Saints draft well despite limited picks

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Kaden Elliss #3

The New Orleans Saints saw the player they targeted and traded up to get him. Twice, in fact.

To take Texas A&M center Eric McCoy, moving up boldly in round two this year cost next year’s second round selection but to my surprise the Saints obtained a fourth round pick in this draft. I think that move was key to their 2019 draft efforts.

McCoy is a probable starter at the center position. He ran the fastest 40 yard time by an offensive lineman at the combine (4.89) and did 29 reps on the bench. He’s a great leader and fine athlete.

Fluid and agile for a big man, McCoy generates movement at the point of attack. He can get to the second level. Quick off the snap, the three-year college starter fires out and plays with good leverage. McCoy does well going against linebackers in space. He paved the way for A&M running back Trayveon Williams, the SEC’s leading rusher this past season. McCoy was also named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his efforts in the seven overtime epic against LSU.

Getting the fourth round pick from Miami in the McCoy deal allowed New Orleans to draft a much needed safety who is more than that, in fact. Florida junior Chauncey Gardner-Johnson will be expected to compete for snaps right away.

With only three safeties on the roster – Vonn Bell, Marcus Williams and Chris Banjo – ahead of him, Johnson should see playing time and also be a contributor on special teams. He really came on in the 2018 season with nine tackles for loss and 2 interceptions. He has speed and quickness with pass coverage skills to play the slot and in space. Gardner Johnson will also come up in run support. Versatile enough to get a look as a nickel cornerback, he was named MVP of the most recent Peach Bowl against Michigan.

With their sixth round choice, the Saints went for another safety, Saquan Hampton from Rutgers. He should be a solid special teams player at first, having shown those skills in college. Hampton has pass coverage skills he was asked to use often even though he is seen as a strong safety, which is why he can also play in the box against the run.

An experienced fifth year senior, Hampton came up with three interceptions in his senior season. He missed time as a junior with a shoulder injury but came back to play a full senior season in 2018. Hampton also helped himself by running a solid 4.48 time at the NFL Combine.

Alize Mack out of Notre Dame was the top rated tight end prospect n the country coming out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. He really did not live up to that rating in South Bend, but like LSU, the Irish did not throw much to the tight end. As a junior in 2018, Mack had 36 catches with three for touchdowns. He missed time as a sophomore due to an academic suspension and sat out Notre Dame’s Citrus Bowl win against LSU.

I think Mack will be a better pro then college player. He has fine size and speed (4.68). A better receiver than in-line blocker at this time, he can cause mismatches at the pro level. Smooth and fluid with strong hands, Mack can run past linebackers and stretch the field. A solid selection in round seven, Mack may be a fine fit in the Saints offense.

With their second selection in the seventh round, the Saints finished their draft with Kaden Elliss, a linebacker (and more) from Idaho. He is the son of former Pro-Bowl player Luther Elliss, who serves on Odaho’s coaching staff currently.

The younger Elliss shows promise as an edge stand-up pass rusher from his linebacker position. He is not as effective as a run defender, however. He will have to play special teams at first and as a situational pass rusher but he could see the field as well as a coverage linebacker thanks to his good hands (he also played some on offense in college) and overal range. Eliss managed seven sacks as a senior.

With the addition of signing some undrafted free agents including some I had rated fairly high, the Saints have added a lot of depth to their roster while being aggressive during the draft.

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