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2018 NFL Draft

A Quick Look at Just a Few of the 58 NFL Draft Prospects That the Saints Have Interviewed So Far

58. That's the total number of players who all have either formally interviewed or have conducted a private meeting  and / or worked out for the New Orleans Saints thus far, leading up to the opening night of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium in Dallas in a little more than 3 weeks from now (Thursday Night, April 26th).

You can view the list of every single player that all 32 of the NFL teams have interviewed thus far, compiled here by Walter Football.com Draft Analyst Charlie Campbell, by clicking HERE). Here is the list of names that the Saints have interviewed up to this point, and after you read all 58 names — some that you might be very familiar with such as QB Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma (who they've met with on 3 different occasions) — then be sure to check out the quick look that we're taking at a few of the more interesting ones (whom we haven't covered individually in a featured article yet), right down below.

 New Orleans Saints

SR - Senior Bowl meeting.
EW - East-West Shrine meeting.
COM - Combine meeting.
PRO - Pro Day or campus meeting/workout.
LOC - Local visit. Prospect making a local visit.
PRI - Private visit. Prospect making an official 30 visit.
WOR - Private Workout. Members of an organization working out a player in private.
STM - Some Type of Meeting

  • Jordan Akins, TE, Central Florida (WOR)
  • Brian Allen, C, Michigan State (EW)
  • Marcus Allen, S, Penn State (SR)
  • Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma (COM)
  • Jerome Baker, OLB, Ohio State (PRO)
  • Nick Bawden, FB, San Diego State (SR)
  • Ja'Whaun Bentley, ILB, Purdue (SR)
  • Mike Boone, RB, Cincinnati (PRO)
  • Jeremiah Briscoe, QB, Sam Houston State (EW)
  • Tony Brown, CB, Alabama (PRO)
  • Lorenzo Carter, 3-4OLB/OLB, Georgia (COM)
  • Martez Carter, RB, Grambling (PRO)
  • Joseph Davidson, P, Bowling Green (EW)
  • Duke Dawson, CB, Florida (PRI)
  • Chase Edmonds, RB, Fordham (PRI)
  • Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma (SR)
  • Tre Flowers, S, Oklahoma State (EW)
  • Poona Ford, DT, Texas (SR, EW)
  • Robert Foster, WR, Alabama (PRI)
  • Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa (EW)
  • Devin Gray, WR, Cincinnati (PRO)
  • Da'Shawn Hand, DE, Alabama (SR)
  • Will Hernandez, G, UTEP (PRI)
  • Nyheim Hines, RB, N.C. State (WOR)
  • Jalyn Holmes, DE, Ohio State (PRO)
  • Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida (PRO)
  • Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina (PRO)
  • Godwin Igwebuike, S, Northwestern (EW)
  • J.C. Jackson, CB, Maryland (PRI)
  • Natrell Jamerson, S, Wisconsin (WOR)
  • Malik Jefferson, ILB, Texas (PRO)
  • Taron Johnson, CB, Weber State (SR)
  • Chris Jones, CB, Nebraska (WOR)
  • Joshua Kalu, S, Nebraska (WOR)
  • Justin Lawler, DE/3-4OLB, SMU (EW)
  • Jordan Martin, S, Syracuse (EW)
  • Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (SR, WOR, COM)
  • Montrel Meander, CB, Grambling (PRO)
  • Uchenna Nwosu, 3-4OLB/OLB, USC (PRO)
  • Matt Oplinger, ILB, Yale (WOR)
  • Brandon Parker, OT, North Carolina A&T (WOR)
  • Skyler Phillips, G, Idaho State (SR)
  • Byron Pringle, WR, Kansas State (PRI)
  • Tegray Scales, OLB/ILB, Indiana (EW)
  • Deadrin Senat, DT/NT, South Florida (EW)
  • Greg Senat, OT, Wagner (EW, PRO)
  • Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame (SR)
  • Linden Stephens, CB, Cincinnati (PRO, PRI)
  • Greg Stroman, CB, Virginia Tech (EW)
  • Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU (PRO)
  • Chad Thomas, DE/3-4OLB, Miami (EW)
  • Akrum Wadley, RB, Iowa (SR%)
  • Fred Warner, OLB, Brigham Young (WOR)
  • Justin Watson, WR, Pennsylvania (EW)
  • Damon Webb, S, Ohio State (PRO)
  • Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky (SR)
  • Cedric Wilson, WR, Boise State (PRI)
  • Ethan Wolf, TE, Tennessee (EW)

