be on their roster. They drafted Adam Trautman in the third round last year, and he got some experience as a rookie (notching 15 receptions for 171 yards and one touchdown), so he might keep improving in 2021.

    But New Orleans owns two third-round picks this year (Nos. 98 and 105), and Hunter Long—one of the top TEs in the class—may still be on the board at that time.

    Trautman isn't a sure thing, so the 22-year-old Boston College product would give New Orleans some depth at the position. If both end up being strong players, then the Saints could utilize both in their offense, as there have been plenty of examples of units with two top tight ends excelling over the years.

    Long played 36 games over the past three seasons for the Eagles and posted some impressive numbers, especially in 2020 as a redshirt junior. He had 57 receptions for 685 yards and five touchdowns (all career highs) in 11 games and was named a second-team All-American.

    So while tight end isn't New Orleans' biggest area of need, it's a unit that could benefit greatly from adding a player with as much potential and talent as Long.