Pivoting in the NFL Draft process is nothing new for New Orleans. Shocking draft choices aren't as well. Behind the scenes in the Saints Draft War Room, the chess pieces are being judiciously moved around the draft board. I would love to be the fly on the wall.
For weeks I thought cornerback and linebacker might be the selection for the Saints. I still believe these are the most glaring positions of need. Yet, Sean Payton and New Orleans may see it differently.
Here are three players to consider from Nick Saban's stable of stud athletes - Barmore, Leatherwood, and Dickerson.
DT Christian Barmore (HIGH, 1st round talent)
He destroyed Ohio State's offensive line in the National Championship and earned the game's Defensive MVP award. Barmore is 6-5 and 310 lbs worth of power and tenacity. Barmore only had two years with Saban but notched First Team All-SEC recognition in 2020. He will need to refine his pass skills but plays both the run and pass well with a high motor. New Orleans released run-stuffer Malcom Brown in a cost-saving move and allowed former first-round pick, Sheldon Rankins, to walk in free agency. An interior defensive rotation with Onyemata, Barmore, Roach, Glasgow, and Tuttle could be very potent in 2021.
OL Alex Leatherwood (HIGH, may slip to 2nd round)
The versatile 6-6 offensive lineman projects well on a New Orleans offensive line. With in-season availability issues at the guard and tackle positions, Nick Easton's release could have New Orleans focusing on offensive line contributors. At 312 lbs, his hidden strength is not physical. It's the capacity to be a swing player at both guard and tackle positions. The Saints thrive on developing players like Leatherwood. He has long arms with an arm length of 34 3/8 inches and a wingspan of 85 3/8 inches, which are essential at setting an edge against edge rushers. Alex was the 2020 Outland trophy award winner.
OL Landon Dickerson (LOW, 2nd or 3rd round - due to injury)
The offensive lineman went down with an ACL injury during the SEC title game. Now, just a few months after surgery, the Tide's permanent captain was send cartwheeling behind Mac Jones during an interview, and yes, cartwheeling. He's an intelligent player and can play both guard and center positions in the NFL. Dickerson's 325 lb frame and tremendous pass-blocking skills (1 sack allowed in 800 snaps) could make him a solid fit in New Orleans as a guard. The only concern is the injury, and would he be available by the seasons' opener.
The three players stood with Nick Saban on the podium after defeating OSU in the National Championship game. Will all three names be called on April 29 in the NFL Draft?
We shall see.