The 2019 NFL Draft is now only three days away for the New Orleans Saints and the rest of the NFL. It officially gets underway this Thursday night, April 25th, and will last until Saturday afternoon, April 27th at Cumberland Park right next to Nissan Stadium in downtown Nashville, Tenn.
After missing the Super Bowl due to a controversial no-call by referees near the end of their heart-breaking loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game a few months ago, the Black and Gold have already addressed a few holes on their roster that needed to be filled this off-season through NFL Free Agency over the course of the past several weeks.
However, New Orleans still has a few more weaknesses that need to be addressed before heading into next season, specifically at positions such as a wide receiver, an edge pass rusher/defensive end, an offensive lineman that can play both guard and tackle, and perhaps even a safety for the main purpose of adding quality depth.
But because of the many trades that the Saints organization made last year to acquire players such as rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport (1st Round pick), along with young veterans Teddy Bridgewater (QB, 3rd Round pick) and Eli Apple (CB, 4th Round pick), unfortunately, the Saints will only have a 2nd Round pick and a 5th Round pick, along with two 6th Round picks and two 7th Round picks.
That gives them a grand total of only six picks in this year’s draft, which is actually the 2nd-fewest League-wide. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t come as a complete surprise if team brass (general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton) decide to “wheel and deal” as they have been known to do in previous Drafts, to acquire additional picks.
If they were to do so, chances are they’d likely select an available player(s) who can help the team not only for this upcoming 2019 season but hopefully well into the future. As a testament to that fact, Saints’ brass possibly could be emboldened and even encouraged by the notion among some well-respected draft analysts who allegedly consider this year’s NFL Draft Class to be one of the event’s deepest in recent years.
With that in mind, this morning Big Easy Magazine proudly presents our third and Final New Orleans Saints 2019 Mock Draft — beginning with this dynamic young man who likely will be available for New Orleans once they’re “on the clock” to make the 62nd overall pick in Round 2.
ROUND 2 (#62 OVERALL) PARIS CAMPBELL, WIDE RECEIVER, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
Two days after Michael Thomas set the Saints record for receptions in a season, Parris Campbell has done the same for Ohio State. pic.twitter.com/OAKU0NeXWT
— Barstool OSU (@BarstoolOSU) January 2, 2019
While Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said yesterday at his annual pre-draft press conference that the team is pleased with the development of last year’s rookie WRs Tre’Quan Smith and Keith Kirkwood, he and Payton are thought to be looking to target another receiver to add to their offense. This is especially so given the uncertainty surrounding veteran WR Cam Meredith (who allegedly will be ready to play next season after missing most of last season while still recovering from surgery).
Specifically, New Orleans is expected to add a player either at the Slot WR position or on the outside opposite of superstar #1 WR Michael Thomas, especially considering that current #2 Saints WR Ted Ginn Jr. just turned 34 years old two weeks ago. That is exactly why a player like Parris Campbell could be the one that ends up being the pick for New Orleans at #62, assuming that he’s still available.
It would come as no surprise for the Saints to target a player from the Ohio State University football program with this pick, given the team’s very notable affinity in recent seasons for acquiring players from that school’s top-notch and historically successful program (including Michael Thomas himself).
Make no mistake whatsoever about this much: the 6-foot, 208-pound Campbell is an explosive play-maker who has an innate capability to stretch the field vertically, possesses great burst and blistering speed off the line of scrimmage, and is one of the 2019 Draft Class’ fastest prospects (a phenomenal 4.26 40-yard dash time).
Parris Campbell made the most of every touch this season and led B1G wide receivers with 50 receiving conversions. pic.twitter.com/N74itHWvZk
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 17, 2019
Parris Campbell is fast 💨 pic.twitter.com/1xHng1f48t
— The Buckeye Nut (@TheBuckeyeNut) March 21, 2019
That’s the same type of speed (4.28) and talent that Ginn himself once had as a younger player coming out of Ohio State in the 2007 NFL Draft, and Campbell has drawn obvious comparisons to the Saints’ 12th-year veteran wide receiver. Campbell clearly would seem to be a more-than-viable replacement given their very notable traits and similarities.
