We’re coming up on the annual Senior Bowl college all-star game, which has prompted our own Luke Easterling over at Draft Wire to publish a two-round mock draft scoping out what’s ahead for teams like the New Orleans Saints. And he has the Saints getting a first round pick back from the Denver Broncos (who got it from the San Francisco 49ers, who had sent it to the Miami Dolphins), which would be very good news for New Orleans. We’ve already discussed the Saints picks in this mock, but what would we do differently in the same situation?
It was too soon for me to comfortably spend that first rounder on any of the quarterbacks still available, and I’m assuming that’s a problem the Saints will solve one way or another ahead of the draft. Whether that means trading for a veteran or signing a free agent remains to be seen, but I get the sense that’s their preference anyway.
First round, pick No. 29
Draft Wire: Florida OL O’Cyrus Torrence
Saints Wire: Baylor DT Siaki Ika (had been picked at No. 32)
I’ve got to say, I like Torrence here, and he’s exactly the kind of prospect the Saints usually target early on. He’s an experienced multi-year starter in the trenches and they could use an Andrus Peat replacement assuming he’s released as a salary cap cut. Torrence has experience lining up at left guard, too, so there shouldn’t be much adjustment involved. I would be fine with this pick, even if it means moving off of a veteran starter to open a spot for the rookie. That’s not my preferred approach but I would understand it.
But the bigger need is along the defensive line, especially the interior. The Saints got by with a lot of undrafted players at defensive tackle when Ryan Nielsen was coaching them up. He’s left town now, and he’ll probably take several of those players with him. Ika would be a blue-chip addition. The Saints coveted a big-time nose tackle in last year’s top prospect Jordan Davis. Ika has similar qualities. He can get their run defense back on its feet (the Saints allowed 593 rushing yards in their last four games alone) right away and grow into an interior pressure player with time.
Second round, pick No. 40
Draft Wire: Stanford QB Tanner McKee
Saints Wire: SMU WR Rashee Rice (had been picked at No. 41)
I’m not a McKee fan, sorry. I’m sure he’s a great young man but he was an ineffective quarterback who didn’t really face the most challenging level of competition out on the West Coast. His lack of vertical passing production, pocket mobility, and other high-upside traits is concerning. The Saints should be aiming higher if they have a quarterback in mind this early on, and I don’t see anyone I’d roll the dice on just yet — Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker is available but his knee injury, college system experience, and advanced age for a first-year pro are concerns I can’t overlook.
But the offense needs a spark. And I like Rice to energize things in a couple of different ways. He’s got a lot of George Pickens to his game as an aggressive, big-bodied receiver who relishes contact; he tied for the sixth-most contested catches (16) in college football last year, and he’s a menace as a blocker on run plays. He also led the nation with 20 targets traveling 20 or more yards downfield, catching 18 of them. He can bring what Tre’Quan Smith offers in the run game while giving whoever the Saints quarterback is a reliable target on third downs. His large catch radius (he’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds) compliments Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed well as smaller guys who play bigger than their frame.