New Orleans Saints mock draft, updated post-Senior Bowl

We’re moving quickly down the road to the 2023 NFL draft with the Senior Bowl and other college all-star games in rearview, so it’s a good time for an updated New Orleans Saints mock draft. Which players stood out in practices this week? Who did the Saints coaches working at the event get a good look at? What did they learn from this experience? That’s all factoring into our latest seven-round projection.

Let’s start with the elepahnt in the room: it feels almost certain that the Saints will address quarterback well ahead of the draft, likely by acquiring a veteran like Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo. This team isn’t built for a rookie to take their time in developing into a starter. Dennis Allen’s job security hinges on whether they can be competitive right away. With the first-round quarterback prospects out of reach, look for them to turn to the free agent market (or get a jump on it by trading for Carr outright). That’s the assumption we’re working with in this mock draft.

Round 1, Pick 29: OG O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida

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It feels all but certain the Saints are going to spend their top pick on a trench player, whether as a guard to replace Andrus Peat or a building-block for the defensive line. We’ve mocked Baylor nose tackle Siaki Ika early before, and Florida right guard O’Cyrus Torrence is popular in a lot of projections. Torrence brings terrific play strength, mobility, and spatial awareness as a Day 1 starter. He can play both guard spots and dominated his competition at Senior Bowl practices. He’d do a lot to settle the interior offensive line even if the Saints hold onto Peat another year (though drafting Torrence tees him up for a post-June 1 release).

Round 2, Pick 40: DB Sydney Brown, Illinois

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I wasn’t familiar with Brown’s game going into Senior Bowl week, but he quickly made a fan out of me. He took on a vocal leadership role during practices and matched up really well with tight ends and slot receivers during individual drills while GPS measuring found him to be one of the fastest players on the field. He’s only 22 but brings five years of starting experience. He’s logged 700-plus snaps in both covering the slot and lining up at free safety, as well as 1,300-plus reps in the box. His stock is on the rise and he could be a great pickup for New Orleans, whose depth at safety and in the slot was tested mightily last season.

Round 3, Pick 71: DT Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin

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There are two defensive linemen I like in this spot: Wisconsin tackle Keeanu Benton and Northwestern edge rusher Adetomiwa Adebawore. They’re both twitched-up athletes who generate a lot of disruption and play with great length and leverage. New Orleans needs help up front, and either of them look like they would be a nice addition after throwing opponents around for a week in Mobile. I’ll go with Benton this time; Adebawore would be playing behind Cameron Jordan and Carl Granderson from the jump, and probably Payton Turner, too. Benton immediately steps into a role that should net him 500 to 600 snaps as a rookie.

Round 4, Pick 115: RB Kenny McIntosh, Georgia

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McIntosh is great value at this point in the draft. He runs with power, averaging 3.3 yards gained after contact with a defender per carry, but he’s a dual-threat as a receiver with 509 receiving yards last season. And he looked like the best back at the Senior Bowl in pass protection drills which was a point of emphasis for New Orleans last year. He also practices good ball security with just 4 fumbles in his career, and he doesn’t have a single dropped pass to his name. I’m a big fan of Tyjae Spears out of Tulane but McIntosh better fits their prototype at the position after measuring in at 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds.

Round 5, Pick 148: WR Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State

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Hutchinson probably goes much higher in the draft after validating the physical traits his fans raved about in college. He’s been productive ever since he first got on the field at Iowa State and performs well on contested-catch opportunities. He has good size for the position at 6-foot-1 7/8 and 207 pounds, using every bit of his 74 3/4-inch wingspan to expand his catch radius. It’s easy to see how he could help the Saints offense as a more-imposing force working with Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed.

Round 5, Pick 168: QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA

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The only quarterback who seemed to consistently help his draft stock at the Senior Bowl was Fresno State’s Jake Haener, and he’ll probably be picked earlier than this because of it (good for him; I’m a fan). I’d still like the Saints to get a quarterback to develop even if they sign a veteran, just in case, and DTR fits the bill on the third day of the draft. He throws a very catchable football, he’s started much of his career for the Bruins over the last five years, and he has rare mobility to work with. He’s a very tough player and his natural leadership qualities were on display at the East-West Shrine Bowl. If nothing else, he can pick up some elements of Taysom Hill’s playbook if his passing mechanics and decision-making don’t improve.

Round 7, Pick 229: OL T.J. Bass, Oregon

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Bass is a towering figure at 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds, and he brings some positional versatility after logging 1,379 snaps at left tackle and 824 reps at left guard in three years with the Ducks. He’s also only yielded 3 sacks in pass protection, though he’s been penalized a dozen times and needs to better watch his hands. The Saints valued those same qualities in Calvin Throckmorton a few years ago, though, and their offensive line dealt with too many absences and weak links in 2022 to pass on experienced players like him.

Round 7, Pick 260: TE Leonard Taylor, Cincinnati

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Taylor was underused as a receiver at Cincinnati, totaling just 102 targets for 69 receptions and 701 receiving yards in his career. But he managed to catch 8 touchdown passes on such limited opportunities and there’s reason to think he has untapped potential. Still, you’re drafting him for his blocking ability, and he’s a proven people-mover at 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds with 840 snaps behind him as a blocker on running plays. That’s well worth investing a late-round pick to see if he can upgrade your blocking out on the edges.

Recapping our draft

  • Round 1, Pick 29: OG O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida

  • Round 2, Pick 40: DB Sydney Brown, Illinois

  • Round 3, Pick 71: DT Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin

  • Round 4, Pick 115: RB Kenny McIntosh, Georgia

  • Round 5, Pick 148: WR Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State

  • Round 5, Pick 168: QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA

  • Round 7, Pick 229: OL T.J. Bass, Oregon

  • Round 7, Pick 260: TE Leonard Taylor, Cincinnati

This time we were able to find instant upgrades at one of the guard spots and in the slot while beefing up the defensive interior and getting more dynamic at running back. Our third-day picks reinforced the depth chart on offense at all three levels of the field. That could go a long way towards retooling this team, if taken with a productive veteran free agent class. But none of this matters much if the Saints can’t get their quarterback situation under control. That has to be their leading priority this offseason.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire

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