The 21-year old Campbell caught a total of 79 passes last season for 992 yards and 11 TD receptions in the 13 games that he played. During his three-year career in Columbus, Campbell tallied 132 total catches for 1,697 yards and 14 TDs. But it’s his speed that undoubtedly is the major attraction for those teams with a desire to find a deep ball target in a pass-oriented offense.
Campbell is a polished route-runner as well, and he can run all three typical levels of the route-tree (short, intermediate, and deep routes). There is a very distinct big-play ability that would come with a potential selection of Campbell, which is something that the Saints clearly like to have at the position and have done so in the past with players such as Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, and most recently former 2014 top draft pick (and current Los Angeles Rams WR) Brandin Cooks.
According to the Draft Network Lead Analyst Jon Ledyard, Campbell finally blossomed into a legitimate wide receiver prospect in 2018, running improved routes and showing off the separation and quickness that suggests a decent ceiling for his capabilities within his first few seasons in the League. Ledyard says that Campbell’s best trait while he played at Ohio State was his speed and athleticism, but he was rarely used as a vertical threat at Ohio State, operating mostly-short intermediate with the occasional downfield target.
Ledyard adds that whichever NFL team drafts him will need to have a little bit of a plan for how to use him best, but notes that Campbell is clearly more than just a “gadget” player and would be best utilized in the slot for an offense that likes a multi-layered threat there (as the Saints very clearly do), but cautions that a move to the outside for Campbell potentially could take a bit longer time to develop. Campbell has also been criticized for having too many dropped passes, but one would assume that Saints WR coach Curtis “CJ” Johnson could help out the dynamic young receiver in that area of his game.
As of this moment, Campbell is listed by a majority of draft analysts (including Ledyard) as a Day 2 selection — and should be a player who definitely can help the Saints upgrade their roster at a position of need.
ROUND 5 (#168 OVERALL): MAXX CROSBY, EDGE RUSHER / DEFENSIVE END, EASTERN MICHIGAN
Maxx Crosby On Updated Watch List for Hendricks Award
— EMU Athletics (@EMUAthletics) November 22, 2017
With the loss of veteran defensive end Alex Okafor, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in Free Agency, the Saints find themselves needing depth at the outside edge passing/rushing position on the side opposite of All-Pro Cam Jordan to rotate in and out with last year’s rookie Marcus Davenport. Crosby — who is considered to be one of this year’s biggest “sleepers” in the entire 2019 NFL Draft Class — is a player who finished his three-year career at Eastern Michigan (35 miles west of Detroit) as the school’s #2 all-time leader in sacks (20), tackles for loss (41), along with (162) total tackles and eight forced fumbles.
The All-MAC (Mid-American Conference) 1st-team defensive end is projected as a Day 3 selection (when the Saints will be picking at this particular spot in the draft), and the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder certainly is an underrated player at the position, given that he tallied a whopping (133) QB “pressures” and is equally adept at stopping the run (72 run stops in four seasons). He is actually considered to be an “athletic freak” by some analysts. Crosby put up a 4.66 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine last month and displayed elite pass-rushing technique while doing so.
After he missed the 2015 Season as a redshirt, Crosby played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman backup during the 2016 season and tallied 35 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and 1.5 sacks. Crosby broke out as a sophomore in the 2017 Season, as the Michigan native earned 1st-team All-MAC honors and was chosen as the team’s Most Valuable Defensive Player after starting all 12 games and compiling 57 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and put up a team-high 11 sacks and four forced fumbles. Then last season as a junior, Crosby once again was chosen for 1st team All-MAC honors as he recorded 70 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 4 PBU’s (pass breakups), and four forced fumbles in 12 games.
