Saints Mock Draft 2021 - #1

How aggressive will New Orleans be in the 2021 NFL draft?  Will they use a 1st round choice on a quarterback for the first time in 40 years and just the second time in their franchise history?
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It’s just a few days into the free agent signing period and the New Orleans Saints have had little activity on the open market. We shouldn't expect much activity from the team, which has little salary cap space this offseason. The Saints still have one of the most talented rosters in the league, but had to move on from WR Emmanuel Sanders, TE Josh Hill, TE Jared Cook, G Nick Easton, CB Janoris Jenkins, LB Kwon Alexander, DT Malcom Brown, and P Thomas Morstead just to get cap compliant.

New Orleans has done a magnificent job at building a talented nucleus through the draft in recent years. They will likely focus on this year's draft to fill the holes created by those salary cap moves. 

At the moment, the Saints own six selections in the draft, which starts on Thursday, April 29 and concludes on Saturday May. Four of those six picks are in the first two days of the event, which spans three rounds.

Here is my first mock draft of the offseason, using the PFF site (Pro Football Focus) as a guide.

1ST ROUND (28TH OVERALL)

JAYCEE HORN, CORNERBACK (SOUTH CAROLINA)

South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Jaycee Horn (1). Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY 

South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Jaycee Horn (1). Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY 

Son of a former New Orleans great, WR Joe Horn, Jaycee is the consensus third rated corner in the draft. This is a deep cornerback class, with several immediate starters available in the first few rounds. I actually believe the Saints will probably have to trade up to get him, but he would fill a huge hole created by the release of Janoris Jenkins.

A physical player with good size (6’1” 205-Lbs) and outstanding athleticism, Horn is an excellent man-to-man defender who shut down the nation's best wideouts throughout his college career. He has a fluid change of direction, elite ability to adjust to a throw in mid-air, and would be an excellent complement to Pro Bowl CB Marshon Lattimore.

2ND ROUND (60TH OVERALL)

CHAZZ SURRATT, LINEBACKER (NORTH CAROLINA)

Nov 27, 2020; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book (12) passes the ball as North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker Chazz Surratt (21) pressures. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY

Nov 27, 2020; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book (12) passes the ball as North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker Chazz Surratt (21) pressures. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY

A mid-season trade for LB Kwon Alexander helped elevate a very good New Orleans defense into an elite unit in 2020. The 6’2” 228-Lb Surratt would bring that same explosive athleticism to complement All-Pro LB Demario Davis.

A converted quarterback, Surratt possesses great recognition of opposing offenses, especially the passing game. Undersized as a run defender, he has elite sideline-to-sideline speed to get to the ball carrier. Surratt's immediate contributions will be against the pass, where his fluid athleticism will allow him to cover the league's top tight ends or running backs, and has the explosive burst to be an effective blitzer.

3RD ROUND (98TH OVERALL)

KELLEN MOND, QUARTERBACK (TEXAS A&M)

Nov 30, 2019; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond (11) throws against the LSU Tigers. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 30, 2019; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond (11) throws against the LSU Tigers. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The retirement of legendary quarterback Drew Brees opens up starting opportunities at the position for the first time since 2005 for the franchise. Jameis Winston was re-signed to complete with Taysom Hill for the starting duties, with Winston likely to win the job. Each player is only guaranteed to be under contract through the 2021 season, and both have yet to prove they can consistently lead an offense.

Don't be surprised if the Saints draft a quarterback in the first or second round for the first time since 1971 (Archie Manning, 2nd overall) and for just the second time in franchise history. If they don't, then they could turn to someone like Mond, a four-year starter for the Aggies, to groom for 2022.

Mond has prototypical size for the position (6’3” 205-Lbs) with a powerful arm, quick release, and good mobility. He successfully ran a pro-style offense with Texas A&M and has shown he can consistently make all the necessary throws with power and accuracy.

3RD ROUND (105TH OVERALL)

BREVIN JORDAN, TIGHT END (MIAMI, FLA.)

