By Richard Fischer
The NFL Draft is just around the corner.
So before the real thing makes everything written below irrelevant, here’s a look at who the Saints should be considering.
1st round (27 overall) – Dee Ford | DE/OLB | Auburn
There’s no denying what the edge rusher from Auburn can do. Injuries remain a question mark, however. He hurt his back in 2011 and his knee in 2013 – plus a problem stemming from the back injury kept him off the field in the NFL Combine.
These concerns will likely keep him on the board when the Saints pick at 27, but due to his talent, motor and a tremendous showing at the Senior Bowl he’s absolutely worth taking a flier on.
New Orleans would begin with Ford as an outside linebacker, but if he really struggles in coverage, defensive end could become his eventual position in the pros.
But don’t be shocked if the Saints trade up somewhere in the 8-15 range for an elite prospect here. Maybe Anthony Barr. Maybe Mike Evans. Maybe even the hometown hero Odell Beckham Jr. With six picks in the top 169 and players like Brodrick Bunkley to spare, they’ve got the ammunition to do it.
But of course that’s impossible to predict, so I’ll go with Ford if they keep the selection.
2nd round (58 overall) – Jarvis Landry | WR | LSU
If the Saints can’t get their hands on OBJ in the first round, Lutcher’s and LSU’s own Jarvis Landry might be the next best thing in the second. Whoever gets Landry is getting a steal.
He lacks high-end speed and high-end size, but anyone who watched him at LSU can tell me if that ever got in his way. He’s a tremendous route runner, makes catches in traffic that make you go, “Woah” and can make a block that turns a 15-yard run into a touchdown. But you already knew that.
3rd round (91 overall) – Weston Richburg | C | Colorado State
New Orleans is hurting for depth in the middle big time, and Weston Richburg can help in either one of two ways. Either he beats out Tim Lelito in the middle and New Orleans has one of the best backup interior linemen in football, or Lelito snaps it to Brees and Richburg bides his time as a versatile backup.
Richburg overcame a torn ACL in high school to set a school record with 50 career starts.
He’s a nice, safe pick that fills a big-time need, although some of the corners on the board or Kent State speedster Dri Archer could be really tough to pass up here.
4th round (126 overall) – Louchiez Purifoy | CB | Florida
New Orleans needs to get its cornerback, and in a deep cornerback class the Saints can wait a bit. After running a 4.61 at the NFL Combine, his stock has slipped, and if he’s available at 126, New Orleans should nab him. The eye test tells you he runs much better than 4.61.
Lack of technique is his next biggest knock, so I’m sure a veteran like Champ Bailey would be great for his career.
5th round (167 overall) – Tyler Gaffney | RB | Stanford
We’ve seen during the Sean Payton era that he likes to keep a bevy of backs on the roster, and Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney would fit right in. A hard-nosed runner with good vision, Gaffney could take carries away from Mark Ingram. Some say Ingram turned the corner late last year. I’m still proceeding with caution, and so are the Saints. That’s why the Saints reportedly chose not to pick up his 2015 option, according to ESPN.com.
5th round (169 overall) (Pick acquired from Philadelphia in Darren Sproles trade) – Devon Kennard | OLB | USC
With the pick New Orleans received in the Darren Sproles trade, I say they take out an insurance policy with Devon Kennard of USC. Going with Ford in the first round, there’s a strong possibility Ford flops as an outside linebacker and ends up on the D-Line. If so, Kennard projects as more of a true outside linebacker. He won’t blow you away physically, but he’s smart, well prepared and plays with leadership and poise. Plus his dad, Derek, played offensive line for the Saints 1991-93 and went on to win Super Bowl XXX with Dallas.
6th round (202 overall) – De’Anthony Thomas | RB | Oregon
Without Sproles, New Orleans will be missing its lighting-in-a-bottle speedster, and Thomas could be just that. It’s practically the same role he played at Oregon. Add in the return ability New Orleans is missing without Sproles and Lance Moore, and Thomas to NOLA is a match made in heaven.
New Orleans traded its seventh round pick (242 overall) to San Francisco for Parys Haralson.