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2018 NFL Draft

A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN? 5 Players in the 2018 NFL Draft That Would Be a “Perfect Fit” for the New Orleans Saints

"A match made in Heaven". That phrase is often used by NFL analysts to describe an NFL Draft prospect whose skill set, the ability to start right away at a position of need, or a particular scheme fit, make that particular player a "perfect fit" for an NFL team.

Every one of the 32 NFL franchises have a certain or specific 'type' of player in mind, who they hope can successfully perform within the parameters of their own unique offensive and defensive schemes, which often goes hand-in-hand with those philosophies or concepts that they utilize on a day-to-day basis. 

Clearly, New Orleans is one of those teams that have a 'type' of player in mind for a variety of positions on their current roster; and this morning we're taking a look at 5 such prospects in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft (in only 17 more days), who at least from the outside looking in appear to be  "a match made in Heaven" for the Saints.

Beginning first with......

 

MIKE GESICKI, TIGHT END, PENN STATE

Photo courtesy of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It goes without saying that given the disturbing lack of production from the Saints tight end position last year, you could almost put ANY tight end on this list (like Hayden Hurst of South Carolina) and call it a "match made in Heaven" or a "perfect fit". But the reality is that NO SINGLE TIGHT END in this year's class better 'fits' the Saints offensive scheme than Gesicki.

Gesicki has certainly lived up to the reputation of his nickname "The Human Mismatch", and his very impressive physical attributes (he's essentially a bigger, taller wide receiver more so than he is a tight end) combined with a great pair of hands should allow him to line up and 'fit' into most pass-heavy NFL offenses — and therefore clearly making him a good match for the Saints. 

There will be the obvious comparisons to Packers tight end Jimmy Graham, given their similar athletic backgrounds. But even if Gesicki's game didn't mirror Graham so much, you'd still be able to take comfort in knowing that because of the way Drew Brees utilizes his tight ends within the parameters of the Saints offensive scheme, Gesicki would serve as another great option for him to throw to.

Gesicki’s struggles with blocking (another trait he shares equally with Graham) are a concern to be sure, but with the recent signing of veteran Benjamin Watson, it would allow the Saints coaching staff to let Gesicki absorb all of the knowledge that he possibly can from the wily 37-year old veteran — while further developing his skills to be successful at the NFL level.

 

SIRAN NEAL, SAFETY / CORNERBACK, JACKSONVILLE STATE

Photo courtesy of The Baton Rouge Advocate

When the Saints made the decision not to re-sign veteran safety Kenny Vaccaro, they lost a player that despite the shortcomings in certain aspects of his game, was still a player capable of filling multiple roles for their defense as Vaccaro did previously as a safety, slot cornerback, and even at strongside and weakside linebacker when other players were hurt.

One player who might be a capable (and definitely underrated) replacement for Vaccaro in this year's 2018 NFL Draft Class: versatile Jacksonville State safety / CB Siran NealFourthandNine.com NFL Draft analyst Eric Crocker says that at 6-foot, 205 pounds, Neal has the ideal size that a majority of NFL teams are coveting, and the position versatility to go with it — as JSU used Neal all over the field. On film he can be seen making plays at safety, slot and outside boundary cornerback.

At the Senior Bowl in late January, Neal showed that he can also "stonewall" receivers. Going up against Oklahoma State's top-rated WR James Washington in that game, he flashed patience and strength; two things a cornerback will need to play in the NFL. But he can also line up essentially anywhere you put him, and he'll continue to make plays and have a direct impact upon a team's defensive success, as he proved at FCS "small school" Jacksonville State (located in Jacksonville, Alabama, about 75 miles west of Birmingham).

Clearly, the loss of Vaccaro took away a player with the skill-set to play multiple positions within their scheme. But by taking a player who can essentially do the same things that Vaccaro did, it would allow the Saints defense to continue its upward trend that began in earnest last year; and hopefully will allow them to go even deeper into the Playoffs in 2018.

 

ISIAH WYNN, OFFENSIVE TACKLE / GUARD, GEORGIA

Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Versatility, versatility, versatility. One thing above all else, the New Orleans Saints organization places a high priority on players who can play MULTIPLE ROLES on either side of the football; and it's especially evident with the majority of players on their offensive line — all of whom can adequately play at both the tackle and guard positions.

The Saints still could use more depth for their O-Line however, especially with the lingering concerns over the health status of starting LT Terron Armstead that could lead to more additional "shuffling around" for the unit in 2018 as it did at times in 2017. The loss of former outstanding back-up Senio Kelemete in Free Agency last month, furthers that notion.

