As a result of the New Orleans Saints need to get back under the cap during the offseason, several first-team mainstays in the gameday squad have moved on and will start life afresh with new teams come autumn: Trey Hendrickson, Alex Anzalone, Malcolm Brown, Janoris Jenkins, Kwon Alexander, and Emmanuel Sanders to name but a few...
With the Saints' depth chart significantly depleted, New Orleans fans will be hoping for strong gains in this year's draft, with many praying for something akin to that incredible haul in 2017.
That year (2017), the Saints plucked for several talents that have featured heavily in the first-team ever since: regular starters such as CB Marshon Lattimore, OT Ryan Ramczyk, RB Alvin Kamara, S Marcus Williams, and recently departed DE Trey Hendrickson were all sent to the Big Easy within the first 5 rounds.
Something like a repeat of their performance in the 2017 Draft would help fortify the Saints' depth chart, as Sean Payton's team gets ready to defend its NFC South Divisional title against the upcoming challenge from Super Bowl winners the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in particular.
2021 NFL Draft: Top five NFL draft prospects the New Orleans Saints should pursue in rounds one to five.
Take a look at five potential picks for the New Orleans Saints in this year's draft; one for each round (1-5).
#1 - Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Great news for the Saints that WR Michael Thomas has opted to renew his contract in New Orleans.
However, with Emmanuel Sanders having departed for the Buffalo Bills, Saints fans are eager to see some more high-quality receivers added to the roster in time for the new season.
The Saints aren't up on the board until pick No. 28 of round-one in this year's draft, meaning the likes of DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Ja'Marr Chase are unlikely to still be on the board.
Rashod Bateman is tipped to be selected towards the end of the first-round on most analysts' Mock Draft Boards.
The University of Minnesota WR opted out of the 2020 campaign amid concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic but showcased his incredible skills to the world during the Gophers' 2019 campaign when he amassed 1,123-yards through the air and chipped in with 11 TD receptions.
The Saints could certainly do a lot worse with their No.28 pick than by plucking for the electrifying former-gopher late in the first round.
#2 - Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton chalked up 202 total tackles in his last two years of college football, including 15 TFLs and three sacks. Bolton also chipped in with two interceptions (one of which was a pick-6), and 12 PDs.
Bolton was twice named to the first-team All-Southeastern Conference, as voted for by coaches and media, and was also selected as a second-team All-American by the AP in 2020.
Former Saints LB Alex Anzalone will be lining up in blue for the Detroit Lions next season, leaving a hole in the New Orleans LB slot on the depth chart.
Nick Bolton is projected to go off the board somewhere between the mid-late second-round at this year's draft, so expect the Saints to be sniffing around for his signature come to pick No. 60, assuming the Missouri man is still without a home come then.
#3 - Thomas Graham Jr, CB, Oregon
New Orleans has already held a virtual interview with Oregon Ducks CB Thomas Graham Jr and, given he is predicted to go off the board somewhere between picks 80-120 -- and given the Saints just lost starting CB Janoris Jenkins (Titans) to free agency -- this pick has some serious legs, in my opinion.
Graham Jr. enjoyed great seasons in 2017, 2018, and 2019, leading all active CBs in the NCAA in career passes defended. Graham Jr. also chipped in with 32 PDs and 8 interceptions during his college career.
The cornerback opted out of the 2020 season amid ongoing Covid-19 concerns, but it hasn't damaged his stock too much: the CB has been fielding calls from the likes of the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and the Saints since the offseason began.
Graham Jr. is excellent in coverage (as evidenced by the stats mentioned). His raw upper body strength makes him highly effective at preventing the rush, too.
The only downside to this talent is that Graham Jr is pretty small for a CB. During his college career, teams threw the ball in his direction often to test out his aerial prowess. Graham dealt with the air-raids very well but may find himself relegated to the slot once he makes the move to the NFL; at least while his new team gauges his ability under the high ball.
The Saints have already been heavily linked with Graham Jr. during the build-up to the draft, so it's a no-brainer that Sean Payton and co. take him at No. 98.
#4 - Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis is one of those players who is currently all over the place in both fans' and analysts' mock drafts: appearing as high as a late first-round pick in some, but as low as a late fourth-round pick in others.
Of course, I did my own mock draft (all 32 teams) before writing this, and on my board, the Saints traded up to the early fourth, and the 6"4, 234 lbs linebacker was still on the board, making it a no-brainer for me to select him, thus kitting out the Saints LB depth chart following the exits of Alex Anzalone and Kwon Alexander.
Davis made 48 solo tackles and hit 1.5 sacks for the Kentucky Wildcats during their 2020 campaign.
#5 - Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M
As of right now, the Saints have Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston as their only two registered QBs for the 2021 season.
It's highly unlikely that head coach Sean Payton will want to see such bare options come autumn though, so most analysts expect the Saints to take a QB at some point during the 2021 Draft.
Kellen Mond could end up being the man Payton selects to a) put pressure on his veteran QBs, and b) strengthen the depth chart at the QB position: the Texas A&M star threw for more than 5,000-yards, aiding the Aggies' cause with no fewer than 39 TD passes over the 2019 and 2020 campaigns, and is one of those late-round sleepers who could (operative word) go on to big things if given a chance in the league -- he certainly looks a very well-rounded talent judging from the limited highlights I have been able to catch.
What do you make of our picks for the New Orleans Saints in the 2021 NFL Draft? Tell us why your team is superior in the comments section below: