Saints' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIApril 25, 2022

Saints' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

0 of 3

    Kendall Warner/Associated Press

    There are several teams with two picks in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft. The New Orleans Saints recently joined that group when they acquired the No. 19 pick in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to add to the No. 16 overall selection they acquired previously from the Indianapolis Colts.

    So, what are the Saints going to do with those two early selections? There are a lot of different possibilities. And it starts with whether they want to draft a quarterback or if they're content with veterans Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton at the position moving forward.

    "I don't think they made that trade with the intention of moving up for a quarterback or even using one of those two on a quarterback," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said, per ESPN's Mike Triplett.

    Of course, draft plans can change. And it's always possible New Orleans could shift its mindset and go for a QB early.

    With that in mind, here are some top players the Saints should target in the first round of this year's draft on Thursday.

Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

1 of 3

    Kendall Warner/Associated Press

    Sure, the Saints' primary draft plans may not include using the No. 16 or No. 19 pick on a quarterback. But if Malik Willis is still on the board by then, it could be hard to resist taking their next potential franchise QB.

    Willis may not be ready to start immediately in the NFL, but that could bode well for the Saints, which can start Winston in 2022 and allow the Liberty product to develop.

    The 22-year-old has an impressive skill set and a high ceiling, and he could eventually become an exciting QB to watch at the professional level.

    There's a decent chance Willis won't be available for the Saints, even at No. 16. Two of their NFC South rivals (the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons) could be in the market for a signal-caller, and they each own a top-10 pick. It's also possible another team may trade up to land Willis.

    If the Saints are happy with their current QB situation, they may not try to move up and instead could use their first-round picks to acquire a pair of players who will help put Winston in a better position to succeed.

    If Willis falls down the board, though, it will be interesting to see if New Orleans reconsiders. It could be beneficial for the franchise's long-term future to do that.

Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

2 of 3

    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    The departure of Terron Armstead for the Miami Dolphins has opened up a big void on the left side of the New Orleans offensive line that the team will likely fill during the draft.

    The best-case scenario for the Saints would be if Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross is still available at No. 16. He was a two-year starter for the Bulldogs and has the potential to become the anchor of an NFL offensive line for many years to come.

    Dane Brugler is among those analysts who has the 21-year-old ranked among the top prospects in this year's class, and The Athletic writer had the Saints taking him in a recent mock draft.

    "Cross is a top-10 player in this draft class for me and many others, but if he were to slip out of that range, the Saints would be eagerly waiting to scoop him up as they fill the void at left tackle (I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded up for him, either)," he wrote.

    If New Orleans misses out on Cross, then Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning could be another strong target. But the Saints should do their best to come away with the Mississippi State product first.

Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

3 of 3

    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Whether or not Michael Thomas returns to action for the Saints next season, they still need to improve their receiving corps. The offense is lacking top-tier playmakers, and their next quarterback needs better weapons to throw to in 2022.

    Several receivers could be off the board by the time New Orleans is on the clock, but there is a chance Alabama's Jameson Williams will be available; and he would be a great player for the Saints to add to their offense.

    After spending two years at Ohio State, the 21-year-old transferred to Alabama and had a breakout junior season in 2021, notching 79 receptions for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns. However, he suffered a torn ACL in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, so he hasn't been able to work out for teams leading up to the draft.

    As long as Williams produces at the same level when he's healthy again, he should develop into a strong receiver in the NFL. And because of his big-play potential, he could bring a new dynamic to New Orleans' passing attack if he ends up going there.