Wynn is certainly qualified to ease those depth concerns for the Saints, given that he is expected to play guard in the NFL: although the 6-foot-2, 305 pounder did play tackle for the Bulldogs at times and did so extremely well. He’s athletic enough to pull and get out on the edge as a guard or center, and the 2nd-team All American is well respected by his teammates and coaches for consistent effort and intensity as well as his leadership ability.

Canal Street Chronicles NFL Draft Analyst / scout Walter "Deuce" Windham (you can buy his 2018 NFL Draft Guide by clicking HERE) says that Wynn's ability to initially evaluate and mentally process what opposing defenses are about to do schematically right before the snap of the football, is on par with any O-Lineman in this year's class. It's those type of traits along with his notable versatility, which could make Wynn (or another highly-rated O-Lineman who can play both the guard and tackle spots such as UTEP's Will Hernandez) the "perfect fit" in NOLA, if selected by the Saints on the opening night of the 2018 NFL Draft.

 

D.J. MOORE, WIDE RECEIVER, MARYLAND

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

There are a handful of talented WR's in this year's class, but only a few that seemingly would make a "perfect fit" in New Orleans while Drew Brees is still the quarterback. And perhaps no one player would "fit" the Saints offense any more perfectly, than University of Maryland WR D.J. MoorePro Football Weekly football / NFL Draft analyst Eric Edholm says that ideally, Moore would land with a team that could use his quickness, field vision and toughness as a complementary option — either in the slot or outside — and not as a true #1 WR.

But with his ability to line up all over the place and return kicks, there should be an immediate role for him somewhere on a creative team. It goes without saying that the Saints would be one of the more "creative" teams under head coach Sean Payton. While at Maryland, Moore lined up all over the field: in the slot, out wide, in motion and even in the backfield. He also returned kicks and punts effectively, and was particularly effective on end-arounds, reverses, direct handoffs, and even as a passer — with a 3-for-5, 36 yard total as a passer over his three seasons. 

Moore is also an explosive play-maker with the capability to "blow the top off" of defenses and run underneath routes. He can create space against nearly any defender that he's matched-up against, and can become a solid #2 WR initially upon entering the League with the eventual probability of even becoming a #1 WR down the line in spite of his size.

And perhaps most important of all for the Saints: he's considered one of the highest character guys among all of this year's college prospects, and draws near unanimous praise from both NFL talent evaluators and front office executives alike. Bottom line: Moore is a complete receiver with exceptional run-after-the-catch skills, who will do very well at the next level. And he seemingly would be a "perfect fit" for the Saints as the complement to Michael Thomas in the team's receiving game.

 

BAKER MAYFIELD, QUARTERBACK, OKLAHOMA

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

We saved this one for last, because it's the most obvious one. Mayfield is considered a "Drew Brees clone", and his similar size, skill-set and leadership skills make him the near-perfect candidate to serve as Brees' understudy for a year or two. Saints head coach Sean Payton's notable admiration for Mayfield's intangibles would be the impetus for the organization to draft Mayfield as the "heir apparent" to Brees, and it would (hopefully) make for a smooth transition from one great Era of Saints football, to the next. 

The "perfect fit" aspect is that Mayfield possesses many of the very same attributes at QB, that Brees does and previously has, within the parameters of the Saints offensive scheme. Buffalo News.com NFL writer Mark Gaughan says that Mayfield has a ton of experience, and he's a winner. He was (39-8) overall as a starter at Oklahoma, and he's extremely accurate, with a four-year career completion percentage of 68.5. He's prolific, passing for 330 yards a game with 43 TDs and six interceptions as a senior.

Gaughan notes that Mayfield has a quick release, has above average arm strength, is instinctive, and he can anticipate throwing windows. He can make "tight-window throws" like Brees does, and he can also manipulate his position in the pocket to find throwing lanes. He's also adept at saving his best performances for "the big stage", with top performances last year against Ohio State, Texas Christian and Oklahoma State.

Additionally, Mayfield is known as a hard worker and a preparation fanatic when it comes to football. You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a jet-engine propulsion expert to know that Mayfield would be the IDEAL player to not only "replace" Brees as the next Saints starting QB, but would also be the "perfect fit" to run Sean Payton's offensive scheme, into the next decade.

It would also possibly end up being "a match made in Heaven" — if he or any of these other players that we've listed this morning, somehow end up in a Black and Gold uniform for your New Orleans Saints.......

Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist and Lead Analyst Barry Hirstius is a 50-year old semi-retired journalist and former New Orleans area sports editor and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. Additionally, he is a frequent guest on a variety of Sports Talk Radio programs that cover the Saints. Barry is also a New Orleans native that dating all the way back to his childhood in the early 1970's, attended games at the old Tulane Stadium and grew up as a long-time Saints fan; 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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