According to NFL.com Lead Draft Analyst Lance Zierlein, the 22-year old Crosby is a long-limbed defensive end who he feels will need at least a minimum of a year or two gaining some additional weight to his lanky frame before he will be ready to see the field. Zierlein adds that Crosby is long and flexible and shows up on film on tape rather well as both an edge pass rusher and a solid run defender, and those traits could outweigh any lingering questions that some NFL teams might have.
Bottom line: Crosby offers a higher “ceiling” than most other Day 3 prospects at the edge rusher/defensive end position, and he could be the perfect candidate to give the Saints the quality depth at the position that they lost when Okafor signed with Kansas City; and give the Saints a very interesting 1-2 punch at right defensive end along with the previously-mentioned Marcus Davenport.
ROUND 6 (#177 OVERALL FROM THE NEW YORK JETS): FOSTER MOREAU, TIGHT END, LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY
— LSUoogle (@LSUoogle) March 29, 2019
While the signing of 10th-year veteran free agent and former Oakland Raiders tight end Jared Cook appears to have alleviated any sort of overwhelming ‘need’ that New Orleans may have had to take a tight end with their initial pick at #62, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the Saints have completely finished addressing the issue. The thought that perhaps “grooming” a young player at the position behind Cook is something that team brass likely is taking into consideration. And Moreau — a NOLA native who attended local institution Jesuit High School — seemingly would be the perfect player for that role.
Moreau’s draft stock has risen through the roof following his impressive performance at last month’s Scouting Combine, where the 6-foot-4, 253 pounder (who grew up in the nearby New Orleans suburb of Metairie) finished with the 5th fastest time at the 40-yard dash among all tight ends, led the shuttle drill among all tight ends in this year’s class at 4.11 seconds, and did an impressive 22 repetitions (at 225 pounds) on the bench press.
— Josh Lemoine (@LsuFBallTruth) March 2, 2019
Foster. Moreau. pic.twitter.com/t8E6b8SP6I
— Barstool LSU (@LSUBarstool) November 25, 2018
Additionally, the 22-year old Moreau impressed observers and analysts with his performance in a series of other tight end position-related drills throughout the work-out, as he managed to turn heads while fully displaying his extremely underrated skill-set. The comparisons to current #2 Saints tight end Josh Hill have been plentiful among some local media that cover the team, although a careful examination of the film suggests that the youngster has the potential (and an opportunity to possibly even flourish if he lands with the right team that allows him to develop his skills further) to evolve into a vastly underrated pass-catcher,
Moreau’s stats numbers-wise weren’t really all that impressive during his 4-year career in Baton Rouge, especially since LSU had one of the weakest pass protections in the country last season (the Tigers offensive line allowed 35 sacks last season in 2018; which was one of the worst sack rates in the entire nation). Moreau only caught 22 passes on 30 targets last year as a senior; yet still managed to end up with the highest catch rate of any receiver on the Tigers roster with at least 20 targets (272 yards and 2 TDs).
Nevertheless, The Draft Network Lead Analyst Jon Ledyard says that although Moreau was utilized heavily as a blocker during his time at LSU, his athleticism and strong hands suggest that there may be more production waiting for him as a receiver in the NFL. However, In order to make that potential to eventually become a reality, Ledyard cautions that route-running will be Moreau’s biggest obstacle to overcome. If Moreau can improve his routes, footwork and finishing ability in tough spots, Ledyard feels that there are much worse ways to spend a Day 3 pick — and the youngster could end up being a “sleeper” pick for some team that’s willing to invest the time in his development.
ROUND 6 (#202 OVERALL): BEAU BENZSCHAWEL, OFFENSIVE GUARD / TACKLE, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) October 16, 2015
As we’ve noted in the previous articles covering the Saints, both the organization’s scouting department and coaching staff always seem to have an eye out for versatile offensive linemen capable of playing multiple positions in just about every single Draft, and in spite of having one of the top-rated lines in the League last year, this year’s draft likely won’t be an exception.
