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Field Yates’ new mock draft makes an unconventional pick for the Saints

We’re finally entering the fun part of draft season: with only weeks remaining before the 2024 NFL draft kicks off, analysts like ESPN’s Field Yates are expanding their mock drafts to explore the first two rounds of picks (if not more). The real drama on draft day picks up after the obvious selections are made early on. And for a team with as many needs as the New Orleans Saints, it’s important to know what their options may be in the second round.

And with that in mind, we’re spending more time today talking about Yates’ pick for the Saints at No. 45 overall rather than the 14th selection (Penn State left tackle Olu Fashanu, who has been a popular choice for New Orleans in the first round). Yates has the Saints picking Georgia Bulldogs cornerback Kamari Lassiter after addressing their bigger need at left tackle early on.

“The Saints restructured Marshon Lattimore’s contract late last season, fueling speculation that he could be a trade candidate this offseason,” Yates wrote. “Lassiter would add depth there if such a move happened. He’s sudden, confident and capable in man coverage.”

Lassiter weighs in at 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds, just meeting the Saints’ thresholds at the position, but his incomplete athletic testing makes it tough to say whether they would consider drafting him. His poor performance in the 40-yard dash on a fast track at Georgia’s pro day doesn’t help his case.

Yates reported that Lassiter timed the 40-yard dash between 4.50 and 4.51 seconds at Georgia’s pro day, but The Athletic’s Dane Brugler reports that he was timed much lower, between 4.61 and 4.63 seconds. NFLDraftScout.com, which has been working in partnership with the Pro Football Hall of Fame while tracking pro day results for decades, had him at 4.65. Yates is still high on Lassiter but other media draft analysts like NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah no longer rank him among their top 50 prospects. Before his pro day, Lassiter was Jeremiah’s 36th-best prospect.

Dubious pro day results aside, Lassiter doesn’t have the production of other players going early in the draft, or similar defensive backs the Saints have drafted in recent years. He only intercepted one pass in college while recording more than 1,000 snaps in coverage. Depending on where you look, in his three-year career he broke up either 9 passes (according to Pro Football Focus charting), 14 passes (College Sports Reference as well as ESPN), or 15 passes (Georgia’s team website). Marshon Lattimore, for comparison, had 4 interceptions and 11 passes defensed in just 357 coverage snaps at Ohio State.

The Saints could very well draft a cornerback regardless of their plans for Lattimore; Paulson Adebo is entering a contract year and Alontae Taylor was a liability in the slot. Lassiter’s future may lie in that same role guarding the slot, given his subpar size, and his controlled aggression making plays upfield. Lassiter only missed 8 tackles on nearly 1,700 defensive snaps in college, per PFF, and he was credited with making 8.5 tackles for loss the last two years. Getting him closer to the line of scrimmage where he can make plays in traffic and not worry about running in stride with faster receivers downfield could let him play to his strengths. If Lattimore is traded this offseason, Taylor makes the most sense as his immediate replacement, and the Saints would need someone else to man the slot.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire