NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - We've reached the sweet spot in the NFL offseason where free agency has cooled off and the draft is still a few weeks away. A potential Malcolm Butler trade with the Patriots could alter the Saints draft plans significantly. For now, they still hold seven picks and have several options.
1st round (11TH)
Derek Barnett, DE Tennessee
Edge pass rusher still remains the biggest need for the Saints even with the addition of Alex Okafor, who is on a one-year deal. Barnett's relentlessness off the edge will be too good for the Saints to pass up. The question is will he be available? Most mocks have him going from 8-15.
1st round (32ND)
Obi Melifonwu, S Connecticut
This pick may very well belong to the Patriots by the time the draft rolls around. But as of now they still own it and Melifonwu would be a nice addition. With the release of Jairus Byrd, many have overlooked the Saints' need at safety. They're thin at the position and have a defensive coordinator that prefers to use a three-safety look. Melifonwu blew up the combine and has seven interceptions in two seasons.
2nd round (42nd)
Davis Webb, QB California
My toughest call yet.
After much debate, I've settled on this as the pick the Saints will use on a quarterback, should they chose to do so. If the Saints are serious about finding Drew Brees' successor in the draft, this is as far as they can truly wait to take him. The Saints are high on Patrick Mahomes but he may be gone earlier than many expect in the first round.
Webb had a solid Senior Bowl and reportedly has a high football IQ. As a captain for two different schools, he appears to have the attributes Sean Payton looks for in a quarterback. The question is the system he comes from. But in this age of college football, nearly every quarterback faces that same criticism.
3rd round (76th)
Cameron Sutton, CB Tennessee
This is a loaded cornerback class and the Saints can get a nice third round value in Sutton, who excels in man-to-man coverage. With or without Malcolm Butler, the Saints will likely take a cornerback this draft given the injury concerns of Delvin Breaux, P.J. Williams and Damian Swann.
3rd round (103rd)
Ethan Pocic, OL LSU
Though he's listed as a center, Pocic can play all three offensive line positions. The Saints would welcome that kind of versatility.
6th round (196th)
Elijah McGuire, RB ULL
A local product who's running, receiving and return ability could make him a sixth round steal. Payton has commented on how deep this draft class is at running back. For his offense, McGuire is the type that's missing.
7th round (229th)
K.D. Cannon, WR Baylor
Seventh round picks are the hardest to predict because most selections are players with higher round grades that slip. If Cannon slips, the Saints should take him. Cannon can fly and put up monster stats in the pass-happy Baylor system. That kind is a player that Payton can integrate into his offensive system.