With the occasional struggles at times last season by 4th-year veteran guard Andrus Peat, along with the likelihood of back-ups Cameron Tom and Will Clapp both likely to see increased playing time at center behind newly-signed free agent starting center Nick Easton (who replaces the now-retired Max Unger); New Orleans might be wise to find another versatile player capable of playing multiple spots which would include the guard position.
The Saints hit the proverbial jackpot in the Draft two years ago with the selection of soon-to-be 3rd-year veteran right tackle Ryan Ramcyzk from the University of Wisconsin, and the storied Badger football program has earned a stellar reputation in recent years for churning out top-notch quality players along both their defensive and offensive lines. One of those players that could still be remaining on the Draft Board when the Saints pick at this point is Badgers offensive guard Beau Benzschawel (pronounced BEN-shawl)
After he redshirted his first year in 2014 to gain some additional weight, the 6-foot-6, 309-pound Benschawel ended up missing the first five games of his redshirt freshman season in 2015 with an injury that he suffered in fall camp. Benzschawel subsequently would return to start the final 8 games of that year and displayed some notable versatility with a total of six at games at right tackle and two at right guard. Then as a redshirt sophomore in 2016, Benzschawel worked his way into becoming a 2nd-team All-Big Ten Conference performer as a 14-game starter at right guard.
But it would be his final two seasons at the school where Benzschawel made his mark. He earned 3rd team Associated Press All-American and 1st-team All-Big Ten honors as a junior after starting all 14 games in 2017; and then followed that up with a near-dominant redshirt senior season at right guard last year in 2018, as he was named a 1st-team AP All-American and and a 1st Team All-Big Ten conference selection, starting all 13 games at right guard.
NFL.com Draft Analyst Lance Zierlein says that Benzschawel is considered a tall, pass-blocking specialist who will need to prove he can be serviceable against much more powerful NFL D-Linemen power in the running game if he hopes to eventually become a future starter. Nevertheless, Zierlein notes that Benzschawel plays with good technique and an understanding of blocking concepts in the run game, and his appeal to NFL general managers and offensive coaches should allow him to match up against athletic, substitution-package pass rushers in the current NFL era that’s predicated primarily by pure speed and quickness.
ROUND 7 (#231 OVERALL FROM CLEVELAND): CHRIS SLAYTON, 3-TECHNIQUE DEFENSIVE TACKLE, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY
— The Daily Orange (@dailyorange) October 17, 2017
As Saints fans are well aware by now, the team is likely to be without the services of both starting 3-Technique defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (who is still recovering from surgery for a torn Achilles tendon) and his back-up David Onyemata (who was arrested for a marijuana possession charge and faces a possible suspension) for at least the first month of the season.
That makes the 3-Technique (the interior pass-rushing position ) a spot on the D-Line that New Orleans probably will address in this weekend’s draft since they didn’t target one specifically in Free Agency. And although recent free-agent signee Mario Edwards, Jr. could play the position if need be and last year’s undrafted rookie Taylor Stallworth could admirably fill that role if he absolutely had to, the team is still believed to be targeting one that could give them added depth for the next several seasons.
At this point of the Draft, however, you’d probably imagine that finding a player that could adequately fill that role in their absences would be next to impossible. But as is the case every year, there’s always an undervalued or underrated player that proverbially “falls through the cracks”, and the 6-foot-4, 307 pound Slayton is exactly such a player.
Sorry to interrupt your FA waiting game programming… But Chris Slayton, # 95 DT, wants to say hi
– Powerful frame and punch
– Quick 1st step w/ lateral agility
– Core strength to snatch and pull
– Good gap penetrating player with a little pass rush juice on the inside pic.twitter.com/uny1AiNWuw
— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) March 13, 2019
Slayton started five games as a freshman for the Orangemen program during the 2015 Season, before blossoming into a full-time starter by his sophomore season in 2016; where he led the team with 4 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. As a junior during the 2017 Season, Slayton tallied 8.5 tackles for loss and a sack while starting all 12 games. But it was as a senior last year in 2018 when Slayton grabbed the full attention of NFL scouts; as he was named honorable mention All-ACC and finished the year with 3.5 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble.
