Slim-picking Saints' only choice in 2019 NFL draft: Think long term

Sean Payton and the Saints spent most of their 2019 draft capital in trades last year. Matt York/AP

METAIRIE, La. -- With no picks in Rounds 1, 3 or 4, the New Orleans Saints won't be too busy on the first two days of this year's NFL draft. When your first pick is No. 62 overall, you have to think even more in the long term than most teams.

Sure, maybe the Saints will hit the jackpot with a breakout star at the end of the second round. Alvin Kamara was the 67th pick in 2017; Michael Thomas went 47th in 2016. But they can’t bank on landing another Pro Bowl-caliber player.

As for the rest of their picks (one fifth-rounder, two sixth-rounders and two seventh-rounders), the goal is really just to find players who will stick. That would be unlike last year, when four of New Orleans' draft picks didn't even make the team.

The Saints are already happy with most of their 2019 "draft haul.” They used their first-round pick to trade up for defensive end Marcus Davenport last year. They used their third-rounder to trade for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. And they used their fourth-rounder to trade for cornerback Eli Apple.

Here are some of the positions where they could use the most help with the long-term future in mind:

Offensive line

New Orleans has boasted one of the best offensive lines in the NFL over the past two years. Last year, all five starters either made the Pro Bowl or second-team All-Pro. But center Max Unger retired last month. Valuable veteran sixth man Jermon Bushrod, 34, remains unsigned. Guard Andrus Peat is a free agent next year. Guard Larry Warford is a free agent in 2021. And left tackle Terron Armstead has been plagued by injuries throughout his otherwise-stellar six-year career.

A versatile offensive lineman who could start out as a swing backup, such as Kansas State’s Dalton Risner or Mississippi State’s Elgton Jenkins, would make a lot of sense for New Orleans in Round 2.


When asked if there are any unsung position groups that he's looking forward to seeing in the offseason program, Payton recently offered a strong endorsement of the Saints’ two starting safeties.

Vonn Bell’s progress is exceptional. Marcus Williams, those two guys,” Payton said. “I’m encouraged with the direction we’re going there.”

However, Bell is heading into the final year of his contract and the Saints released their veteran No. 3 safety, Kurt Coleman. So they could absolutely use more depth and a possible future starter.

There are several intriguing safety prospects who could land in Round 2 in this year’s draft, including Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Alabama’s Deionte Thompson.

Defensive end

This should still be a priority in free agency after the Saints lost veteran starter Alex Okafor. But it wouldn’t hurt to add both a veteran and a draft pick, especially if one of them could play inside on passing downs while starting defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins is recovering from a torn Achilles.

It also wouldn’t hurt to keep developing young edge rushers for the frightening day when All-Pro Cameron Jordan is no longer around. Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson would be ideal if he fell in Round 2. Or maybe Michigan’s Chase Winovich.

Tight end

The Saints filled a glaring need here by signing Jared Cook in free agency. But Cook just turned 32 and only signed a two-year deal. So they could start grooming a replacement now.

How perfect would it be if Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. fell to New Orleans in Round 2 after his dad spent most of his NFL career in New Orleans? LSU’s Foster Moreau, a New Orleans native, would be another familiar face if he falls to Round 5.


The Saints are as loaded here as they have been in quite some time. But standout starter Demario Davis and valued backup Craig Robertson are both over 30 now, and starter A.J. Klein is in the final year of his deal.

Draft analysts don’t have many linebackers ranked as surefire Round 2 prospects outside of Alabama’s Mack Wilson. So the Saints could perhaps target a linebacker on Day 3 who could also contribute on special teams.


If you’re thinking long term, what could be more important than the quarterback position behind 40-year-old future Hall of Famer Drew Brees?

The good news is that New Orleans’ quarterback room is pretty stacked right now with Bridgewater and versatile third-year pro Taysom Hill. So they don’t need to force things in Round 2 unless they love a player such as NC State’s Ryan Finley or Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham.

Bridgewater only signed a one-year deal. And the more options, the better, when it comes to the most important position in football.