 

MIKE HUGHES, CORNERBACK, UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

The Saints might not be completely finished with upgrading their secondary at the CB position, if this past Thursday afternoon was any indication. Both Saints head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen attended UCF's Pro Day in Orlando, FL and were seen interacting heavily with UCF draft prospects CB Mike Hughes and LB Shaquem Griffin.

But given that Griffin isn't expected to be taken until sometime in the middle rounds, it's evident which of the 2 players that the Saints were in town to see. 

Hughes joined UCF as a junior in 2017, after he transferred from the University of North Carolina. He started 11 games at cornerback for the Golden Knights, recording 49 tackles and intercepting four passes, returning one for a touchdown. He also made an impact as a kick returner, tallying 635 yards on 20 kick returns with two touchdowns and another 233 yards on 14 punt returns with another TD. He was named first-team All-Conference as a cornerback and second-team All-Conference as a returner for his efforts before declaring early for this year's Draft.

Pro Football Focus Draft Analyst Cam Mellor says that despite the concerns of some who believe Hughes' successful 2017 season makes him a "one-hit wonder", his downfield ability on the popular ‘go’ route, combined with his ability to keep receivers in front of him on hitch routes and shorter-developing routes with his shutdown ability on the outside, could make Hughes an instant upgrade to most secondaries in the NFL. For a Saints defense that improved dramatically in 2017, a selection of Hughes could upgrade it even further.

 

WILL HERNANDEZ, OFFENSIVE GUARD, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS EL-PASO

Photo courtesy of UTEP Athletics

The Saints are also in the market to add some depth and versatility to their offensive line following the departure of valuable back-up Senio Kelemete, who signed with the Houston Texans in Free Agency a few weeks ago. Veteran guard and original Saints 2007 Draft pick Jermon Bushrod was signed recently to fill Kelemete's role going forward, but clearly the Saints would like to get even much younger at the guard position and the O-Line in general.

At 6'2" and 340 pounds, Hernandez wowed NFL scouts during the Senior Bowl practices in late January and now is considered a "fringe" 1st-Round pick as a result. He still likely projects as a Day 2 / Round 2 pick, but continues his impressive rise up Draft Boards of teams that are seeking immediate help for their O-Line (which is why the Saints have already met with him privately 3 weeks ago).

Detroit News NFL Draft Analyst Justin Rogers says that while Hernandez isn’t a master technician, he thrives in a "phone booth" (an O-Lineman with below-average feet that performs best in short areas) and if he gets his hands into the chest of a defender, then more often than not: it’s all over with.

Rogers adds that Hernandez’s playing style has drawn comparisons to Bills guard Richie Incognito and in addition to his obvious physical gifts, he’s coming in more motivated and "hungrier" than most players — since the Miners were (0-12) last season. Hernandez obviously would make a great addition to the Saints' O-Line, but the question would be if Saints brass consider him good enough to be worthy of their first pick at #27 overall.

 

POONA FORD, DEFENSIVE TACKLE, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

The Saints have shown that they'd still like to upgrade the middle of their D-Line, and the very underrated Ford (whom they met with at both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl) might be one of their draft targets they intend to do it with. 

Last season as a senior, Ford "broke out" and was named Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year by the league’s coaches while serving as arguably the biggest reason why the Longhorns had one of the most improved defensive teams in the country in 2017. For the season, Ford recorded 34 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and a blocked field goal

Sports Illlustrated.com NFL Draft Analyst Andy Staples says Ford is one of the class's biggest "sleepers", and the 5'11", 303-pound Ford has been dismissed by some as too small to play inside. That’s pretty much what members of the Texas coaching staff thought when they took over last season. It took about one day at practice to realize that Ford is a nightmare for guards and centers who try to block him one-on-one.

