|Mickey and Sean contemplating another trade up|
The never-ending NFL draft is finally over and, as promised, let’s take a look at the New Orleans Saints picks. Even though the Saints went into the draft down their first, third, and fourth round picks, they still managed to do what they always do—trade away future talent to meet current needs and believe way too much in their own talent evaluation relative to the rest of the league.
Round 2, No. 48 Overall: Erik McCoy C, Texas A&M
Let’s start with the pick itself. As we discussed last week, the Saints had a desperate need at center after the surprise retirement of Max Unger. McCoy, alongside free agent signee Nick Easton, will compete to fill Unger’s spot. McCoy also possesses the ability to play guard, making him a versatile addition to the Saints offensive line. McCoy is 6-4, 303 pounds and started 39 games over the past three seasons at Texas. McCoy’s ability to stay in the lineup should help bolster the Saints line which has dealt with injuries to Andrus Peat and Terron Armstead over the past few seasons.
So if the pick of McCoy makes sense, then what’s the problem? The problem is the same as it always is. New Orleans traded up to get McCoy and overpaid for him in the present, while also hurting themselves in the future. Here’s the trade that the Saints made to get McCoy. They sent their second round pick, 62 overall, 202 overall, and a second-rounder in 2020 for picks 48 and 116. Using Chase Stuart’s trade value chart, derived from the value that draft picks actually produce, the Saints sent away approximately the value of the 15th overall pick in the draft to acquire McCoy. As a general principle, teams generally don’t take centers with picks that high. They’re just not as valuable as quarterbacks, wide receivers, pass-rushers, or offensive tackles, who play on the outside of the line and lack help from interior offensive linemen to block opposing defenders.
Round 4, No. 105: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida
Once again, the pick here is understandable. The Saints need help in their secondary, especially at safety. Gardner-Johnson played in the slot and swapped between run defense and pass defense with relative ease. Having players with the flexibility to play the run and the pass is especially important as teams not only pass the ball more, but try to exploit opposing defenses by trapping them in pass or run only personnel.
And once again, the price is too high. The Saints traded up again (and for the 17th time in 13 years), this time sending the newly acquired 116th pick and their fifth rounder, 168th overall, to move up 11 spots. By the time teams reach the fourth round, the differences between players are relatively small. And while teams may have players they prefer, there’s no need to aggressively trade up unless you have picks to spare. Instead, New Orleans trusted its own talent evaluation over the fact that they might be (and often are) wrong. Rather than guard against that reality, the Saints stuck their head in the sand again, believing they, somehow, can evaluate talent better than any other team in the league.
Round 6, No. 177: Saquan Hampton, S, Rutgers
Now we’re at the part of the draft where it’s hard to evaluate because players drafted this late are often fighting for roster spots and may not make it to September. As with the Gardner-Johnson pick, Hampton makes sense as the Saints still have needs in the secondary. Hampton will hope to contribute on special teams and pass-heavy downs.
Round 7, No. 231: Alize Mack, TE, Notre Dame
Mack certainly fits a need, but can he make the team. In 2018, he only caught 36 passes for 360 years with 3 touchdowns, hardly anything to write home about. He’s a developmental pick, but the Saints, who are trying to win a Super Bowl this year, may not have time to wait around.
Round 7, No. 244 overall: Kaden Elliss, OLB, Idaho
Elliss has a chance to contribute on special teams and perhaps as a situational pass-rusher. He’ll be competing against undrafted free agents for his roster spot.