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2022 NFL Draft: Names to watch when the Saints are on the clock

Quarterback, wide receiver, safety, and defensive tackle are among the positions the team will likely consider in the draft.

LAS VEGAS — The Saints will have some new faces in the fall.

The team is primed to pick twice in Thursday night's first round, at picks 16 and 19 — unless they decide to make some draft night trades, which is certainly something in Mickey Loomis' repertoire.

When the Saints come on the clock, here are some of the names the team will be considering:

Wide Receiver

Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State - Olave's most defining trait is his route running savvy, which is the primary reason he has been considered a first round talent for two years. Olave's production has gone up every year at Ohio State, culminating in an outstanding 2021 stat line of 65 catches for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns. Should he be selected, Olave would immediately enter the depth chart as the team's second option at wide receiver, only behind Michael Thomas.

Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State - Another Ohio State alumnus, Wilson's most defining trait is his separation ability and his flexibility throughout the offense; he played 72.9% of his snaps from the slot in 2020, in contradiction to the over 80% of his snaps on the outside in 2021. He hauled in an incredible 70 catches for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021. Wilson is seen as being the most "pro-ready" wide receiver in this class and just like his teammate Olave, Wilson would instantly become the team's second best option at wide receiver.

Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama - Williams is regarded by many as the top wide receiver in this class and very likely could end up going in the top 10. His status as a top-10 pick would not be in question had it not been for a significant injury, a torn ACL, he suffered in the CFP National Championship Game in January. 

Williams caught an astonishing 79 catches for almost 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2022 — his first season at Alabama after spending his first two college seasons at Ohio State. Williams is known for his incredible, game-breaking speed and has frequently been compared to current Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill. 

While there is a good chance he'll miss the early part of the 2022 season while still rehabbing from his ACL tear, Williams would figure to be one of the Saints primary offensive weapons if the team selects him.

Drake London, WR, Southern California - There is an interesting four-way dynamic among the top wide receivers in this draft. 

Wilson is seen as the most refined, Olave is seen as the best route runner, Williams is seen as the fastest and most electrifying, and Drake London is undoubtedly the most physical receiver. London is not particularly fast, which is a concern, and there are some injury concerns as he suffered a fractured right ankle in November. However, he's similar to both Michael Thomas and Marquez Callaway in the way he plays. 

London doesn't drop the ball, and his 6-foot-5 stature allows him to contend on high throws. He caught 88 balls for over 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns in just 8 games in 2021. London will be a red zone threat the second he enters the NFL, and his prospective role on the Saints would likely mimic the role Callaway had in 2021.

Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas - Burks comes from Arkansas, and hauled in 66 catches for 1,104 yards and an incredible 11 touchdowns in 2021 for the Razorbacks. Burks is a physical wide receiver, matching a profile the Saints typically like in their receivers. He is also a proficient run blocker. 

His stock dropped somewhat after a mediocre combine appearance, but the physical traits are undeniable. As is the case with every other receiver mentioned, Burks would come to the Saints immediately viewed as the de facto number two receiving option, behind only Michael Thomas.

Secondary

Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame - Hamilton is viewed by many scouts and analysts as one of the top-five players in this draft class. This pick would be predicated on Hamilton falling into the Saints lap at 16, which would result in a massive draft night win for Mickey Loomis. 

Hamilton falling out of the top 10 wouldn't be due to a lack of production or a lack of intangibles (even though his 40-yard-dash was a bit slow), it would be due to safety being considered a niche position. Essentially, good safeties can be found in later rounds, which typically precludes teams from taking them early. However, if the Saints are able to somehow grab a top 5 player at pick 16 or even pick 19, they could be adding a future captain and gamechanger to their secondary. A potential heir apparent to Malcolm Jenkins on the back-end.

Linebackers

Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah - Picking an off-ball linebacker is a pick that typically draws the ire of most fans. Picking Lloyd would be an example of the Saints grabbing a potential successor to Demario Davis. Lloyd was very productive in his senior season at Utah, clocking an incredible 111 tackles, 66 solo tackles, and a noteworthy 8 sacks, an eyebrow-raising total that you don't typically see for an off-ball inside linebacker. While he could potentially succeed Davis down the line, he would more immediately replace Kwon Alexander for the Saints in 2022.

D-Line

Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia - Davis is a physical freak. Standing at 6'6 and 340 pounds, Davis showed out at the combine clocking a time of 4.78 seconds in the 40-yard dash, an astonishing number for a defensive tackle, let alone one his size. 

