New Orleans Saints Mock Draft Adds Several Day-One Starters
The New Orleans Saints have many holes to fill and questions to answer about their roster for next season.
The team has lost almost their entire defensive line to free agency, their starting QB, and star WR and kick returner.
The Saints have been making moves in free agency to replace some of the players, but they will need the draft to find several day-one starter rookies and gems in the later rounds that can hopefully mature into starting roles in the future or at least become great backups.
I use the Pro Football Focus Mock Draft engine. I love the look of the draft engine and how you can make draft day trades throughout the draft. Also, they give you a draft grading card for every pick, any trades you made, and your overall draft grade.
Here's my 2023 New Orleans Saints Mock Draft:
In my opinion, there wasn't enough value at the 29th pick in the first round with the available players, so I decided to trade down. I was able to work out a trade with the Titans for the 41st pick in the second round, a 2023 fifth-round pick, a 2023 sixth-round pick, and two future fourth-round picks in exchange for our 29th pick.
With the 40th pick in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select Mazi Smith, Defensive tackle, Michigan. PFF graded this pick an "A". Mazi is 6'3" and weighs 327 pounds.
I believe Mazi is a day-one starter at defensive tackle with newly signed free agent Khalen Saunders opposite him.
Here's what PFF has to say about Smith:
When Smith gets his paws inside your shoulder pads, good night. His hands are so strong that shedding blocks are an afterthought. All Smith did was flex his muscles en route to 34 bench reps with 33 3/4-inch arms. That was the most of any player in attendance and backs up the prodigious play strength he shows on tape.
With the 41st pick in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select BJ Ojulari, Defensive End, LSU. PFF graded this pick an "A-". BJ is 6'3" and weighs 250 pounds.
The Saints lost Marcus Davenport of Green Bay in free agency. Payton Turner has been a major disappointment show far in his career and Cam is nearing his last years in the black and gold. I can't think of a more exciting pick for the Saints than bringing in an LSU Tiger to sack the QB in the dome on Sundays. It's a need for the team, and this pick just makes so much sense on so many levels. I believe BJ will be a great third-down pass rusher for the Saints to start off his career as he grows into a starting role.
Here's what PFF says about BJ Ojulari:
Ojulari has answers for almost everything an offensive tackle can throw at him. He already has a repertoire that’s well beyond his years. All we got to see from Ojulari was a 32 1/2-inch vert and a 10-foot-6 broad jump. He did check in with long 34 1/4-inch arms and 10 1/2-inch hands, which are ideal for an edge rusher.
With the 71st pick in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select Garret Williams, Cornerback, Syracuse. PFF graded this pick an "A". Williams is 6'0" and weighs 189 pounds.
Roby is 30 and Harris, Jr is 33, it's time the Saints start looking for a talented CB in the draft. Williams is coming off of a major injury as he tore his ACL this past season. Some teams will be leery of taking him in the first two rounds, so I fully expect him to slip into the third round where we picked him up in my mock draft.
Here's what PFF says about Garrett Williams:
Williams can really pick ’em up and put ’em down. He can match a receiver’s every move with relative ease — a great starting point for a corner. He’s played enough off-zone in his career to get by, but he’ll really shine in man coverage. Teams that play a lot of off-man should be coveting Williams’ services. Williams won't get any pre-draft testing as he continues to rehab his ACL injury. In a loaded cornerback class, he runs the risk of slipping come draft day because of it.
We were able to grab Michael Wilson, WR, from Stanford in the fourth round. This is an amazing value pick at a position the Saints really need to improve. PFF graded this pick an "A".
I hope I don't get beat up too badly for this comparison, but Wilson reminds me a lot of Michael Thomas, and it's not because they have the same first name. They're both big receivers that are strong and deceptively fast. At first look, you may think that Wilson is just a physical receiver, but any DB that makes that mistake will have a first-hand view of the back of his jersey. This guy just gets open and when he's covered well, he'll just "Moss" the other receiver. Point blank, Wilson makes plays...and lots of them.
