After my first Mock Draft in January, it’s time for version 2.0. My goal is to do these once a month so I can get updates in when things happen with the roster, like players being released, players being retained, or free agents being signed. I went with my always preferred method of mock drafting – through Fanspeak’s On the Clock Mock Draft Simulator tool. For this exercise I took Fanspeak’s prospect rankings.
1st round, 11th overall: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
I was surprised to see Foster fall to 11, but if he does the Saints have to pounce. It was hard for me to pass on Derek Barnett but I believe this would immediately solve the Saints’ problems at middle linebacker for a long time to come. By the way, in this simulation, the top 10 went as follows: Watson, Trubisky, Garrett, Fournette, Howard, Adams, Allen, Williams, Thomas, Davis.
2nd round, 42nd overall: Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
The only downside to landing Foster in round 1 is passing on a pass rusher. Therefore the need is heightened in round 2. I was relieved to have Lawson fall to this point. Lawson is a 1st round talent that dropped due to injuries in college. Hopefully that benefits the Saints.
3rd round, 76th overall: Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland
I absolutely love this pick. Shaheen is the next great small school prospect, potentially. He’s 6’6″ and 277 and has the size to manhandle coverage. He has terrific hands and he has that Jimmy Graham type speed. He’s a question mark at blocking and there’s no doubt he would need some seasoning there – but with his size and Dan Campbell teaching him, he should be able to develop that part of the game. Tight end is at an interesting place with Michael Ho’omanawanui spending all of 2016 on IR and Josh Hill ending the season on it as well. Depth is needed. Coby Fleener has been a little bit of a disappointment, too, and who knows how long he sticks around with that inflated contract. Getting a developmental tight end in the fold that may take a year or two to fully “get it” works well for the timeline of when Fleener might be let go.
4th round, 116th overall: Dwayne Thomas, CB, LSU
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
I was hoping to get a cornerback earlier in this draft but with Foster falling, the need a pass rusher, and having Shaheen available to pluck it just didn’t work out. Thomas might have gotten less love at LSU with so many big names in the mix at his position, but make no mistake he’s a great player. He has the size, speed and playmaking ability to transition well into the NFL. Those no guarantees Damian Swann and P. J. Williams are in a good place come the regular season – so Thomas would represent another young, talented guy in the mix to compete. Based on the high volume of injuries the Saints always seem to get at this position, I would be very happy landing him.
6th round, 197th overall: Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic
Fortunately Hendrickson got out of FAU before Lane Kiffin could get his dirty paws on him. I didn’t go into this draft wanting two pass rushers, but I love Hendrickson as a late round prospect. If you read the photo description, then you know Hendrickson was awarded an MVP in the East-West Shrine Game. Hendrickson was also highly productive at FAU, notching 23 sacks over the last two years. At 6’4, 270lbs, he has good size. Most importantly, late round subs like this need to have special teams value. He had four (!!) blocked kicks in 2016 which was tied for best in the FBS. He and Lawson would give the Saints a nice rotation and significantly improve the Saints pass rush.
7th round, 232nd overall: Greg Pyke, G, Geogia
Yes, this is my 4th SEC player in this mock. Really going SEC heavy… but I promise it’s not a bias – they just have good prospects this year. Pyke, in particular, fits the Saints well because of his movement. He’s able to get at the second level and pull well. That’s something that will help the zone running scheme and screen passes. At 6’6″ 325lbs, he has great size, too. His lack of leg power and balance is criticized, but that’s something you can fix in the weight room. I don’t need to tell you the Saints’ need for youth help on the interior o-line.