Davis' defining trait is his ability against the run, and his inclusion would simply add to the ferocity of what is arguably the Saints top unit. Because of his incredible physical traits however, Davis will likely be gone by pick 16.

Travis Jones, DT, Connecticut - Jones is a space-eater in the middle of the defensive line, standing at 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds. He's also been a fast riser after an impressive performance at the combine. Jones may be viewed as a bit of a reach at (16/19), and will be a "project", in that he likely won't be a finished product in 2022. 

Thankfully for the Saints, as mentioned above, the defensive line is arguably the most complete unit on the roster, so Jones would likely get time to develop behind the team's more experienced defensive linemen. Unlike Davis, Jones will all but certainly be available at both picks 16 and 19, if the Saints choose to go in the defensive tackle direction.

Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia - Wyatt would be more in play at 19, or later if the Saints opt to trade back. He's the more athletic of the two Georgia defensive tackles, but didn't have the production of Davis. He only totaled five sacks in four career collegiate seasons. Wyatt will likely take time to develop into an NFL starter, but projects well given his physical traits. Similar to Jones, it seems incredibly likely he'll be available when the Saints come on the clock at pick 19.

O-Line

Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State - Cross was a four-year starter at Mississippi State and would come to the Saints with expectation of filling a substantial role right away, as he would be expected to fill the void left by the departure of left tackle Terron Armstead in free agency. 

Cross is well known for his abilities as pass blocker. The concern surrounding Cross will be his ability to block during run plays. At Mississippi State, the offense ran an Air Raid scheme, meaning the vast majority of plays the team ran were pass plays originating out of a shotgun formation.

Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa - Penning is a monster of a man, standing at 6-foot-7, and weighing 325 pounds. Penning received a 99.9 run blocking grade in 2021, which is the highest ever charted by Pro Football Focus. He also holds the Northern Iowa school record in the squat, at an almost disbelieving 625 pounds. 

The concern around Penning is whether or not his success will translate to the NFL level. While at Northern Iowa, Penning almost exclusively played FCS opponents, the vast majority of whom are not NFL caliber players. The Saints would be banking on Penning developing into the heir apparent to Terron Armstead.

Quarterbacks

Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh - Pickett would come to the Saints as the seemingly heir apparent to Drew Brees. Pickett is coming into the draft believed to be the most "pro-ready" quarterback in the 2022 class, so it seems conceivable that if he is selected, he would enter an open quarterback competition with Jameis Winston — although given Winston's experience, he'd likely be the favorite. 

Pickett is known as an effective pocket passer, with above average mobility. He is a five-year starter and really blossomed in his final season, throwing for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns with seven interceptions in 2021. He also ran for 241 yards and and five touchdowns in his final season. Some of the concerns surrounding Pickett stem from a perceived lack of competition in the ACC, as well as measurables that don't matchup with what scouts typically look for in a starting quarterback. 

Regardless, the Saints could opt to bring him in and see whether or not he's ready or capable to inherit the team in a time of organizational turnover.

Malik Willis, QB, Liberty - Willis is an exciting prospect with seemingly endless potential. He's is electrifying when he plays, drawing lofty comparisons to superstar quarterbacks like Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. Wherever Willis ends up, he will almost definitely spend the 2022 season as a backup quarterback, as many of his traits are not yet refined for the NFL level. 

Regardless, there will be plenty of excitement surrounding him, given his boundless potential.

Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss - Corral has been arguably the most polarizing quarterback prospect in this class. He is undoubtedly skilled, but his physical traits have drawn concern from many scouts and analysts alike. Corral completed 68% of his passes in a breakthrough 2021 campaign, but his diminutive 6-foot stature and thin build has caused some folks to have pause on future as an NFL quarterback, an argument that was enflamed after he injured his leg in the Sugar Bowl. 

Regardless, if the Saints see something in Corral and decide to take him, he would likely enter an immediate competition with Jameis Winston to see if he is Drew Brees' successor to lead the Saints.

Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati - Ridder has been a fascinating, if not polarizing prospect. Analysts have been all over the map on their evaluations of his future as an NFL quarterback. Some see Ridder as someone who could end up being the best quarterback in this class, given his steady statistical progression over his four-year career at Cincinnati. 

On the other hand, many see him as being too inconsistent, or not NFL caliber in the way he plays. He's similar to the other quarterback prospects, in that he would join the Saints with the lens of becoming the team's prospective heir apparent to Drew Brees. 

Similar to Willis, it seems incredibly likely that he would spend the 2022 season backing up Jameis Winston.

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