I think this Mock Draft really shines in the later rounds, especially the fifth round. With the 148th pick we were able to draft one of the most talented running backs in the draft, DeWayne McBride from UAB. He's 5'11" and 215 pounds. PFF graded this pick an "A".
I believe McBride has the skill set to be a day-one starter for the Saints if Alvin Kamara gets suspended for his brawl in Las Vegas.
Here's what PFF has to say about DeWayne McBride:
There are other aspects of McBride’s game that are impressive, but his footwork really stands out for a 215-pound back. His ability to effortlessly navigate tight spaces is simply outstanding. McBride deserves the bulk of the carries in an NFL offense. He’s that spicy whenever he touches the rock. No matter the run concept, McBride produced.
With the 149th pick of the draft that we acquired in a trade with the Titans, we draft a player I believe could be our starting rotation when Davis retires. I know the Saints have historically not picked many college players from Louisiana-based universities, and definitely not two in one draft, but these two players are exceptions to the rule.
Dorion Williams, LB, from Tulane is an absolute ball-hawking play-making machine. PFF graded this pick an "A-". Williams is 6'2" and 230 pounds.
Here's what PFF said about Dorion Williams:
Williams is a very adept zone defender with the plus athletic tools to make quarterbacks think twice about throwing his way. He allowed only 161 yards in coverage in 2022.
With the 167th pick in the fifth round, I had to take this player for the value alone. We already took a special running back in McBride that could be a starter for the Saints, but this guy is a different beast altogether.
Keaton Mitchell from East Carolina is an explosive playmaker. Again, I hope you guys see what I see and don't beat me up over this comparison, but I totally get the Darren Sproles vibe from Mitchell. He's 5'9" and weighs 184 pounds. He's rushed for over 1,000 yards in the last two seasons and scored 25 touchdowns in his career as a Pirate. PFF graded this pick a "B+".
Mitchell clocked a 3.75-second 40-yard dash at the combine. He's a third-down passing specialist type back that will be nightmare fuel for NFL linebackers and safeties trying to guard him out of the backfield. We have to be honest here, last season Kamara is starting to show some wear and wasn't the open field back we used to know him for. In fact, he rarely made anyone miss last season while attempting to tackle him.
Here's what PFF says about Keaton Mitchell:
Mitchell’s shimmy-shake move in one-on-one situations has taken lives. He’s one of this draft’s most difficult players to pin down in space. Mitchell will never get more than a few touches per game at running back due to his running style. A forward-thinking team would be wise to see how good his hands are because his speed would play far more at receiver.
With the "Red Rifle" bringing his talents to Carolina, and the re-signing of Winston, the Saints have to find a rookie QB in the draft that can mature into a great backup option and we found him in the sixth round of our mock draft.
Clayton Tune from Houston is a deadly accurate passer with a live arm. He stands 6'3" and weighs 220 pounds. PFF graded this pick a "B".
Tune has an overall grade from PFF of 92.0. That's a higher grade than Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, Anthony Richardson, and Will Levis. Clayton is also very mobile for a big QB, he ran a 4.64 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.
Last year with an early injury to McCoy and then a season-ending injury to Ruiz, the Saints really need to address the backup center position in the draft. We found a center that played in the SEC and was a four-year starter. Not many sixth-round players make the final cuts, but I think this guy would be a versatile backup at center and guard.
Ricky Stromberg from Arkansas is an athletic mauler who never gives up on his block until the whistle blows. He's 6'4" and weighs 314 pounds. PFF graded this pick an "A".
And finally, with our last pick in the 2023 NFL Mock Draft we had to address the kicking game. Coming off of an injury, Will Lutz was not his old self last season and actually cost the Saints wins.
In the seventh round, we selected Jake Moody, one of the most accurate kickers in Michigan history. If Lutz can't make the cut, Moody can fill his shoes.
PFF gave my mock draft an overall grade of an "A".