New Orleans Saints 2023 NFL Draft: Team Needs and Top Targets

What are the most pressing New Orleans Saints draft needs? With the 2023 NFL Draft here, let's dive into which positional gaps they might fill.

With the first round of the NFL Draft in the books, the competitive New Orleans Saints look poised to take another step forward in 2023. What are their biggest team needs in these final two days, and which targets might be most appealing for an NFC South squad in contention for a division title where a 9-8 record might be sufficient?

New Orleans Saints Team Needs Following Round 1

  • G
  • TE
  • OT

The Saints hold eight picks in this year’s NFL Draft but only three of the top 114. They play in a division featuring three opponents going through various degrees of upheaval and/or rebuilding. There’s a distinct opening for a New Orleans franchise that is trying to regain its swagger in the post-Drew-Brees era.

Heading into the draft, what was once the strength of the Saints’ roster has turned into a need. New Orleans replaced Shy Tuttle and David Onyemata with Khalen Saunders and Nathan Shepherd. But they still need more bodies on the defensive interior.

MORE: FREE NFL Mock Draft Simulator With Trades

Despite going 7-10 last season, there aren’t many screaming positional needs on this roster. The team could really try to upgrade over Andrus Peat and Cesar Ruiz on the offensive line, and maybe they could look to add a developmental tackle. Tight end might be one of the weaker spots on the roster, with several hit-or-miss guys littering the depth chart, but the Saints have more of them than most teams have receivers.

It’s important to note that in Derek Carr’s nine seasons with the Raiders, his team’s defense never finished better than 20th best in points surrendered. In other words, Carr frequently had to operate as a playmaker rather than as a game manager.

A stout Saints defense would take enormous pressure off of Carr and the rest of the offense, in which the newly acquired QB can pick his moments rather than force his moments. As a result, we projected last week that the Saints probably will “work on bolstering their defense even more in the draft.”

Results for Saints 2023 Draft Pick

We used PFN’s FREE Mock Draft Simulator to project some realistic targets for New Orleans at each of their draft positions. Here’s a breakdown of the Round 1 results, as well as the simulator’s remaining projections.

Round 1, Pick 29: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson

Last week, the MDS projected that New Orleans would snag EDGE Nolan Smith at this spot. Instead, they went with the comparably talented (and considerably bigger) Bryan Bresee. Interestingly, the Eagles took Smith with the next pick.

MORE: New Orleans Saints NFL Draft Grades 2023

A five-star recruit out of high school, Bresee fills an immediate need on New Orleans’ defensive line. The Saints’ defense often was deceptively good last season, even as their offense took a step back. With an improved offensive corps, Bresee should figure prominently in what might be a top-five NFL defense.

Predictions for Remaining 2023 Draft Picks

Round 2, Pick 40: Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame

Last week, the simulator projected another EDGE defender, Felix Anudike-Uzomah, possibly falling to the Saints at No. 40. Instead, the Chiefs snatched him up with the last pick on Day 1 of the real draft.

Still, the MDS is damn persistent. It believes New Orleans will take the best EDGE player on the board in the second round, and Isaiah Foskey certainly fits the bill.

Round 3, Pick 71: Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M

A terrific blitzer and great tackler (as well as a proficient run stopper), Antonio Johnson possesses the athletic prowess and vision to make an immediate impact on an already strong Saints D.

Round 4, Pick 115: Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa

Will the Saints strike gold at tight end? As alluded to above, they’re still sitting on Juwan Johnson and Adam Trautman. Both of these guys are proven contributors. But we haven’t yet seen sustained breakout potential from either.

Sam LaPorta might be yet another NFL tight end project, with the team banking on his top-tier athleticism and hoping he can develop into a mainstay starter.

Round 5, Pick 146: Parker Washington, WR, Penn State

With Carr under center, we shouldn’t be surprised if New Orleans mirrors what they did last draft and go get another instant-impact receiver. Chris Olave certainly has proven he was worth the No. 11 overall pick. Michael Thomas is 30 years old going on retired. And Rashid Shaheed was a wonderful surprise and remains a developmental question mark as a relatively “old” second-year pro entering his age-25 campaign.

MORE: NFL Draft Order

Whether the Saints wait to get Parker Washington here or opt to pick up a more immediate presence in the starting lineup, the point is clear: New Orleans might be one more Olave away from breaking the NFC South wide open. It will be a tempting option for this team.

Round 5, Pick 165: Brandon Kipper, G, Oregon State

I’ve seen Brandon Kipper go as early as Round 5 in mock drafts and as late as the seventh round. The sixth-year senior would be a relatively old rookie and perhaps more of a situational contributor at the outset.

Round 7, Pick 227 — Malik Cunningham, QB, Tennessee

For a team with two long-time starting QBs (Carr and Jameis Winston) and a dangerous gadget option (Taysom Hill), the Saints arguably could use another QB — if only to stash him on the practice squad in case one of the other three gets hurt.

Malik Cunningham was a premier college dual-threat quarterback. But like Hill, he’s far more valuable as a runner than as a passer, at least for now. Cunningham would be an intriguing, nothing-to-lose get at this spot.

Round 7, Pick 257 — Michael Jefferson, WR, Louisiana

Again, there’s a need at wideout. If Thomas somehow reclaims even 50% of his past glory, the Saints will have a top-16 passing attack with a shot to ascend to the top 12. But they have to look to the present and future, and stashing another WR would give them a little more time to eyeball their talent.

Michael Jefferson could be a stash-and-develop option if he falls this far.

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