After months and months of waiting, the 2021 NFL Draft is finally here. After going all-in on the past few seasons, the New Orleans Saints find themselves in desperate need of a huge draft. No team lost more impact players this offseason, and the team will need to rebuild on the fly to remain competitive. Of course, the most important part to any rebuild is nailing the first round pick, so let’s see what the experts expect the Saints to do when they’re on the clock.
New Orleans Saints First Round Pick Projections For 2021 NFL Draft
Benjamin Allbright (PFN) – Elijah Moore, WR
Benjamin Allbright is historically one of the better mock drafters out there, so let’s start with him. The New Orleans Saints have constantly struggled to field a solid receiver opposite Michael Thomas, but they finally get their answer in Elijah Moore. Moore is essentially the second-coming of Randall Cobb, as he lives in the slot but has the potential to make plays on all three levels of the field. The analytics community loves him, as his college dominator ranking was one of the best in the country.
The New Orleans Saints are one of the most aggressive teams in the draft, and there are some rumors circulating about the Saints trying to trade up. However, Allbright doesn’t expect that to happen. This particular mock draft includes trades, yet the Saints remain at the 28th overall selection.
Tony Pauline (PFN) – Caleb Farley, CB
Taking Caleb Farley at the back of the first is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward move. If everything works out, Farley has the chance to be the best cornerback in this entire class. He has the size, build, and physicality for the position, and he already demonstrated an advanced ability to handle man coverage responsibilities.
However, Farley has some of the biggest red flags of any prospect. The Virigina Tech product has a long list of injuries and is still recovering from a back injury he initially suffered two years ago. Generally speaking, injury avoidance has more to do with luck than skill, but back injuries can be recurring – look what happened to Tony Romo. The Saints medical team will need to do a thorough background check on him, but if he checks out, he could be the steal of the draft.
Will Brinson (CBS) – Asante Samuel Jr., CB
Much like Pauline, Will Brinson believes that the New Orleans Saints will use their first round draft pick to address the secondary. However, unlike Pauline, Brinson believes the team will go with a much safer pick in Asante Samuel Jr. The child of the former NFL ballhawk, Samuel Jr. has his father’s nose for the football and physical style of play. He certainly has a home in the NFL, but selecting him in the first round feels like a reach.
At 5’-10” and 184 pounds, Samuel Jr. simply doesn’t have the size to match up with the NFL’s elite perimeter receivers. The cornerback tends to overcompensate for his lack of size with physicality, and this can lead to some flags. He does plenty of good things on the football field, but he’s never going to develop into a legitimate star at the position, which makes him unworthy of a first-round pick.
James Rapien (SI) – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE
After the relative safety of Asante Samuel Jr., we’re going right back to the high-risk, high-reward pick with Jaelan Phillips. If life was a game of Madden and you could turn off injuries, the Miami product would be a top-10 pick. There really isn’t anything he isn’t physically capable of doing, as he checks off just about every box from a film, production, and athleticism standpoint. Unfortunately, the edge defender has a very serious concussion history, and he could be one bad hit away from never seeing the field again. This is obviously concerning, but the upside here is worth the risk at the back of the first.
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