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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
John Sigler

2023 NFL mock draft shows what Saints could gain from a Sean Payton trade

What could the New Orleans Saints get back from trading former head coach Sean Payton? A new 2023 NFL mock draft has given us an idea of what’s possible. Luke Easterling over at Draft Wire published an updated projection in light of the growing interest in Payton’s services around the league, and he has the Saints recouping a first round pick by trading Payton to the Denver Broncos — who own the San Francisco 49ers’ first rounder by way of a midseason trade that sent star pass rusher Bradley Chubb to the Miami Dolphins.

And while that pick’s exact slot will be determined, it’s going to fall somewhere in the back third of the first round. Right now that’s projected to be No. 29 overall. And Easterling likes the Saints to select Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker at that spot:

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“It sounds like Sean Payton will have his pick of many suitors this offseason, and if anyone can save Russell Wilson, he’s probably Denver’s best bet. In return for letting Payton out of his contract, the Saints get the opportunity to land a potential franchise quarterback with limitless upside, getting that all-important fifth-year option by not hoping Hooker falls to them in the second round.”

Hooker is old for an early-round prospect (he turns 25 on Friday, incidentally) and he’s coming off of a season-ending knee injury on a non-contact play from back in November. He’ll also have some work to do before he’s ready to lead an NFL offense after starring in Tennessee’s hustle-up-and-spread-out passing attack. But he throws a very accurate football and has all the skills you look for, plus ample experience at the college level. He’d be an upgrade over the last couple Saints quarterbacks to precede him.

But this was a two-round mock draft, and in this scenario Easterling has New Orleans holding onto its next pick in the second round and spending it on USC Trojans offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees. The redshirt senior is listed at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds and has started games at both guard and tackle on each side of the line. He brings positional versatility and a lot of experience, and it’s easy to see him slotting into the lineup at left guard if Andrus Peat becomes a salary cap casualty for the Saints this summer. New Orleans has invested a top-50 pick in a lineman (offensive or defensive) in eight straight drafts, so they clearly value trench play.

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