Danny Rockwell / WWL-TV Sports
Predicting what the Saints will do throughout the entire NFL draft is next to impossible, but we do have an idea about who might be on their radar in the first round.
Heading into the 2014 season, I think the team’s primary positions of need are wide receiver and cornerback. It wouldn’t hurt to add depth on the defensive line, linebacking corps, or even at center, where it’s uncertain if Tim Lelito can sufficiently replace the departed Brian de la Puente. In the end, the Saints can add that depth with subsequent picks in the draft, so receiver and cornerback should be the top priority.
Here are five players the Saints may look to select with the 27th overall pick on May 8th:
Marqise Lee, USC WR – Sean Payton has always been fond of wide receivers that can stretch the field, and Lee can certainly do that. His 2013 season wasn’t quite as productive as the previous season, in which he totaled 118 catches for over 1,700 yards and won the Biletnikoff Award, but he still managed to average almost 14 yards per reception to go with his 4 touchdowns. Lee looks the part of a big-time NFL wide receiver, but can he play that part?
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State WR – Last season’s Biletnikoff winner might be gone before the 27th pick, but Mickey Loomis and company are no strangers to moving up for the player they want (see Mark Ingram, Jammal Brown). Cooks totaled 128 catches and 1,730 yards last season, and even filled in on punt returns, something that may help the Saints with Darren Sproles now in Philadelphia. Cooks and LSU’s Odell Beckham are two playmakers that the Saints will likely have to trade up for if they hope to grab them.
Bradley Roby, Ohio State CB – At 6’0”, Roby has the size to be an NFL cornerback, but there are many questions about his reliability and his off the field behavior. He’s been arrested twice in the last year, once for an altercation in a bar fight and more recently for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, though he’s proclaimed his innocence via Twitter this week (@BradRoby_1). The Buckeye cornerback totaled eight interceptions in his three years at Ohio State, but the Saints have to decide if the potential reward is worth the risk with Roby.
Jason Verrett, TCU CB – Verrett is another cornerback that may end up being a steal for the Saints. Though undersized at 5’9’’, his breakout speed is clearly his strength. Last year, the Saints took 2 players who produced superb 40-times at the combine (Kenny Stills & Terron Armstead), and Verrett’s quickness is tremendously appealing. Though he had just nine career interceptions with the Horned Frogs, Verrett could become a solid option opposite Keenan Lewis as well as in the Saints’ nickel defense.
Dee Ford, Auburn OLB – Yes, the Saints probably need a receiver or cornerback more than another linebacker, but don’t be too surprised if Ford ends up as the name commissioner Roger Goodell calls as the Saints’ first pick. The Senior Bowl MVP, who played at defensive end at Auburn, worked out for the team this offseason, and could be an extra piece in Rob Ryan’s preferred 3-4 system, which went out the window due to injuries to Victor Butler and David Hawthorne last season. His ability to be a LB/DE hybrid-type player could give the defensive coordinator an added wrinkle in certain schemes.
In the end, the Saints always claim to take their highest-rated player, regardless of position; but if they’re hoping to get better now instead of later, they may need to focus on position needs more than they want to.