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Everyone has a mock draft these days, and as always there isn’t much agreement on what the New Orleans Saints will do in the upcoming 2022 NFL draft. Troublingly, in the latest mock draft from Peter King over at NBC Sports, things took a turn for the worse. King predicts a run on wide receivers in the first round, which is widely anticipated; but he sees it kicking off much sooner than other projections, leaving the Saints on the outside looking in. In a dark twist of irony, a lot of the things that broke New Orleans’ way in our staff-wide collaborative mock draft instead went sideways in King’s predictions.
2022 draft prospects Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams, and Chris Olave all go off the board before New Orleans gets on the clock at No. 16. Sure, the Saints do still get a good receiver, but they ended up with the fifth-ranked prospect at their greatest position of need: Arkansas product Treylon Burks. This isn’t a knock on Burks — the nightmare scenario here isn’t the Saints getting stuck with Burks specifically or something like that. He’s a good football player and should thrive in the right role in the NFL, should the Saints continue to let him do what he does best on screens while developing the skills to expand his route tree.
Instead, the issue is more about the Saints positioning themselves to hopefully draft one of the two or three best receivers in this year’s class but ending up without them, which is what happened in King’s mock draft. But, hey, maybe Burks is the top-rated receiver on New Orleans’ big board (he’s ranked sixth at the position on ours). If they want to give Jameis Winston another big-bodied weapon to pair with Michael Thomas, he fits the bill. Here’s what King wrote of the match:
“He’d be the physical presence to play opposite the returning Michael Thomas in the Saints’ attack, which is desperate for a receiver. A few words about the Saints’ intentions here, in the wake of their trade with Philadelphia two weeks ago leaving them with 16 and 19, then 49 in round two. New Orleans was chided for adding a mid-first-round pick this year, with the feeling that this wasn’t a good year to have a second pick in the middle of a mediocre round. But the way the Saints look at is different. The Saints think they’re better than Tampa Bay, and winning the four regular-season matchups against Tom Brady by 11, 35, 9 and 9 points would buttress that argument. The Saints have had a top-five scoring defense two years in a row. They need another weapon on offense.”
Burks is the textbook definition of a “big slot” prospect coming out of college, having lined up either in the slot, inline to the formation, or in the backfield on 82.9% of his snaps at Arkansas (per Dane Brugler’s draft guide at the Athletic). He doesn’t have much experience beating press coverage (which he faced on just 39 snaps total in 2021, per Pro Football Focus’ draft guide). With that said, Burks has been very efficient when asked to work further downfield or line up outside and beat a cornerback on the boundary. The issue is that Arkansas didn’t ask him to do it often, so you’re projecting that success to the NFL without a lot of evidence to support it. There are other prospects who fit New Orleans’ needs more cleanly, but in this situation they aren’t able to get them.
What about the Saints’ next pick at No. 19? King predicts the Saints to turn to Georgia defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt, envisioning him as an interior pass rusher who can free up Cameron Jordan and the other Saints linemen to wreck havoc off the edge. David Onyemata is entering the final year of his contract and the Saints have not invested much in depth (or a succession plan) behind him just yet, so Wyatt could be a smart pick. He’s very agile for his size and has experience playing in a rotation, so he’d fit in well for what New Orleans likes to do up front. With the top four left tackles off the board and few quarterbacks inspiring confidence, the Saints may have to go after a lesser need at this spot rather than reach on a prospect with a lot to learn like Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann or Tulsa’s Tyler Smith, who King slots later into the first round.