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2018 NFL Draft

TRUE OR FALSE: The Very LATEST Rumors Before the Saints 2018 Draft

The New Orleans Saints are now only just 3 days away from the start of the 2018 NFL Draft, and as you might imagine: the rumors about what they might or might not do in Dallas this Thursday Night, are running rampant .

Throughout the last several weeks, here at the Saints News Network we've been navigating our way past all of the rumors, innuendo, and outright “disinformation” that purposely is being put out by NFL teams at this time of year, in order to mask or hide what their TRUE intentions really are.

Which is exactly why that this morning for the final time before the start of this year's Saints Draft, we present all of the "hottest" and very latest rumors currently circulating around New Orleans' alleged intentions, for their first pick at #27 overall.

We'll carefully examine each one of these various rumors and give our very best estimate — based on the information from reliable sources within sports media that cover the team both on a local and national level — as to what is truth, and what isn't.

And we start first with this one......

 

THE SAINTS WILL DRAFT LAMAR JACKSON AT #27 IF HE IS STILL AVAILABLE

Photo courtesy of The Louisville Courier-Journal

Obviously with the imminent retirement of Drew Brees coming up within these next few years, the QB position is one that the Saints will closely look at addressing this year, despite whatever they want everyone to believe about current 3rd string QB Taysom Hill.

Hill hasn't even officially taken a single snap in a regular season game as an NFL QB, and outside of a few nice Pre-Season performances while he was playing for the Green Bay Packers last year, he is an unproven commodity.

Saints brass have always had their eye on the QB position in the past few Drafts, with the idea of finding the "heir apparent" to Brees.

But unfortunately, 2015 3rd Round pick Garrett Grayson turned out to be a "bust" and was released last year, and the Kansas City Chiefs snagged Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes in last year's 2017 NFL Draft with the pick right ahead of the Saints — who had worked out Mahomes privately and were set to take him at #11 overall (they ended up with Ohio State CB and 2017 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore instead, which wasn't a bad consolation prize).

Which means that the QB position is very much in play for New Orleans in this 2018 NFL Draft; and IF Jackson is actually the highest rated overall player remaining on their Draft Board once they get "on the clock" to make the 27th overall pick? Then yes, this rumor is absolutely true.

But however....

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

As it turns out, the Saints aren't the only NFL team that has shown interest in the phenomenal young superstar dual-threat QB, with the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, L.A. Chargers, and yes even the New England Patriots (who have two 1st Round picks) showing interest.

Just yesterday, Las Vegas oddsmakers even put a betting line on which NFL team will end up selecting Jackson, who some have compared to former NFL QB Michael Vick and the late, great Steve "Air" McNair. The Saints are currently listed as 8-to-1 favorites, with Arizona leading the way at 7-to-4.

The Cardinals pick at #15 overall (12 spots ahead of the Saints), and with the recent retirement of Carson Palmer and often-injured veteran Sam Bradford taking over the reigns as the team's new starter, they're said to be smitten with the idea of bringing Jackson out to the Desert Southwest.

Bottom line: if the Saints are REALLY "in love" with Jackson, then they'd most likely have to trade up to get him. Otherwise, Jackon's NFL future seems destined to be fulfilled somewhere other than NOLA.

 

UCLA QB JOSH ROSEN IS RAPIDLY "FALLING DOWN" NFL DRAFT BOARDS, AND THE SAINTS WOULD BE ONE OF THE TEAMS INTERESTED IN MAKING A TRADE OFFER TO MOVE UP TO GET HIM

Photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Times

This rumor is likely true, assuming the Saints could find a willing trade partner (maybe with former Saints assistant GM Ryan Pace, who now runs the Chicago Bears and has a Top 10 pick at #8 overall?) to do it with.

The one QB other than Lamar Jackson that had been "linked" previously to the Saints is Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, but he isn't expected to get out of the first 3 picks, with the New York Jets poised to take him at #3 overall.

Rosen's name hasn't really been linked at all to the Saints (who as we mentioned are thought to be "in the market" to find a successor to Drew Brees) throughout the draft process of the past few months, until rumors of him "falling" down the Draft Board's Top 10 began circulating just last week.

In fact, here's what NFL.com Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said specifically about Rosen's alleged "fall":

It's often difficult to discern fact from fiction at this time of the year, and so to think that Rosen will actually fall out of the Top 10 is almost laughable, considering that he was once thought to be THE BEST QB in this year's class until just recently.

Photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Times

But given what we know about the Saints' reported interest in Mahomes last year, it wouldn't really come as a shock at all to see the Saints make a move up to grab him if he falls down near Chicago at the #8 overall pick.

It would probably in all likelihood require the Saints to give up their top pick in next year's 2019 NFL Draft, as well as a 3rd Rounder in this year's Draft — which is exactly what Kansas City gave up when they acquired Mahomes with the 10th pick from Buffalo, in return for the 27th overall pick, their first-round choice in 2018 and a 3rd-rounder (91st overall) last year.

The Saints are essentially in the exact same spot that the Chiefs were in when they moved up to get Mahomes, so if Rosen actually falls down to where the Bears are picking at #8, it could be very easy to see Saints team brass making this move to go and get him.

However, what we don't know is if Saints head coach Sean Payton actually likes Rosen enough as a potential "heir apparent" to Drew Brees, to even consider making such a bold move.