Slayton’s performance at the NFL Scouting Combine last month didn’t necessarily blow anyone away, but he still managed to display plenty of athleticism for a player of his size. Slayton’s playing style relies on his natural brute strength, but yet he still possesses some rather underrated quickness. Slayton is actually pretty fast off of the initial snap of the football, and additionally, he can generate a powerful “bull rush” at the point of attack.
Slayton figuratively devours opponents in one-on-one situations, and can be an extremely difficult assignment for even the most elite of O-Linemen, and can be quite the handful if you try to double-team him. Nevertheless, the biggest knock on Slayton from NFL scouts is that he is prone to getting pushed around at times and is very inconsistent from one play to the next.
Canal Street Chronicles featured writer/draft analyst Bob Rose says that Slayton has the talent to make an immediate impact for the team that drafts him, and he also has the look of a potentially dominant run defender. Rose notes that Slayton’s tremendous strength and great quickness off the snap are two highly valued commodities by most NFL teams; and although the 22-year old might not offer varied moves as a pass rusher, he still has the strength and ability to push the pocket and command double teams inside.
Rose also adds that Slayton has the natural skills be a solid rotational player, with enough upside to eventually become a starter with consistent effort and self-motivation. And at this point of the draft, getting a player with the potential that Slayton has would certainly be considered a Day 3 “steal” for the Saints defense.
7th ROUND (#244 OVERALL): MALIK GANT, SAFETY, MARSHALL UNIVERSITY
— Marshall Football (@HerdFB) December 9, 2018
After former free agent veteran Kurt Coleman was cut and released in a salary-cap related move prior to Free Agency last month, many observers feel that the Saints still could stand to benefit from adding quality depth at the safety position; particularly with a player who has the versatility to play either the free safety spot in pass coverage or the strong safety spot in run support.
Marshall University safety Malik Gant is such a player, even though it would seem that the 22-year old Washington, D.C. native is a player that currently is very underrated or being extremely undervalued. Gant left Marshall a year early and finished his junior season last year in 2018 with 95 combined tackles (45 solos) 9 TFL’s, one sack, two interceptions and eight PBU’s (pass deflections).
One guy in this weak Safety class we aren’t talking about is Marshall S Malik Gant. Big safety who plays downhill aggressively and lays the boom. Man coverage skills are a big plus due to being a pretty fluid athlete for his size. Has the range to possibly go single-high too. pic.twitter.com/DAjjwrmSPM
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 26, 2019
While some observers believe that Gant might be a bit limited at the pro level athletically against smaller, shiftier slot WR’s, he should match up well against tight ends and bigger slot receivers. Gant is considered to be a very sound tackler by most analysts who say that Gant often relies too much on his aggressive playing style to make plays. A two-year starter for the Thundering Herd program (located in West Virginia), Gant was named 1st-Team All-Conference USA while earning the team’s Defensive MVP honors last year.
The Draft Network Senior Analyst Joe Marino says that Gant is a physical safety who is a tone-setter and a “heat-seeking missile” attacking the football. While Marino observes that while Gant isn’t a liability in pass defense, he does lack the route anticipation skills and athletic profile desired for the position. However, Marino does feel that Gant should actually be able to thrive in substitution packages and on special teams (which is exactly how the Saints likely would utilize him) and special teams and could even become a starter at the NFL level if he develops his instincts in coverage.
Considering that the Saints secondary appeared to have had some difficulty last season with their share of missed tackles, the 6-foot-even, 205-pound Gant could be the “missing piece” that the Black and Gold needs in their defensive backfield for the upcoming 2019 NFL Season and beyond.
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.