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2019 NFL Draft

A Few Names to Remember for Saints Top Pick in the Upcoming 2019 NFL Draft

The New Orleans Saints have now fully transitioned into Off-Season mode; and are gearing up for next month's 2019 NFL Free Agency signing period. which officially gets underway in a little over 3 more weeks from now, on March 13th.

However, the reality is that the team won’t have enough money to sign every player that they want or need. which of course also means that they’ll additionally have to rely on adding players via the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft; which this year takes place in Nashville, Tennessee from April 25th through the 27th.

Unfortunately for the Black and Gold however, because of the trade they made with Green Bay to move up and select rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport with the 14th overall selection in last year's 2018 NFL Draft, New Orleans doesn't have a pick in the 1st Round this year.

Additionally, due to the trades they made with the Jets to acquire current backup #2 QB Teddy Bridgewater (3rd Round pick) and the Giants for starting #2 CB Eli Apple (4th Round pick), the Saints will only have a 2nd Round pick and a 5th Round pick to go along with two 6th Round picks and two 7th Round picks, for a grand total of six picks in this year’s draft.

What means essentially that unless Saints brass (GM Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton) decides to "wheel and deal" and acquire more picks, they’ll have to make each and every single pick that they end up making, count for something initially and hopefully have a lasting and enduring impact.

As a result. a lot of emphasis specifically will be placed upon who the team decides to target with their top pick, which will be the #62nd overall selection in Round 2.

With that very thought in mind, here are a few names for Who Dats to remember of players that currently are projected to still be available once the Saints finally get "on the clock", to make that pick.

Starting with....


Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

Sternberger actually started his collegiate career at Kansas before deciding to go the junior college route, enrolling at Northeastern Oklahoma until ultimately choosing to enroll at Texas A&M over his other finalist, Boise State. Sternberger actually was current Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher's first new commitment after he was named their head coach a year and a half ago.

The 6-foot-4, 247 pound Sternberger quickly made his presence felt as he exploded for an 8 catch. 172 yards and 2 TD performance in the Aggies' 2018 Spring Practice Game that quickly served every one notice of his outstanding capability as a "pass-catching" / receiving TE and thereby solidifying his spot within the team's revamped offensive attack.

Sternberger went on to have a stellar 2018 season, as he tallied 48 catches for 832 yards and a school record 10 receiving touchdowns for a tight end. He was named a consensus 1st team All-American, but inexplicably was left off the final list for the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end.

The Draft Network Lead Analyst Jon Ledyard says that physically and athletically, Sternberger is an ideal receiving tight end with good hands and the speed to stretch the field. Sternberger still has room to grow as a route runner and be able to develop the mental aspects of his game, but Ledyard quickly points out that very few tight ends can make "splash plays" like Sternberger can, both before and after the catch.

Ledyard adds that Sternberger will need to prove he can "hang with the big boys" at the next level as a blocker which could limit his early impact in the NFL, but with his arrow pointing up, Ledyard expects that Sternberger will  become a late-blooming stud by his 2nd or 3rd year in the League. Unless the Dallas Cowboys (who also need a new #1 TE this year just like the Saints) just happen to snag him right before at #58, then Sternberger could very well end up in NOLA with the 62nd overall pick.



(AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Saints fans by now are well aware of the team's notable "connection" in recent years to the Ohio State University football program, as the Saints have either drafted or signed a handful of former Buckeyes to their permanent roster over the course of the past several seasons.

This year is no exception, and while one former Ohio State University WR in this year's class has been mentioned already as a possible Saints pick at #62 (Parris Campbell), their have been reports that Saints brass came away particularly impressed with Terry McLaurin; who they got to see up close and personal at last month's annual Senior Bowl college all-star game in Mobile, Alabama.

Grant it, McLaurin only had 35 catches for 701 yards at Ohio State in 2018 as the #3 WR in their offensive scheme; but what you quickly realize is that this also a kid that last year averaged 20 yards a grab — with an incredible eleven of those 35 receptions (so basically one-third) that ended up as touchdown catches.

