The 2018 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into this year’s draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. Draftmas continues today with the 2018 New Orleans Saints NFL Draft profile.
The New Orleans Saints rebounded in a big way in 2017. After finishing 7-9 the year before, the Saints were one miracle play away from the NFC Championship game. What made this year’s Saints particularly exciting was the way their offense evolved from the traditional Sean Payton approach.
Payton is known for his incredible creativity and willingness to throw in any situation. However, that changed in 2017. The Saints recalibrated their offense to, literally, run through Mark Ingram and rookie standout, Alvin Kamara. The Saints finished 13th in rushing attempts and fifth in rushing yards. These were their highest rushing rankings since they won the Super Bowl in 2009.
Conversely, Drew Brees and company were equally productive and efficient. This offense was 19th in pass attempts, but fifth in yards. Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr. and Kamara were incredibly explosive and consistent for the offense.
The offense was not the only unit to evolve and improve in 2017. The Saints’ defense finished 10th in points allowed and 17th in yards allowed. Finally, Brees and the offense were supported by an above average defense. Standouts among this unit were defensive end, Cameron Jordan, and rookie stars in the secondary, Marcus Williams and Marshon Lattimore.
Picks and Needs
The New Orleans Saints have eight picks in this year’s 2018 NFL draft. As a Super Bowl favorite, this draft will be about securing as much depth as possible.
First round (1): 27
Second round (0):
Third round (1): 91
Fourth round (1): 127
Fifth round (2): 147, 164
Sixth round (2): 189, 201
Seventh round (1): 245
Offensive guard – Andrus Peat has been mediocre in his first three years and missed time due to injury in 2017. The Saints should try to upgrade or secure depth at this position so that one injury does not compromise their ability control the line of scrimmage.
Tight end – There is not a tight end on the roster who can threaten defenses vertically on a consistent basis. Ben Watson is a good fit because of his veteran experience, but lacks the explosiveness to be a true threat. If the Saints could find a young receiving tight end in this draft, it would add yet another dimension to the 2018 New Orleans Saints offense.
Linebacker – As the roster is currently constructed, A.J. Klein is slated to start at the Sam linebacker position. His play has fallen off a cliff since 2015 and is one of the few liabilities on this defense. Hopefully the Saints can find a replacement for Klein in the later rounds of the draft.
Strong safety: Kenny Vaccaro’s injury and sharp decline in 2017 is concerning. It is very possible he heals and bounces back in 2018. However, the Saints should try to add depth at this position given Vaccaro’s health.
These are some prospects that the 2018 New Orleans Saints can realistically target in the draft given their current draft position.
Pick No. 27: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
This pick does not address an immediate need. It would be great if the Saints could take Isaiah Wynn, the multi-positional lineman from Georgia, but it is unlikely he falls this far.
However, Miller would solidify some great depth at the tackle position. He is incredibly athletic and has experience playing both tackle positions in college.
Miller’s selection here is an insurance policy. The Saints absolutely have championship aspirations and would hate to have those hopes derailed by an injury to either tackle. As the Philadelphia Eagles showed, depth at key positions, like tackle, can keep playoff and championship hopes alive.
Pick No. 91: Darius Leonard, OLB, South Carolina
Leonard has received rave reviews from NFL scouts. His tackling, coverage and block-shedding skills are impressive. The only thing holding Leonard back from a higher selection is his size and athletic ability. The Saints would add an impact player who would have a chance to start at the third linebacker position, and at worst, is a versatile contributor at multiple positions and special teams.
The 2018 New Orleans Saints are in a great position. However, they need to execute a strong draft in order to stay ahead of the pack in the incredibly competitive NFC South.
Make sure to tune in tomorrow for the Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 NFL Draft profile.