I’ve started to dive into the prospects available for the 2017 draft (though not every underclassman has declared or decided to stay yet) and considered what might be available for the Saints when they pick 11th. This year, I really feel like no offensive or defensive position, except receiver, is off the table. Even quarterback, running back and defensive tackle are positions I would consider. If Nick Fairley is re-signed, I probably take defensive tackle off the list, but otherwise this draft is kind of an open canvas for the Saints… and the focus should be picking the absolute best player available regardless of his position. With that said, he’s an early look at five players that could be available at 11 and be a terrific pick for the Saints.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The consensus right now is that Mitch Trubisky of UNC will be the first quarterback taken in the draft. A lot can change between now, the combine and draft day – but he possesses a lot of the prototypical skills NFL teams look for in their quarterback of the future. Even if Trubisky goes 1st overall, or very early, I still don’t think Watson falls to 11. If he does, though, the Saints need to give this very serious consideration. The time has come to secure the heir to Drew Brees if the right player falls to them. I don’t want the Saints to force getting a quarterback, but if a guy like Watson falls into their lap they need to pounce on it. Like Dak Prescott, I feel Watson’s ability to play and win games is grossly underrated. His value has skyrocketed after beating Alabama with an epic performance in the national championship, but prior to that playoff run many viewed Watson as a superstar college quarterback that might not excel at the next level. The bottom line for me is he faced NFL talent two years in a row against Alabama, pretty much top to bottom, and he threw for over 800 yards and 8 touchdowns in those two games. Brees is entering the final year of his deal and he’s turning 38. I don’t want this to be his last year, either, but it sure would be nice to have a prospect like this learning from him.
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
It depends on who you talk to; there are differing opinions on who the best cornerback in the draft will be. There are several good ones in a top heavy class. I just know Sean Payton loves size in his corners and Humphrey is 6’1″, 196lbs. 40 time is probably more important for this position than any other, so the combine will impact the stock in a lot of guys at this position. His ball skills (5 INTs, 12 breakups) is undeniable, though, and while the Clemson receivers did well most recently – Mike Williams is a top 10 pick too.
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
If you watched the national championship game, this one shouldn’t take too much convincing. It might be time to admit that Stephone Anthony isn’t going to work out. I’d prefer to see Craig Robertson moved back to weak-side linebacker and get a different middle linebacker next season. Laurinaitis didn’t work out, and Anthony can still provide competition there (if he’s moved back), so MLB is a need. Foster transforms what this defense can do sideline to sideline regardless of the offensive play call.
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
There is zero doubt in my mind that Barnett will be a beast in the NFL. He’s got edge speed, a motor, size and he loves to play. He’s a tailor-made Sean Payton guy on/off the field. He reminds me of Cam Jordan a bit in that he’s good at everything but maybe not the most explosive guy. I think he could be even better, though. He led the SEC in sacks this year with 12.
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
If he’s available, man, I seriously consider it. Again, it’s not about what position the guy plays. I’d rather get a superstar at a position that’s less of a need (and trust me, I’d much prefer Fournette as the #2 behind Ingram over Tim Hightower) then reach for a position you’re desperate at. Hopefully the Saints will do enough in free agency to allow them to take the best player available at 11. Fournette needs serious consideration if he falls that far. The only way I see that happening is if teams worry about his season, his ankle, and maybe he doesn’t run at the combine or doesn’t show top end speed because of the injury. I firmly believe he’s the next Adrian Peterson.