Despite the fact that he ultimately caught only 75 career catches in 43 career games (but with 19 total TD receptions) as a Buckeye, it became rather evident that McLaurin will be light years better in the NFL than he was in college as a legitimate deep threat. McLaurin drew praise from a handful of observers and analysts as a result; and there wasn't another player at the wide receiver position in Mobile who did more to help raise his stock than the 6-foot., 205-pound Indianapolis, Indiana native.

Draft analyst Josh Carney says that McLaurin is an elite run-after-catch guy in this year's class, thanks to his game-breaking speed; and while he needs to be much more physical in his routes and learn how to win more often at making contested catches (and needs the right coaching to consistently bring it out of him), McLaurin could produce big-time numbers if he lands in the right offense. With current Saints #2 WR and designated "deep threat" Ted Ginn, Jr. about to turn age 34, the Saints could replace one fast / "speedy" deep receiving threat that graduated from Ohio State, with a much younger version.



Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

As we noted just the other day, the Saints are now entering their annual off-season process with a sizable "hole" in the middle of their D-Line, specifically at the 3-Technique defensive tackle position because of Sheldon Rankins’ recovery from Achilles surgery (which could keep him out until October), back-up David Onyemata facing a possible suspension for marijuana possession, and Tyeler Davison possibly leaving the team as an unrestricted Free Agent.

That means of course that they now suddenly find themselves with a "need" at the DT position within the heart of their much-improved defensive interior from 2018; and the draft obviously could provide them that opportunity. Enter the young man who likely will be sitting there at #62: University of Kansas D-Lineman Daniel Wise.

Much in a very similar manner that McLaurin did at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Wise too has parlayed an impressive performance from a college all-star game last month (the East-West Shrine Game in Tampa, Florida) to dramatically raise his stock higher than it had previously been.

In 42 career games with the Jayhawks football program as one of college football's top interior pass-rushers, Wise finished with 17 career sacks, 152 tackles (108 solo), a whopping 43 TFL's (tackles for loss), and a fumble recovery. The Draft Network analyst Kyle Crabbs says that Wise will need to overhaul some of his bad habits but if he’s able to improve in those noted areas, Wise possesses the potential to become a starter in the NFL — and be a successful player in a physical defensive front with a high number of snaps.

While the Saints wouldn't need Wise to replace any one permanently by any means (Rankins and Onyemata should both be playing by October at the latest), his selection would give the Saints some much-needed depth at the position (besides former UDFA Taylor Stallworth) ; especially if Davison leaves in Free Agency.



Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

With 9th year Saints veteran safety Kurt Coleman likely to be cut and released in a salary-cap related move and 2nd-year free safety Marcus Williams still trying to get more comfortable with adapting to the NFL; it stands to reason that the Saints could benefit from an upgrade at the safety position with a player with the versatility to play either as the free safety in pass coverage or the strong safety spot in run support along with Vonn Bell.

While other safeties such as Marshall University star Malik Gant should still be there once the Saints are on the clock at #62, another name of a safety that could be on the Saints radar is outstanding University of Washington safety Taylor Rapp. The 6-foot, 200 pound Rap finished last year with 59 tackles, 5 sacks, 5 PBU's (pass break-ups), 3 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions en route to earning first-team All-American honors from ESPN. 

Rapp started 10 games immediately as a freshman and then quickly emerged as a leader of the Huskies secondary; as he was chosen to be an All-Pac 12 first team selection as a sophomore. NFL Draft expert Joe Marino says that Rapp’s size, physicality and ability to tackle make him an ideal candidate to function as a strong safety in a role that brings him into the box with regularity (something Coleman didn't do with much success).

Marino adds that Rapp's biggest upside at the pro level will be on passing downs, which comes from his ability to function in man coverage against tight ends, blitzing and split zones. But he cautions that Rapp has limitations that come that his coaches will have to be mindful of, something that the Saints undoubtedly would have DB coach Aaron Glenn work on him with if they took him at #62....



Saints News Network Featured Columnist (and Big Easy Magazine's Saints writer) 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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