Saints mock draft: New Orleans bring in breakout star with Sean Payton pick

One of the best ways for the Saints to slowly work their way out of their permanent salary cap issues is simply to play well.

New Orleans is already nearly $75 million above its 2024 salary cap, and any time a low-round draft pick can play a meaningful role — or better yet, an undrafted player — you have a cheap shot at roster building. form.

Even if the draft picks are so talented that they become too expensive to keep, such as the Saints lost Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata and Kaiden Ellis last month, those losses should at least allow the Saints to compensate for the draft picks. Would give – maybe two quarter rounders and a sixth rounder in 2024.

Because of trades, the Saints have only had six third-day picks in the past three drafts, but this year they have five, along with one fourth, two fifth and two seventh. He has found impact in undrafted players like receiver Rashid Shaheed, tackle Calvin Throckmorton, edge Karl Grandson and tight end Juwan Johnson.

The Saints used their 2023 first round pick to trade up last year and get receiver Chris Olave, but when it looked like he might miss the first round, they got the No. 1 pick. 29 Short in trade to Denver for retired head coach Sean Payton. So they have eight picks, eight chances to upgrade a roster, with hopes of competing for a division title and more.

1. Round 1, 29th overall: calija kansidl, Pittsburgh

The Saints lost defensive linemen Onyemata and Shay Tuttle in free agency, and while they were able to reload with Nathan Shepherd and Khalen Saunders, needed to replenish their front. Kensi’s escape on a combine harvester makes it difficult to project where she will actually go. Affirming the success he’s had on the court with 14.5 sacks over the past two seasons, it’s rare to see the 281-pound prospect run the 40 in 4.67 seconds. He’s small, but he’s explosive. It’s unfair to compare him to Aaron Donald, which many have done, but he can still impress as a rookie.

2. Round 2, 40th overall: Anthony JohnsonS, Texas A&M

Between safety and nickel, the Saints have a critical need: Tyrann Mathieu is 30, Marcus Maye is 29, there isn’t much promising depth behind them. Bradley Roby wrestles nickel, so Johnson’s combination of size (six feet) and speed (4.52 in 40) will come in handy, whether as a big buck or just a safety. He’s also a dangerous blitzer, totaling 13.5 sacks over the past two years.

3. Round 3, 71st overall: Zak HarrisonEdge, Ohio State

Cameron Jordan turns 34 in July and after losing Davenport this year and Trey Hendrickson two years ago, New Orleans could use some youth in their passing rush. Peyton Turner, a first-round pick in 2021, has three sacks in two years and played in just 13 games, though he still has a chance to show what he can do if he stays healthy. Harrison only had 11 sacks in four years with the Buckeyes, but his long arm (36 inches) and athleticism allowed him to be more productive in the NFL.

4. Round 4, 115th overall: tyja spearsrb, Tulane

Spears didn’t even need to transfer, coming off a monstrous senior year at Tulane in which he added 256 yards for 1,581 yards and 19 touchdowns and two more receiving scores. Adding Jamal Williams is huge, especially if Alvin misses Kamara once more due to suspension, but Spears could be a change of pace to complement both of them. He grew up north of New Orleans for Reggie Bush – could this be a homecoming story if you’ve never really been there?

5. Round 5, 146th overall: noah sewellLB, Oregon

Younger brother of Lions tackle Penny Sewell, Sewell is tall for an inside linebacker at 246 pounds and must physically make up for his lack of typical linebacker speed. The Saints lost Ellis to the Falcons but had two solid starters in Demario Davis and Pete Werner. Davis is 34 and doesn’t have many 100-tackle seasons left, but New Orleans also has 2022 fifth-round pick D’Marco Jackson, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve.

6. Round 5, 165th overall carter warrenOT, Pittsburgh

New Orleans used a first-round pick to tackle Trevor Penning last year with a Pro Bowl tackle in Ryan Ramsky on the other hand, but if you can upgrade your swing tackle with a fifth-round pick, it’s a good price. Warren is a good size at 6 feet 5, 311 pounds with a wingspan of 8 feet, and is suited as both a run blocker and pass protection. And I’m not making this up: His middle name is Saint.

7. Round 7, 227th Overall shakan davisWR, South Carolina State

Lanky at six feet tall, Davis averaged over 20 yards per catch in his four years in college, with 934 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He’ll need to work on his hands, but his frame is something coaches can work with — even if it means starting with the practice squad. He is an interesting development prospect, which is about the seventh round.

8. Round Seven, 257th Overall: Joey Fischer, OL, Shepherd

We love small school offensive line prospects, and the 6-foot-5, 322-pound Fisher was a Division II standout, dominating small competition. You’ll see him designated as a senior third-day pick, but he’s also been drafted by the Houston Gamblers of the USFL, even a practice squad if he doesn’t end up with an NFL team. Holding on as a team’s ninth offensive lineman can often come with a lack of positional flexibility, so if he shows an ability to train as a guard, that’s a plus.

Greg Aumann is the NFC South reporter for Fox Sports, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season as a full-time reporter for the Bucs and the NFL, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on twitter @gregauman,

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