Saints should consider these quarterback prospects after first round

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Hendon Hooker

As of Sunday, January 8 at approximately 3 p.m. Central time, the curtain will drop on the 2022 campaign for the New Orleans Saints.

That’s also when the 2023 season really begins.

As per usual, the coaching staff and scouting department will begin searching for ways to jump back into the upper echelon of the NFL. Despite the twists and turns this season took, immediate success can be achieved next season if the right moves regarding the current roster, free agency and draft picks occur.

Quarterback is a position the franchise will be heavily focused on upgrading.

Bringing back Andy Dalton, due to his veteran leadership and floor as a starter when called upon, would be a wise move. If another veteran is added this offseason, Dalton could be considered for the support role that he was originally brought in by the Saints to fill.

The team does not currently have a first round draft pick for 2023 but they do not have to dismantle the roster down to the studs in order to build a championship squad. Yes, it hurts in regards to potentially drafting a young answer behind center but the Black and Gold have a solid foundation.

At some point during the upcoming draft, I believe the Saints will in all likelihood select a quarterback. Some teams vying for the Super Bowl this season who were in a similar situation recently have succeeded without spending a first round pick at the position, Instead, those teams added one who fit within the team’s overall vision following day one of the draft.

Dallas grabbed Dak Prescott in the fourth round in 2016. The Eagles have soared after Jalen Hurts arrived in round two in 2020. San Francisco inserted 2022 Mr. Irreverent, rookie Brock Purdy, into the lineup and continued to battle for the top NFC seed with the seventh rounder (262nd pick overall) leading the 12-4 Niners to five consecutive wins.

New Orleans has spent 19 draft picks on quarterback throughout franchise history. With the exception of 1971 first round pick Archie Manning, the team has not found quality starters in the draft. Some have drawn starting assignments, but more often than not held the clipboard.

For historical reference, the Saints in 1971 and 1990 spent two draft picks on quarterbacks but those years were in different eras. New Orleas had 21 draft picks in 1971 and 16 in 1990. With just seven rounds in the current NFL Draft, you have to be more decisive and selective.

Will the Saints strike it rich with a Day Two or Day Three choice this year? If so, here are names who could end up fitting the bill.

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

The name most widely mentioned if the Saints decide to spend a high draft pick at the position is currently labeled as damaged goods. The 6-4, 218 pounder was considered a Heisman finalist until he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee Nov. 19th against South Carolina. His stock fell accordingly, and the first round talk ended for the overage prospect (turns 25 this month.

Hooker has been called the second best QB in Vols history behind only Peyton Manning. He transferred to Tennessee from Virginia Tech, becoming a star in head coach Josh Heupel’s system. Hooker threw for 6,080 yards, 58 touchdowns and only five interceptions, completing 69% ofhis attempts. He can make all the throws, has a quick release and fires tight spirals into close quarters. He can also air it deep with accuracy.

A high character leader in the locker room, Hooker tends to hold the ball too long and suffered 26 sacks this season. His injury may not be completely healed by training camp. He’s worthy of a second round pick. Quarterbacks have a longer shelf life than other skill positions so you don’t have to view the age as strictly a negative.

Jaren Hall, BYU

He has made 19 starts (13-6 record) as a dual threat who will also turn 25 years old in spring. Hall missed the 2020 campaign due to injury but made the most of the past two seasons as the replacement for Zach Wilson.

This past season in 12 games, Hall threw for 3,171 yards with a 66% completion rate, 31 touchdowns and six interceptions. He added 379 yards and three scores as a runner while only absorbing 12 sacks this season.

Hall has dynamic skills as a prospect and natural athlete who has clocked at 4.54 in the 40-yard dash. He was an outfielder on the BYU baseball team (2019-’20), batting .400 in 2020. He doesn’t get rattled, is light on his feet in the pocket and displays good accuracy. Hall can make the deep-out throws with touch. He goes through progressions quickly. He shows patience in the pocket and is effective on the move with a 4.54 forty.

Hall projects as a second to fourth rounder. Will Wilson’s lack of success as a No. 2 overall pick with the Jers negatively affect how front offices look at him this spring?

Cameron Ward, Washington State

The product of Columbia High in Houston only had two offers out of high school – Incarnate Word and Texas Southern. He hasn’t declared for draft yet as a redshirt sophomore but I suspect he will.

As a freshman at Incarnate Word in 2020, Ward passed for 2,260 yards, 24 touchdowns and four interceptions. For his efforts, he earned the Jerry Rice Award, recognizing the top freshman in FCS nationally. After another strong year at UIW, he transferred to Washington State to prove his worth at the Power Five level. Ward passed for 3,232 yards, 23 scores and nine picks this past season.

