Draft expert: Saints should go with offensive lineman in first round

Draft expert: Saints should go with offensive lineman in first round

Credit: (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints is sacked by defensive end Cliff Avril #56 and defensive end Michael Bennett #72 of the Seattle Seahawks in the third quarter during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at CenturyLink Field on January 11, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.

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wwltv.com

Posted on February 19, 2014 at 9:31 AM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 19 at 10:05 AM

Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: bhandwerger@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

Mike Mayock is one of the most respected NFL Draft experts in the field.

Seventy-eight days before the annual collegiate player selection event, he’s as mystified as anyone as to what the Saints will do thanks to the many variables at play for the franchise.

“As far as the Saints are concerned at (pick No.) 27, you’re right – there’s an awful lot of questions there and you relate it to salary cap and late in the first round who is left,” Mayock said Tuesday during a pre-combine conference call.

New Orleans is estimated to be more than $2.5 million beneath the salary cap, according to ESPN’s John Clayton. But it still must find room for tight end Jimmy Graham, who is expected to command top dollar in what could end up being drawn out contract negotiations. There also must be room for draft picks.

Additionally, New Orleans is aging at receiver, where Marques Colston and Lance Moore both just completed their eighth season and Robert Meachem his seventh.

And in the defensive backfield, the Saints are likely in need of help after jettisoning cornerback Jabari Greer and safety Roman Harper, both key members of the defense at some point in their tenures with New Orleans.

Still, if Mayock were selecting for the Saints, he’d look towards the offensive line.

Right tackle Zach Strief and center Brian de la Puente are both free agents and could end up somewhere other than New Orleans. The Saints are set at guard, with Pro Bowlers Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs in the middle on their deals and Terron Armstead an emerging talent at left tackle.

In 2013, however, quarterback Drew Brees took the most sacks of his career with 37, which were 10 more than his prior highest total.

“I think they have got to get better on that offensive line again,” Mayock said. “They have had issues there the last couple of years, and when they are really good Drew Brees can step up in the pocket. And it hasn't been quite as good.”

Still, he threw for his third-best completion percentage (68.6 percent), third-most yards (5,162) and third-most touchdowns (39).

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