I have no idea if the New Orleans Saints 2017 offseason will lead to success on the field, but I know it's the most fun offseason since at least 2006.
The Saints added a bunch of pretty good, or at least interesting free agents (AJ Klien, Larry Warford, Ted Ginn, Manti T'eo, and Alex Okafor), traded Brandin Cooks to New England for first and third round draft picks, and have been rumored to want to trade for Patriots all-pro corner Malcolm Butler.
Did I mention the fun Johnny Manziel signing with the Saints rumor that entertained us for a day or two? Oh, and they are thinking of signing former Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson, which leads to the always entertaining, "Do we want the Saints to sign a player with off the field issues?" debate. The 2017 Saints offseason is like the gift that just keeps giving and giving. Mickey Loomis deserves an Oscar because this was some fabulous entertainment. BEST. OFFSEASON. EVER.
The NFL draft is next Thursday, and for my preview column this year, I decided to use Fanspeak.com's 'On the Clock' draft simulator to do two, three-round mock drafts. By the way, the mock draft simulator is kind of addictive; you can trade up, down, or pretend you are the Cleveland Browns and just set picks on fire. It's the amazing.
For our first mock draft simulation, I ran the Saints draft as if I was in charge. Truthfully, if I was in charge of the Saints draft, next Thursday night would be way more fun. You think President Trump tweets a little too much? If I ran the Saints and controlled their Twitter, it'd be nothing but laughing baby gifs and cryptic tweets mentioning random players to confuse Adam Schefter and Jay Glazer.
"Adam you have late breaking news concerning the Saints?" "Yes I do. The Saints official Twitter account has tweeted out 13 dancing baby gifs and a Leonard Fournette touchdown highlight every time he drops a slot. This COULD mean he will be the Saints pick at 11. I have unconfirmed reports their general manager Ralph Malbrough is wearing a Leonard Fournette jersey in the Saints war room."
"Is that professional Adam?"
"Clearly not. Neither is the bourbon he's drinking."
You know you’d love it.
I have two basic draft philosophies...
1. Half the players any team picks will be complete failures so if you have A LOT of needs; you need A LOT of picks.
2. I hate players with character issues, injury histories, and guys who nobody heard of in November but in April "He's a can't miss superstar in waiting!"
It's hard enough to make the NFL if you are healthy and managed not to get arrested or do dumb things repeatedly in college. Let the other teams draft the guy in the first round who has drop foot and a cadaver ligament in his left knee or take the running back who had a regrettable Tweet n the second round. I'd be the William F. Buckley of NFL general managers when drafting; ultra-conservative and hell bent on minimizing risk by acquiring a ton of picks and avoiding guys with red flags or injuries.
If I had a catchy draft slogan it would be "One guy won't fix our problem, so get me two!"
I conducted this draft simulation without the Saints trading for Malcolm Butler, so that means cornerback is now a major need. I used two of my first three picks to feel ok at corner. I needed more picks and luckily Jerry Jones was on line one wanting to trade up to get corner Marshon Lattimore of Ohio State. I was torn because Lattimore might be spectacular, but adding another injury-prone corner to the Saints secondary seems like a worse idea than Frosty the Snowman vacationing in Cancun.
So I traded down to 28, and got Cowboys first, second, third, and fourth round picks. I had to cross my fingers and pray a top pass rusher fell. The #1 player on my board unbelievably fell to 28! Say hello to the Saints new defensive end; Taco Charlton of Michigan.
Why is Taco #1 on my board? The jokes. When Charlton has a three sack game, that’s ‘Taco Supreme’. If Charlton is really bad against the run, that’s a ‘Soft Taco’. The possibilities are endless I tell you.
For our comedy purposes the Saints having a defensive end name Taco is the funnest draft outcome we can hope for. When Taco has 12 sacks, my ‘Taco Crunches QBs’ t-shirt is gonna fund my kid’s college education.
So called draft experts say he’s a one-year wonder or other #fakedraftnews analysis. I believe in Taco. Why would anyone not love a guy named Taco? He's got to better than Paul Kruger right?
At 32, I went full LSU homer and snapped up Tre'Davious White. PLAY THE FIGHT SONG! HOLD THAT TIGER! He's gonna be great? Why? Three letters people...L-S-U. I've done the research. Also, the Saints need a corner badly.
At 42, I couldn't believe Washington corner Kevin King was available. He's big, tall, can run, and not named B.W. Webb. I feel like he's a success already. With the other second round pick I got from Dallas, I drafted wide receiver Carlos Henderson of Louisiana Tech because I care about the future of Louisiana's young people and he went to McDonogh 35 high school in New Orleans. Also, he did THIS against Navy.
After my simulator trade with the Cowboys I had three 3rd round picks. With the first one I took Duke Riley of LSU. You know why? I'm still mad the Saints couldn't get Deion Jones last year and it's not as if AJ Klien and Manti T'eo are locks to solve anything at linebacker.