Able to make tight window throws, the physically gifted Ward (6-2, 220) is light on his feet in pocket. He plays with a swagger. His quick release and arm talent to make every throw is eye-catching.

Ward has a family pedigree with a pair of relatives in NFL, Quandre Diggs (Seahakws) and Quinton Jammer (Chargers). He will be just 21 years old in May.

It seems to me Ward would be at least an early Day 3 pick with enticing upside.

Clayton Tune

Clayton Tune, Houston

The 6-3, 220 pounder could evolve into NFL starter. Tune has been a clutch performer who excels in the two-minute drill. He shows necessary composure and the ability to improvise under duress.

In 2022, he threw for 4,069 yards, 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, completing 67.4% of his tosses. Tune ranked 12th nationally with 29 completions of 20 yards or more this season and fourth with six completions of 40 yards or more.

Scouts at PFF compare Tune somewhat to Bailey Zappe, the Patriots rookie who impressed enough to start games this season.

In 47 games with the Cougars, Tune has accounted for 11,994 yards passing, 104 touchdown passes and 41 interceptions. He will play in Shrine Bowl. I’m very curious to see how scouts evaluate him when they gain a closer look in the pre-draft process.

Tanner McKee, Stanford

Another big pocket passer prospect out of the program at 6-6 and 230 pounds, he will be 23 years old at draft time. He spent two years on a mission for the LDS church.

McKee has a good delivery, adequate arm strength and good experience in a West Coast attack (23 college games). Other pluses are great footwork to avoid pressure as well as operate outside of the pocket. His draft stock has risen.

In 2022, McKee threw for 2,947 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Not surrounded by lots of talent in a program that managed only 10 wins the past three seasons, McKee can make throws anywhere on the field with accuracy. He makes quick decisions, showing a high football IQ.

I see him as high as a late second day choice with his skillset but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Max Duggan, TCU

Invited to New York for Heisman presentation, the 6-2, 210 pounder went from competing for a starting role in the preseason to college stardom in a hurry. He has led the Horned Frogs to national title game against Georgia.

In 41 career starts (24-17 record), the 22 year old has all the experience you could want in a prospect. In 13 games in 2022, Duggan has 3,546 yards, 32 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 63.7% completion rate with a 116.1 QB rating.

Very athletic, Duggan gets the ball out quickly with good placement. Defenses have to account for him as a runner. The 6-2, 210 pounder has 461 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground this season with 4.48 speed to make his rush attempts long ones.

Playing the 2021 season with broken foot and taking pain shots to hold off surgery until season’s end, the Council Bluffs, Iowa native has no questions regarding toughness. First-year head coach Sonny Dykes seems to have unlocked all of his potential.

Exuding confidence, Duggan is the prototypical NFL prospect. He could be a bargain for some NFL team. Right now, I’d tab him as an early third day pick.

Jake Haener, Fresno State

A fearless leader, Haener (6-1, 195) shows good arm strength and the ability to make key plays at the right time. He carries some of Brett Favre’s moxie with great confidence in the clutch.

Beginning his college career at Washington State, Haener transferred to Fresno in 2019. He has been a high-percentage passer, completing 72% of his attempts this past season thanks to top-notch accuracy on short and intermediate passes. He has good zip on throws.

In 32 college games, Haener amassed 9,120 yards, 68 touchdowns and 18 interceptions with a 68.2% completion rate.

Set to play in the Senior Bowl, the 23-year old currently rates as a Day 3 draft pick.

Tim DeMorat, Fordham

There’s always at least one small school sleeper with talent to play at the highest level in a draft year, and that’s how I view this four-year starter.

DeMorat led FCS with a Patriot League record 4,891 yards passing this past season, racking up 56 touchdowns with 10 interceptions and a 65.3% completion rate in 12 games. He’s been called Mr. Clutch.

The three-time all-conference choice has twice been tabbed Patriot League Offensive MVP. This past season against Division I Ohio, Tim DeMorat was 27-of-35 for 503 yards and six touchdowns in a 59-53 defeat to an eventual 10-win MAC team. In five other games this season, he had 450 yards or more passing.

Great at ball fakes and fundamentally sound, the 6-4, 220 pounder displays nice touch and good awareness of what the defense is doing. He’s a traditional pocket passer who works well in rhythm and makes smart decisions due to presnap reads. He displays toughness.

Tim DeMorat is worthy of a third day look.

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Rene Nadeau

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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