Saints Mock Draft 2021: Should New Orleans grab a WR early?

The New Orleans Saints have a well-built team with few needs, so navigating this 2021 7-Round NFL Mock Draft tested my creativity. The Saints are transitioning from longtime franchise quarterback Drew Brees to a competition between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. They’re graced with one of, if not the best offensive line in the NFL. They ranked highly on defense thanks to their ability to rush the passer relentlessly alongside the efforts of one great cornerback in Marshon Lattimore. But the Saints have been spending money they do not have for years now. Drafting well is the only way to ensure a bright short-term future because eventually, the taxman comes to collect.

Saints Post-Free Agency 7-Round Mock Draft

  • Round 1, Pick 28: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
  • Round 2, Pick 64: Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
  • Round 3, Pick 98: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
  • Round 3, Pick 105: Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
  • Round 4, Pick 133: Marquez Stevenson, WR, Houston
  • Round 4, Pick 137: Shaun Wade, CB/S, Ohio State
  • Round 6, Pick 218: Jonathan Marshall, DT, Arkansas
  • Round 7, Pick 229: Jonathon Cooper, EDGE, Ohio State
  • Round 7, Pick 255: Tedarrell Slaton, DT, Florida

New Orleans 2021 Mock Draft pick-by-pick analysis

Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

Rashod Bateman is a dream selection for the Saints in this 7-round mock draft. They need a complement to Michael Thomas, and Bateman’s skillset allows for a ton of versatility in the New Orleans passing attack.

The offensive line in place in the Bayou and Winston’s “I’m still gonna send it” attitude makes for a perfect pairing. That’s because Bateman’s best attribute is his ability to string together horizontal route breaks, making him a double-move master. So, Saints fans, you’ll have both the slant god and the double-move master. That sounds like a pretty good tag team duo.

Yet, that is not all Bateman is as a player. Even though Bateman ended up about two inches shorter and close to 20 pounds lighter than his listed size at Minnesota, he played like his listed size.

Bateman is a menace over the middle of the field. He elevates and finishes catches without regard for his body. He’s very strong in contested situations. However, he’s more smooth than he is explosive. So when he elevates for passes, there are times that cornerbacks can match or exceed his elevation, facilitating pass breakups.

Bateman’s Route Running

Bateman’s feet are really good. His release repertoire is outstanding. Bateman’s only real issues off of the line have come from his tape against former Nebraska cornerback Lamar Jackson, whose entire game was being able to stymy receivers off the line in press.

Bateman’s ability to effortlessly flip his hips and sink to plant and drive on the horizontal plane is up there with DeVonta Smith for the best in the class. He changes pace and can maintain speed through routes to create separation.

The only issue in his game as a route runner comes on the vertical plane. Bateman must improve his footwork on routes breaking back to the quarterback to more efficiently create separation and fight back to the football. His route tree will be complete if he’s able to improve that aspect of the game. Nevertheless, getting him at 28 for the Saints in this 7-Round NFL Mock Draft is ideal and a great fit.

Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri

TRADE: Tampa Bay Buccaneers trade pick 64 and pick 137 for the Saints pick 60. The Buccaneers selected Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon with the pick.

Nick Bolton might be the best linebacker in the class. However, that does not mean he is the best linebacker prospect, which is why he ends up going with the 64th pick in the draft.

Bolton is a great linebacker because he is intelligent and instinctual. His downhill prowess is evident, particularly in his play against Alabama. He diagnoses screens well and has a good feel for sneaking through gaps in blocking schemes to wreak havoc in the backfield.

As a coverage player, he was asked to do more than most college linebackers are. In a match-based world, most linebackers are responsible for running backs out of the backfield and become a hook defender if the back does not release. However, that defense of the hook should theoretically go from back to front.

Bolton is one of the few linebackers that actually gains depth in his zone drops. He also has a good feel for zone coverage spacing and can make plays on the ball, to the tune of 14 passes defensed in the past two college seasons, which includes 2 interceptions.

His perceived lack of upside and shorter stature is why he’s not viewed in the same tier as Micah Parsons, Zaven Collins, Jamin Davis, Baron Browning, and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. But he’s a better football player today than any of them. And he is not a bad athlete. He’s just an average one, according to his relative athletic score.

Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford

Paulson Adebo will most likely be forced into a starting role after being selected in this 7-Round 2021 Saints Mock Draft. The Saints’ current cornerback room is about as thin as this season’s Heisman Trophy winner.

There was a time when Adebo was in consideration as a potential first-round pick. He had legendary ball production in his two seasons playing for the Cardinal, tallying 27 passes defensed and 8 interceptions. His tape in 2018 was promising of a future top talent. But 2019, despite the still impressive ball production, shined a light on warts in his game.

There’s a lot of Marcus Peters in Adebo’s game. His aggression toward attacking the football and making splash plays makes him more susceptible to double moves than any draft-eligible cornerback I’ve studied. But if he cleans up that mental aspect of his game, his athleticism and size suggest he could become one of the biggest difference-makers at the position from the 2021 class.

Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State

Trey Sermon burst onto the Oklahoma Sooners’ scene as a true freshman, rushing for over 700 yards and above 6.0 yards per carry in the high-powered Sooner attack. His short-area quickness is impressive for his well-built 215-pound frame. Sermon’s athletic testing may have surprised some, but his tape shows an explosive athlete who moves well in short spurts.

Sermon’s long speed is just average, but his 10-yard split, vertical jump, and broad jump were all either great or elite. His 6.83 three-cone suggests he can sink his hips and change direction, and so does the tape.

Additionally, Sermon is more than capable of catching the ball out of the backfield, providing a nice check-down option for whatever quarterback is under center. His production at Ohio State blew up in their final three games before the national championship. Unfortunately, an injury early ended his day in the title game. In this 2021 mock draft, the Saints add a nice complement to Alvin Kamara.

Marquez Stevenson, WR, Houston

Marquez Stevenson probably won’t supplant Deonte Harris as the Saints’ return man. He could compete for the job, however, given his résumé as a returner at Houston.

Stevenson is a downfield threat that is undersized but endlessly fast. He is a more nuanced route runner than one might expect, given pure speed receivers usually don’t understand the finer points of separating. His quick feet allow him to gain immediate separation upon release, as long as a pressing cornerback does not contact him.

Stevenson won’t win many physical battles, but he’s a great fourth-round complement that can catch a pass or two for 40-plus yards in a game and provide value as a special teamer.

Shaun Wade, CB/S, Ohio State

The Saints have a lack of depth at the position and an unknown future with safety Marcus Williams. Shaun Wade seems like an ideal fit, given former Buckeye Marshon Lattimore is already a Saint.

Wade gained first-round steam after a strong redshirt sophomore season playing almost primarily in the slot. He is a physical cornerback for his size, who makes no qualms stepping into the alley and making plays against the run or coming from the slot as a blitzer. He struggled mightily as an outside cornerback in 2021, but confidence is massive for that position in particular, so having an offseason to reset could do him wonders.

Jonathan Marshall, DT, Arkansas

I’m always a proponent of picking up defensive tackles on Day 3 of any mock draft. This 2021 7-Round Saints Mock Draft is no different.

No position gets more disrespect from a value perspective than defensive tackle. The college game is becoming more dominated by three-down defenses, with a true 0-technique or 1-technique two-gapping.

Jonathan Marshall‘s athletic profile fits better in a four-down line. Marshall’s explosiveness should shine as a rotational player who can shoot caps on passing downs in an attempt to collapse the pocket. Marshall should play both as an under tackle and on the nose in gap penetrating roles.

Jonathon Cooper, EDGE, Ohio State

Jonathon Cooper is a bit undersized as a traditional hand in the dirt defensive end, but he is a smooth athlete with decent bend and a nice inside counter that can stress the inside shoulder of offensive tackles. He’s not the most explosive athlete, and he didn’t produce at an incredibly high rate for the Buckeyes. Still, in a defense that already gets a ton of pressure on the quarterback, his skill set could be used intermittently in relief of the big three Saints’ edge rushers.

Tedarrell Slaton, DT, Florida

In this 2021 7-Round Saints Mock Draft, they pick up another defensive tackle. Tedarrell Slaton is a monster of a young man. He has seemingly endless length, and his explosiveness given his size is impressive. If he wants to be successful at the next level, however, he must become more consistent in his pad level and diagnose different run schemes.

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Slaton is a good athlete for his size and difficult to move. Yet, the position is vastly more complex than not getting moved from your gap. He has the potential to be a starter who is replaced on obvious passing downs. That is if the Saints can develop him.

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Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch.