The Saints have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL, but there are still a few holes that can be filled. Here’s one player at major positions of need the Saints could target early in the draft.
With the 2019 season in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to take an early look at some potential first-round draft prospects for the New Orleans Saints, who have the 24th pick.
Justin Jefferson, Louisiana State University
One of the biggest holes on the roster is at wide receiver. The Saints would do well for themselves drafting a solid number two receiver to play alongside Michael Thomas.
If you’ve followed LSU for some time, the Jefferson name is familiar to you. Following his two brothers, Jordan and Rickey, Justin Jefferson had the most successful LSU career in his family. His 2018 season showed promise, finishing with 54 receptions for 875 yards and six touchdowns. But Jefferson improved immensely with the new and improved LSU offense in 2019. This past season, he caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns.
If it wasn’t for Ja’Marr Chase’s even more impressive season, Jefferson would have had a real shot at the Biletnikoff Award.
Although he’s not an absolute burner or a big, physical presence, Jefferson uses his elusiveness and shiftiness to get into open space. His fit on the Saints is nearly a perfect match. He would complement Michael Thomas very well as the second option on the outside or as a slot receiver. With Drew Brees nearing the end of his career, the Saints need to get him as many options as they can to go on one last Super Bowl run. The problem in 2019 was that Brees didn’t have many reliable options outside of Thomas. Spending the 24th pick on Jefferson would be beneficial for Brees and could take some coverage off of Thomas.
Honorable Mention: Henry Ruggs, Alabama; Laviska Shenault, Colorado
Interior Offensive Line
Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
The Saints offensive line was not bad in 2019, whatsoever. The problem was with injuries. Andrus Peat started in only eight games and played in 37 percent of the Saints’ offensive snaps this season. With Peat entering free agency, Nick Easton could be a replacement, but it wouldn’t hurt spending a first-round selection on a top offensive lineman in the draft.
Tyler Biadasz is technically a center but is more than capable of playing any interior offensive line position, which is exactly what the Saints need.
Drafting an offensive lineman out of Wisconsin is never a bad idea, as they are known for producing NFL-caliber linemen every year. The Saints know this very well, as they spent the 32nd pick of the 2017 NFL Draft on Ryan Ramczyk out of Wisconsin, and he is already one of the best young offensive linemen in the league.
Biadasz’s size, speed, and versatility make him an easy selection late in the first round or early in the second round. If the Saints don’t address the interior of their offensive line in free agency, they might take a good look at Biadasz with their 24th overall selection.
Honorable Mention: Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
Kristian Fulton, Louisiana State University
Entering free agency, the Saints have three cornerbacks under contract, Marshon Lattimore, Janoris Jenkins, and Patrick Robinson. Needless to say, this is a position they need to address at some point this offseason.
Jenkins played well for the Saints after being claimed off waivers, but having a more reliable corner behind Lattimore would not hurt.
While he can improve on tackling, Fulton’s coverage abilities are top-notch. In his career at LSU, Fulton allowed just 26 first downs and forced 34 incompletions. With his ceiling being a shutdown number one cornerback, it would be hard for the Saints to pass on the hometown kid at 24.
Honorable Mention: Trevon Diggs, Alabama; C.J. Henderson, Florida
A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
Acquiring A.J. Epenesa in the draft would most likely require the Saints to trade up. For a talent like this, trading up could be worth it.
The Saints have struggled to find a consistent threat opposite of Cam Jordan throughout the years. The duo of Marcus Davenport and Trey Hendrickson has been serviceable, but the injury bug hits them often.
Epenesa had a very successful career at Iowa, totaling 26.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles, in addition to being named to the First-team All-Big Ten two times and Second-team All-American in his final season.
With his combination of size, length, and power, Epenesa would be a great fit along the Saints’ defensive line. This is most likely not the route the Saints will take due to the cost it would take for them to move up so far in the draft, but it is definitely a move they will consider making.
Honorable Mention: K’Lavon Chaisson, Louisiana State University; Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
Jordan Love, Utah State
It’s going to hurt Saints fans to read this, but the Drew Brees era is coming to an end. Although Brees confirmed that he will be on the field for the 2020 NFL season, the Saints must start looking towards the future. Whether Taysom Hill is the answer or not remains to be seen.
Jordan Love is far from a finished product, but he has all the tools necessary to be successful in the NFL. His arm talent is incredible: he puts plenty of juice on the ball but can tone it down when needed, he’s very mobile (a huge plus in the NFL nowadays), and he can throw a dime on the run. His decision-making is not up to par with his other talents, but who better to learn from than Drew Brees?
It would be a great surprise if the Saints selected a quarterback with their first-round selection due to bigger holes on a roster that is in “win-now” mode, but looking towards the future without Brees is a smart option.
Honorable Mention (later round selections): Jacob Eason, Washington; Jake Fromm, Georgia; Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma