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METAIRIE, La. – If the New Orleans Saints do not draft a wide receiver in Round 1 on April 28, quite frankly, they will drop the ball.
Despite veteran Michael Thomas’ vital return from ankle injury that wiped out his entire 2021 season, the Saints are still in dire need of yet another premium pass catcher. They finished last in the NFL in passing last year and have yet to add the position in free agency.
Furthermore, the Saints now have 16th and 19th picks after a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles – and both are in what ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay described as “the sweet spot for a wide receiver.”
“This class reminds me a little bit more of 2020, as Henry Ruggs was the first recipient from the board at No. 12, but there were still six recipients named in [top 25]said McShay.
In 2021, three recipients went into the top 10. In 2019, “sweet spot” was round 2, where Deebo Samuel, AJ Brown and DK Metcalf were selected. Either way, New Orleans has missed out on the historic trait of receiving talent that has entered the NFL through all three of those drafts.
The Saints and Atlanta Falcons are the only two teams that have not drafted any receivers in rounds 1-4 from 2019-2021. But the Falcons added a dynamic pass catcher in tight-end Kyle Pitts with the fourth pick last year.
That is why the closet of the saints is so bare. And therefore they can not afford to jump out anymore.
If they do not prepare a recipient, the Saints would rather grab the phone right away and offer to pay former LSU star (and local fan favorite) Jarvis Landry whatever he asks for as the best remaining free agent.
Even if they make a draft for a recipient, it would not hurt to add a veteran like Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., TY Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders, William Fuller V or Cole Beasley – despite some question marks that have left them on open market.
Saints have other “needs” – like left tackle, security and defensive line. But the recipient is the only one who needs to be bold, underlined and circled with a red marker.
The good news is that they have lots of exciting draft options. At least one of the consensus top four should still be available among Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, USC’s Drake London, Alabama’s Jameson Williams and Ohio State’s Chris Olave.
Or they could probably choose from the next row, which includes Arkansas’ Treylon Burks, Penn State’s Jahan Dotson and North Dakota State’s Christian Watson.
The other good thing about this year’s class is the versatility where top receivers have “so many different features” according to ESPN analyst Matt Bowen.
The Saints would probably have to trade to acquire 6-foot, 183-pounds – which is too bad, as he may have the best inside / outside ability for a team that could use someone capable of competing in the castle to complement Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harty.
“Extremely dynamic after the catch,” said Bowen, who compares Wilson to Stefon Diggs. “Top ball skills and body control to make bets on back shoulder, front shoulder, over the rim. He can climb up the ladder and finish.
“He will need some time and development in terms of the nuances and details of running routes to professional DBs. But what I can not train is the sudden ability, the stop-start speed, that makes him so dynamic and intangible. “
Another who may be gone before the Saints selection, 6-4, 219-pounds is an obvious fit in the middle of the field. Perhaps Thomas most closely resembles – but all the harder for the defense to match.
“I think Drake London would be a really good fit,” said ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid. “I think he could play inside and out; he’s done both. But an underrated factor is that he’s a great running back. I know it’s something [former coach] Sean Payton [valued] In the past.”
Bowen paired the Saints with Williams in his best team fits for receivers. “Explosive and suddenly on tape at tremendous vertical speed … I like the fit of quarterback Jameis Winston’s aggressive mindset … my favorite wide receiver prospect in this class.”
ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. also sent Williams to New Orleans in his latest mock draft. And Reid agreed: “I actually think he fits in best with the Saints” – though Reid predicts that the 6-2, 179-pound will go into the top 15 despite tearing his ACL in January’s national championship game.
McShay said Williams ‘injury is the only thing that could bring him within New Orleans’ reach.
“I honestly think that when all is said and done, he has a really good chance of being the best receiver in this group,” McShay said.
Probably the best bet to pose on stage with a Saints cap. Opinions are more mixed at the 6-foot, 187-pound due to some questions about his physical characteristics. But he is widely regarded among the elite runners in this year’s class – and anyone who saw the Saints last year knows that the No. 1 trait they lacked was one that could open consistently.
“He’s a 4.39 speedster who’s just silky soft and an amazing vertical route runner,” McShay said. “I think he has a chance to become, if not a No. 1 in the league, a really good No. 2.”
Reid said he would be more confident taking Burks in his mid-20s. But the 6-2, 225-pound could be a particularly good fit if New Orleans wants someone who can line up at the castle.
“I think he’s a kind of dynamic multi-dimensional player,” said Bowen, who mentioned the way the 49ers have used Samuel as creatively as receiver and runner, while suggesting that Burks could be “inserted in several adjustments and on manufactured contacts. “
“Dotson is an undersized slot receiver, but he’s a burner,” McShay said of the 5-11, 178-pound. “And he’s just so under control. He’s light speed. And I would say in my opinion based on ties that he has the best ball skills of any receiver in this class.”
Reid believes the Saints can still find a starter in round 2. One riser he particularly likes is George Pickens from Georgia, who “has really started to catch a lot of steam lately.” The 6-3, 195-pound also tore his ACL in March last year, but recovered in time to play the last four games and is still making progress.
Bowen also mentioned Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce and Alabama’s John Metchie III as possible Day 2 values.