At selection 92 I took Julie'n Davenport, offensive tackle Bucknell. In real life he will probably go much higher, but he adds great depth to a Saints offensive line that is potentially the strength of the 2017 team. Zach Strief isn't gonna play forever you know.
For the final selection of the three round mock draft I got Sean Payton a fun project quarterback in Brad Kaaya from the University of Miami. Jon Gruden really likes Kaaya's toughness and eagerness to learn. Gruden and Sean Payton are buds; hence my theory is Sean would love this pick. Can you imagine Gruden talking to Payton about Kaaya? “Sean, I call this kid my ‘Fire Q’ because Brad Kaaya is gonna set NFL defenses on FI-YA!” That imaginary conversation convinces me Kaaya is the Saints quarterback of the next 15 years.
Also did you know Brad Kaaya’s mom played Felicia in the movie ‘Friday’? Like a thousand flowers in the springtime, our #byeFelicia jokes are waiting to bloom whether Kaaya is good or bad at football.
The Saints simulated 2017 draft with me in charge has everything we could ever want; LSU players, jokes, and players with cool names like Kaaya and Taco. I fixed the secondary and drafted four Louisiana college players because I love Louisiana THAT MUCH.
For our second mock draft simulation I did what I think the Saints will do. When trying to predict what the Saints will do I kept two things in mind; Mickey Loomis has an addiction to trading up which might never be cured, stopped, or curtailed and Sean Payton loves to add offense even when we least expect it (See Andrus Peat in 2015 and Michael Thomas in 2016). The Saints aren't afraid to trade away future assets for the player they know in their heart will be spectacular today. It's like eating a cheeseburger while on the treadmill, you can justify it all you want, but screaming, "I'm burning the calories AS I CONSUME THEM!" doesn't make it a great idea. In the long term all you are doing is running in place. 7-9, 7-9, 7-9 is proof of that.
To get in the right frame of mind to wheel and deal like Mickey Loomis, I offered a bag of goldfish snacks, a single pack of animal crackers, and 20 minutes of Speedy Gonzales IPAD time to my 17-month-old son for a Capri Sun and conditional guarantee of 30 minutes of quiet time in 2018.
He counter offered my wife's open makeup bag and a half-eaten potato chip.
He's ruthless negotiator, walked away from the table MULTIPLE times, and laughed continuously at my offers.
So let's look at my simulated three round mock draft that tried to predict what the Saints will do....
*This mock was done as if the Saints have traded their #42 pick for Malcolm Butler.
#11 Haason Reddick, linebacker Temple
Think of Reddick as Dannell Ellerbe during that fun stretch in 2016 where Ellerbe was sacking quarterbacks, generally causing havoc, and helping the Saints defense look excitingly competent. He better be that good because in this simulation the Saints passed up Leonard Fournette, corner Marshon Lattimore of Ohio State, and a monster trade offer from Dallas to take him.
At #32 all the top corners, the rest of the top defensive ends, and Christian McCaffrey were all gone, so I thought this might be the rare occasion where the Saints trade down. I traded down to 39, picked defensive end Jordan Willis of Kansas State, and for my trouble got another 3rd round pick! Darren Howard was from Kansas State and he worked out well. My logic is FULL PROOF! At #76 I grabbed Carl Lawson of Auburn. It's unlikely he will last this long, and while his injury history is concerning, the Saints would have two potential solutions at defensive end. The Saints have shown they have ZERO fear of drafting a guy with an extensive injury history. /looks sadly at Hau'oli Kikaha At #103 I selected Desmond King, safety, Iowa. He was best player left and he can play safety and corner, which will be good when Saints defensive backs catch the annual plague in August and three of them die. Loomis needs to prepare for emergency situations.
For pick #107 I had the Saints grab Antonio Garcia, offensive tackle from Troy. The Saints need offensive line depth but more importantly I loved Andy Garcia in 'The Untouchables', ‘The
Godfather Part III, and that weird ‘Passengers’ movie with Jennifer Lawrence. If he can stop Al Capone, he can thrive blocking linebackers. Wait? Different guy? I still like the choice.
The final pick of this three-round mock draft is Chad Hansen, wide receiver, California. Let's hope he works out better than the last Cal receiver the Saints drafted in 2005. Do you remember Chase Lyman and his cadaver knee ligaments and fact his Saints career ended in rookie mini-camp when his knee exploded? Chad, we have low expectations for you, so you can't really disappoint us.
That's a pretty accurate mock draft of what Saints might do huh? I didn't get a running back, but Saints have shown a unique ability to find decent running backs on any street corner and can just sign Adrian Peterson. Eventually the Saints are going to break the 20-year-stretch of not being able to draft a linebacker above room temperature; Haason Reddick is just the man for the job. Malcolm Butler and this draft would complete an offseason that might not end in 7-9. At least let's hope so. Enjoy the draft everyone.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.
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