(WVUE) - As it stands currently, the Saints have six selections in April's draft (fifth round was traded to Washington last year for David Onyemata). It's early February which means there's plenty of time for players to rise and fall.
For now, here's where I'm going in my first mock draft.
Derek Barnett DE Tennessee
The Saints will have several options at 11. But this is the year to find an edge player in the draft. Given their pressing need at pass rusher opposite Cam Jordan, they simply can't bypass that player. I've been a big fan of Barnett all year and love his relentless tenacity and production at Tennessee. Barnett has been the most popular player selected by the Saints in mock drafts. If he is available at 11, he should be the pick.
Cameron Sutton CB Tennessee
Sutton wasn't on my radar until Senior Bowl where he was impressive in the practices I saw. The Saints need at cornerback is obvious given the high rate of injury at the position last season. Sutton's specialty is man-to-man coverage with great catch-up speed. He also flashed some versatility while playing some safety at the Senior Bowl.
Duke Riley LB LSU
The LSU drought comes to an end with the third round selection of Duke Riley. Riley was one of the biggest risers from Senior Bowl. One scout told me they've paid close attention to his tackles for loss during his senior season. To the scout, it was a sign that not only does he have disruptive ability but that he trusts his instincts and doesn't overthink.
Pat Elflein G Ohio State
Jahri Evans was a savior to the Saints offensive line last year when it looked like it could be headed towards disaster in the preseason. However, Evans is a free agent, and even if he does return for another year he'll be 34 before the season starts. The Saints have to start looking for the future at the position. Elflein can provide great value here. His coaches at Ohio St. raved about his work ethic and character. He can also play center, and as we've seen, Buckeye products tend to do well at the next level.
Cole Hikutini TE Louisville
Tight end is a need that's gone a bit under-the-radar for the Saints. However, with injuries to Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui and an average season for Coby Fleener, the Saints could grab a pass-catching tight end later in the draft. Hikutini could fill that void.
Elijah McGuire RB ULL
I thought it was interesting that Sean Payton noted that this was good draft for running backs. For his team, when it comes to taking a back, it's all about style. To me, the style the Saints need is a pass-catcher out of the backfield. McGuire can be that guy; he had over 100 receptions during his career in Lafayette. Even at 185 pounds, he was incredibly durable. The question, as it often is at this stage of any mock draft, is will he still be around in the seventh round?