Nov 2, 2019; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes tight end Brevin Jordan (9) catches a pass against Florida State. Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY 

Nov 2, 2019; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes tight end Brevin Jordan (9) catches a pass against Florida State. Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY 

The Saints selected Adam Trautman in the 3rd round of last year's draft with the thought that he’d take over the starting role in 2021. While Trautman showed excellent potential as a rookie, losing Josh Hill and Jared Cook leaves the team with zero depth at the position.

Jordan increased his production in each of his three seasons with the Hurricanes. He is a gamebreaker down the field as a receiver, has excellent route running ability from the slot or off the line of scrimmage, and presents a mismatch for defenders with his size (6’3 245-Lbs) and outstanding athleticism.

4TH ROUND (133RD OVERALL)

MILTON WILLIAMS, DEFENSIVE TACKLE (LOUISIANA TECH)

CREDIT: La Tech Sports Dept.

CREDIT: La Tech Sports Dept.

One strength of the New Orleans defense in 2020 was outstanding depth at defensive tackle. That depth is thinned with the trade of Malcom Brown and likely free agent loss of Sheldon Rankins. They could address that with an early round pick or free agent signing, but DT David Onyemata and development of Shy Tuttle and Malcolm Roach give them talent at the position.

At 6’4” 280-Lbs, Williams doesn't have Brown's size to be a prototypical run-stopper inside. However, he has terrific strength and plays with excellent leverage, rarely losing battles at the point of attack. A former defensive end, Williams has outstanding mobility and pursues plays well while displaying an explosive burst into opposing backfields.

6TH ROUND (218TH OVERALL)

JOSH IMATORBHEBHE, WIDE RECEIVER (ILLINOIS)

Nov 7, 2020; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Fighting Illini wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe (9) receives a pass against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY

Nov 7, 2020; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Fighting Illini wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe (9) receives a pass against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY

Despite the release of Emmanuel Sanders, the Saints still have record-setting WR Michael Thomas, promising Marquez Callaway, explosive Deonte Harris, and experienced Tre'Quan Smith at the position. The Saints have also had great success at finding wideout talent in the late rounds or as undrafted additions.

The 6’2” 215-Lb Imatorbhebhe is a raw but athletic freak that could be off the board early on Day 3. A former four-star recruit at USC, he flew under the radar after transferring to a mediocre Illini program. Imatorbhebhe is underdeveloped as a route runner but has terrific ball skills and elite leaping ability that could make him a deadly outside receiver.

7TH ROUND (229 OVERALL)

TONY FIELDS II, LINEBACKER (WEST VIRGINIA)

Dec 5, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State receiver Xavier Hutchinson (8) tries to get around West Virginia linebacker Tony Fields II (1). Mandatory Credit: Brian Powers-USA TODAY 

Dec 5, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State receiver Xavier Hutchinson (8) tries to get around West Virginia linebacker Tony Fields II (1). Mandatory Credit: Brian Powers-USA TODAY 

NFL teams should keep their fingers crossed that Fields actually falls this far, but he did in several PFF projections because of his size (6'1” 222-Lbs) and limitations in pass coverage.

Fields excels as a run defender because of his terrific ability to diagnose plays and outstanding change-of-direction to sift through traffic. He struggles against blockers in head-to-head matchups, and his projection to a weak side NFL linebacker must come with better agility in pass coverage.

7TH ROUND (255 OVERALL)

Tommy Doyle, Offensive Tackle (Miami, OH)

Miami of Ohio offensive lineman Tommy Doyle © Bryon Houlgrave, The Register, Des Moines Register via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Miami of Ohio offensive lineman Tommy Doyle © Bryon Houlgrave, The Register, Des Moines Register via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Doyle is an impressive physical specimen at 6'8" 316-Lbs.  He is fluid in pass protection and light on his feet, but needs to get stronger as a run blocker.

Doyle would be a developmental prospect for one of the NFL's best offensive lines.