Round 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft could not have gone much better for the Saints.
The Falcons missed out on both Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack while the Carolina Panthers overreached for a wide receiver who is prone to drops and has a questionable work ethic. Best of all, the Saints were able to trade up at a minimal cost to fill their most pressing need with one of the draft’s top receivers.
While many fans probably hoped LSU’s Odell Beckham, Jr. would be in play for the Saints, Brandin Cooks might be just as good. Cooks is undersized at just a hair below 5’10”, but he is an exceptional playmaker. He tested as the fastest receiver in the 2014 class with a 4.3 40 time. As a Junior at Oregon State, Cooks caught 128 passes for 1730 yards and 16 touchdowns en route to winning the Biletnikoff Award for best receiver in the nation. He’ll fill the void left by Lance Moore and can even line up in the backfield. Think of him as a mold between Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles and Moore.
With the first round now in the books, it’s time to focus on the rest of the draft. Here are my predictions for what the Saints can do the rest of the way.
Round 2 (58): Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
The Saints address their next biggest need in round 2. Big corners are in high demand, and Jean-Baptiste fits the mold at 6’3” and 218 pounds. SJB’s size has drawn comparisons to Richard Sherman, and he tested almost identically to Sherman at the NFL Combine in February. Jean-Baptiste’s aggressive playing style makes him an ideal fit for Rob Ryan’s defense.
Round 4 (126): Christian Jones, OLB, Florida State
The Saints re-signed Parys Haralson n the offseason and they have Victor Butler coming back after missing all of 2013 with an ACL injury. However, both Haralson and Butler will be free agents after the 2014 season, to the Saints should take steps to guard against losing one or both of them. Rob Ryan values players with scheme versatility, and there may not be anyone else who fits that description more than Jones. He compiled 151 tackles and three sacks starting at both inside and outside linebacker during his sophomore and junior seasons at Florida State before putting up 56 tackles and 2 sacks as a senior primarily playing defensive end.
Round 5 (167): Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina
New Orleans acquired this pick from the Eagles in the Darren Sproles trade. Starting center Brian De La Puente departed in free agency, leaving a huge void at the position. The only lineman on the Saints’ roster with any experience playing center is second-year guard Tim Lelito, who did not take a single regular season snap at Center in 2013, or in his football career, for that matter. Bodine will probably be the top rated center remaining at this point in the draft. He has the prototypical size for a center and also possessed above average speed and athleticism for the position.
Round 5 (169): Dri Archer, RB, Kent State
Darren Sproles was traded away to Philadelphia while Mark Ingram’s option for 2015 was declined, making his future with the team uncertain. With the Saints gearing more towards a balanced offense, it would make sense to add another running back. Archer could fill in Sproles part of the offense. He is an explosive athlete who can operate as a change of pace back and return kicks and punts.
Round 6 (202): Cameron Flemming, OT, Stanford
This is a luxury pick for the Saints. With all their biggest needs addressed, they can simply sit back and take whoever they feel is the best player available. Here, they choose an offensive tackle as insurance for Terron Armstead.
The Saints are known for drafting the best player available, regardless of need, but they usually find ways to fill their voids at the same time. Regardless, I have the utmost confidence in Mickey Loomis.
In Loomis we trust.