The 2019 NFL Draft could provide the final pieces for the New Orleans Saints to win their second Super Bowl in the Drew Brees and Sean Payton era. With little draft capital, the Saints will look to hit on each selection.
The 2018 season ended in heartbreak for the New Orleans Saints just as it did in the 2017 season. In back-to-back years, their journey finished mainly due to a single play in the NFC Championship game. The “Minneapolis Miracle” in 2017 and “The Non-Call” last year crushed their dreams of a Super Bowl appearance. The 2019 NFL Draft represents a step toward forgetting those nightmares and toward another championship.
The Saints currently have six draft picks, but only one before the fifth round (second round). Head coach Sean Payton briefly discussed possible positions of need for the team at the NFL Combine this week. Those positions were: RB if Mark Ingram leaves, quarterback, defensive tackle, interior offensive line, and tight end.
The team traded their first, third, and fourth-round picks last year. I will insert the player the Saints received for those draft picks in this mock draft at the appropriate selection. Using the highest difficulty setting with the On The Clock app from Fanspeak.com, here is one way they could attack the 2019 NFL Draft.
Round 1- Marcus Davenport, Edge- UTSA (2018)
New Orleans traded up from 27 to 14 with the Green Bay Packers in 2018. They gave up 2018’s fifth-round selection and 2019’s first-round selection. With the 14th pick, the Saints drafted Davenport. He provided some quality play as both a pass rusher and a run defender in 2018. He is a very talented but raw prospect, and further development would help the defense tremendously.
Round 2- Dawson Knox, Tight End – Mississippi
The biggest need for the Saints is easily TE in my opinion. They currently have Josh Hill, Garrett Griffin, and Dan Arnold on the roster. None of them have ever reached 200 yards receiving in a single year. Drew Brees has a weapon on the outside in Michael Thomas and one out of the backfield in Alvin Kamara, but he could use one over the middle of the field. They haven’t had a real weapon at the tight end position since Jimmy Graham was traded to the Seattle Seahawks in 2015.
Knox is an athlete. Measuring in at 6-foot 4 and 254 pounds, he is considered one of the fastest tight ends in the draft. He is a smooth route runner, has strong hands, and is smart in manipulating defenders, as he is a former QB. He needs to work on blocking, but he would provide an instant target in the passing game.
Round 3- Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback- New York Jets (2018)
The Saints traded this year’s third round pick to the New York Jets for Bridgewater. Bridgewater had a horrific knee injury while playing for the Minnesota Vikings in 2016. The Jets signed him in free agency before New Orleans traded for him as insurance in case of an injury to Brees. Bridgewater is set to hit free agency again and may not be on the team come draft time. If they do re-sign him, it will likely be another cheap one year deal.
Round 4- Eli Apple, Cornerback – New York Giants
Right before the 2018 trade deadline, the Saints traded for Apple. He gave the team solid play in the secondary with two interceptions, and nine passes defended after struggling in New York. Apple will likely line up opposite of All-Pro CB Marshon Lattimore again in 2019.
Round 5-Benjamin Snell Jr., Running Back – Kentucky
In this mock draft, I am assuming Ingram moves on in free agency. Ingram and Kamara have been one of the best duos in the league and even posted 1,500+ yards from scrimmage each in 2017, the first time two running backs on the same team did so in NFL history. Kamara is the fast outside runner and is excellent in the passing game as well. Ingram was the bruiser in between the tackles.
Snell is a powerful runner with a solid frame at 5-foot 10 and 224 pounds. He often carries defenders and seems to have a knack for falling forward for more yards. Snell lacks athleticism, running a 4.66-second 40-yard dash and only had a 29.5-inch vertical at the NFL Combine, but he is a good pass protector and ideal for the thunder to Kamara’s lightning.
Round 6- Michael Dogbe, Defensive Line- Temple
Dogbe isn’t the biggest guy at 6-foot 3 and 280 pounds, but he is one of the most powerful guys in the draft. He did not receive an invite to the combine, but a video has shown him bench-pressing over 500 pounds. His strength shows in the tape as well, as he can stack up double teams and can beat a blocker with pure power on 1v1 reps. He isn’t going to provide a great pass rush, but he could be a nice guy in a rotation.
Round 6- Zack Bailey, Guard- South Carolina
Center Max Unger is entering the final year of his contract at age 32, and it may be time to look for the future at the position. Also, offensive guard Andrus Peat played poorly in 2018, and the Saints could do with an upgrade.
Bailey played at left guard, center, and right tackle at South Carolina but projects as an interior offensive lineman in the NFL. He has decent strength, and movement ability but lacks proper technique and pad level at times. Bailey will not instantly be better than Peat, and certainly not Unger, but he shows some promise and could provide depth in case of injuries.
Round 7- Jordan Ta’amu, Quarterback- Mississippi
In this mock, I am assuming Bridgewater leaves in free agency, and the backup/future quarterback role will be empty.
Ta’amu has excellent mobility in the pocket and out. He has decent footwork and mechanics but may struggle with NFL progressions. He played in an offense with potentially four pass-catchers headed to the NFL this year. Learning under Brees and Payton could develop Ta’Amu into a future starter.
Round 7- Austin Seibert, Kicker- Oklahoma
Wil Lutz is set to be a free agent. He had a great season in 2018, hitting 93 percent of his field goal attempts. He may very well be re-signed, but will likely cost somewhere between 2-4 million dollars against the cap. As Cody Parkey just taught the Chicago Bears, it is not always smart to pay that much for a kicker after a career year.
I believe in using late round picks on either boom-bust projects or players you specifically target for special teams. Special teams are more important than fans think. At the very least, Seibert can be a camp leg to kick to returners, but if he outperforms Lutz or Lutz is not re-signed at all, Seibert could be a minimum contract kicker for the near future.