Because of his size, Staples adds that Ford will need to play in a defense that prefers gap-shooting defensive tackles. But given the fact that he could be available on day three, he could provide incredible value to such a team. Given that they met with and watched him play on back-to-back weekends, it's probably safe to say that New Orleans is one of them.

 

BYRON PRINGLE, WIDE RECEIVER, KANSAS STATE

Photo courtesy of Kansas State University Athletics

All of the bad potato chips jokes aside, the Saints possibly view Pringle as someone who could serve as a 'tasty snack' for Drew Brees and the Saints offense as well as on special teams; and the very underrated Kansas State star met privately with the team 3 weeks ago. Pringle was one of the Big 12's top explosive playmakers over the past couple of years, and the former JUCO player blossomed at the FBS level and ended up leading the Wildcats in receiving in each of the past two seasons. He also notched a kick return for a score in each of the past two seasons as well, something Saints brass no doubt find attractive.

Pringle transferred from Kansas' Butler Community College to Kansas State in 2016. In two seasons with the Wildcats, he registered 69 receptions for 1,355 yards with 10 touchdowns, according to Sports Reference. In 2016, Pringle finished seventh in FBS with 28.7 yards per kick return on special teams. Last year, he recorded 30 catches for 724 yards (24.1 yards per receptions) with six touchdowns.

NFL.com projects that the 6-foot-2 and 205-pound Pringle will be selected late during Day 3 of the draft, not because he isn't talented, but because he might be considered "too old" by some teams. NFL.com Draft Analyst Lance Zierlein says that Pringle will be a 25-year-old rookie come November thanks to a college pathway that was clogged by criminal indiscretions as a young adult. By all accounts, he has become a "new man", but NFL evaluators will make their own determinations. (Considering that they met with him privately, we can assume the Saints are keeping an open mind about his past).

Nevertheless, Zierlein says that Pringle was an ascending talent as a deep ball threat and possesses kick return talent that may translate to the pros. He'll have to continue to continue that upward trend with a team that's wiling to overlook his issues working past press coverage, and struggles with dropped passes and blocking technique. On Day 3 of the Draft, we'll see if Pringle convinced Saints brass (and wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson) during that visit if he's got enough upside and a potentially bright future ahead of him, to give him the chance to prove himself.

 

LORENZO CARTER, DEFENSIVE END / EDGE PASS RUSHER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA

Photo courtesy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

With a lack of quality depth and the uncertainty surrounding the recovery from an injury suffered last season for recently re-signed veteran Alex Okafor, getting another pass rusher to be a complement on the outside edge opposite of All-Pro defensive end Cam Jordan has been labeled a "must" that has to be addressed this off-season by Saints head coach Sean Payton; and Carter — who met with Saints brass at the NFL Combine — certainly can help in that regard.

A five-star recruit and the No. 1 player from Georgia in high school, the 6-foot-6, 250 pound Carter saw immediate action as a freshman, where he was asked to simply line up on the edge and attack. He had 4.5 sacks and 7 tackles for a loss in limited action behind starters Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins. He slumped quite a bit as a sophomore but his final two seasons at UGA saw him rack up 10.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss. He also forced seven fumbles in his Bulldog career.

Dawgs 24/7 writer and Draft Analyst Jake Rowe says that on paper, Carter’s production doesn’t match his talent level but he did a lot of dirty work for the Bulldogs the past two seasons. Because of his notable speed and athleticism, Carter played a number of different roles.

He lined up at defensive end, outside linebacker, inside linebacker and even at nickel safety at times where he covered a ton of ground. Rowe adds that Carter has all the tools to be a dynamic pass rusher but can also read and react to the football as well as anyone in this year's OLB / EDGE rusher class.

 

UPDATE: (11:45 A.M. EASTERN TIME)

With the late addition of University of Nebraska Cornhuskers cornerback Chris Jones, make that 59 college prospects now who the Saints have either formally interviewed or have conducted a private meeting  and / or worked out thus far, leading up to the opening night of the 2018 NFL Draft....

 

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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