But one thing you can count on: IF Rosen actually "falls" that far down the Top 10? The New Orleans Saints will be one of the teams "in play", for his services.

 

THE SAINTS ARE "DEFINITELY" TAKING A TIGHT END WITH THE #27 OVERALL PICK

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

While the tight end position is certainly one that the Saints need to address in this Draft, the idea that they absolutely have to take one at #27 to ensure themselves of getting a top-rated prospect (as many of the National Media have them doing in thousands of Mock Drafts currently circulating the Internet), is unequivocally false.

In fact, there are many other NFL Draft analysts out there who actually know what the Saints' team "needs" are, who don't have ANY tight end in this year's TE class rated as a 1st Round talent.

But with the notable lack of production that the Saints have gotten at the position within the past couple of seasons, it's easy to understand why so many projections have them going with one at the #27 overall pick.

However, given that the Saints recently brought back long-time veteran TE Ben Watson 2 weeks ago in the 2nd Wave of 2018 NFL Free Agency, those same projections that have New Orleans "definitely" taking a TE with their first pick at #27 overall, seem to be a bit premature.

But also keep in mind: Watson is about to turn age 38, so the "need" is obviously still there.

The hottest name at the moment at the TE position linked to New Orleans is South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst, who the Saints brought in for a private meeting and work out late last month.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

But Hurst — who was a minor league baseball player in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization before deciding to go back to college — will already be age 25 before the 2018 season starts, meaning that whoever drafts him may not get more than a handful of seasons out of him, rather than a lengthy career of a decade-plus.

The other two tight ends linked the most to New Orleans are South Dakota State's Dallas Goedert and Penn State's Mike Gesicki, both of whom are seen as potentially 'great fits' for New Orleans; although Goedert appears to be the more well-rounded player at the position and considered the better player for the Saints to target, since Gesicki's one true talent seems to be only as a receiver and not as a blocker.

However, neither Goedert or Gesicki are rated as 1st Rounders, and with other "good" TE's that will be available in the middle rounds such as Indiana University TE Ian Thomas or Wisconsin TE Troy Fumagalli, this idea that New Orleans 'must' target the TE position at #27 overall, is a complete fallacy.

 

THE SAINTS ARE GOING TO GO AFTER AN EDGE PASS RUSHER MUCH EARLIER, THIS YEAR

Photo courtesy of The Boston Globe

The answer here is 'false' for now, though it still could be 'true', depending on what the Saints really think about the EDGE pass rusher position as a top priority.

Saints head coach Sean Payton listed the weakside defensive end/ EDGE pass rusher spot as one the biggest "musts" of this current off-season at the NFL owners meeting in Orlando, Florida last month; and despite the fact that New Orleans just recently re-signed veteran Alex Okafor in Free Agency, the reality is that he will be coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon — which he suffered last November in the win over the Washington Redskins.

Which obviously means that Payton is likely being honest, although we've heard him say this very same thing about targeting an EDGE rusher in previous Drafts.

In fact, last season Payton essentially said the exact same thing, which had many people linking then-University of Tennessee pass rusher Derek Barnett to New Orleans (Barnett was eventually taken by the Philadelphia Eagles at #14 overall, after the Saints passed on Barnett and took Lattimore at #11 instead).

The Saints then ended up waiting until their 3rd pick of Round 3 to take Florida Atlantic University DE Trey Hendrickson with the #103rd overall selection.

In this year's class, the EDGE pass rusher position is VERY THIN with regard to talent and ability; and unless the Saints are willing to make a big-time trade, it's more than likely that they'll miss out on the class's best players at the position such as North Carolina State's Bradley Chubb, Texas-San Antonio's Marcus Davenport, and the one player linked to New Orleans most: Boston College's Harold Landry — whom as we noted last week, has drawn comparisons to former Saints living legend Pat Swilling

Photo courtesy of The Boston Gobe

Nevertheless: there will be other options for the Saints to with their #27 pick overall, such as Ohio State's Sam Hubbard (who's the one player that's been projected the most times to the Saints in a number of various Mock Drafts) and one of this year's "biggest risers" in Florida State pass rusher / DE Josh Sweat.

Without a 2nd Round pick this year (which they used to trade up last year to get RB Alvin Kamara), the Saints won't get to target the EDGE position again until #91 overall in Round 3; where the "drop-off" in talent is significant.

There are a few "diamonds in the rough" that could be available by that point such as Wake Forest EDGE rusher Duke Ejiofor or Kansas DE Dorance Armstong, Jr., but neither of them may turn out to be any better than what they already have in Hendrickson.

And then of course: there's controversial LSU defensive end Arden Key, who's been linked heavily to the Saints since they have met with 4 different times, but could be scared away by his variety of off-field issues that have experts projecting him to "fall" as far down as Round 5 (though it's hard to envision him getting anywhere beyond Round 3).

Bottom line: if Payton and New Orleans want an IMPACT PLAYER at the weakside / EDGE pass rusher position — a player that's truly capable of being the one missing piece to help the Saints defense go from 'good' to becoming an ELITE-caliber unit — then it's probably going to require a bit of "wheeling and dealing" this Thursday Night to go and get that guy, whoever they think that just might be.....

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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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