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As the 2022 NFL draft draws near, draft experts are getting greater clarity on the shifting landscape of this year’s prospects and where they might land on draft day. Two of USA Today’s own, Luke Easterling and Doug Farrer, released multi-round mock drafts recently that projected some highly-touted names to join the New Orleans Saints. Easterling, of Draft Wire, went three rounds while Farrer, of Touchdown Wire, simulated two rounds. Here are how each draft’s first two rounds fell for the Saints, how they would impact the team, and which is the better scenario:
Luke Easterling's mock draft
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1, Pick 16: Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning
“After losing Terron Armstead in free agency, New Orleans desperately needs an upgrade at left tackle. While Penning is still plenty raw in terms of technique and consistency, his rare physical traits give him limitless potential.”
Round 1, Pick 19: Ohio State WR Chris Olave
“If Jameis Winston is going to lead the Saints back into NFC South contention, he’ll need an explosive playmaker to pair with Michael Thomas. Olave is the most polished and pro-ready pass-catcher in this year’s loaded receiver class, and would be the perfect fit.”
Round 2, Pick 49: North Carolina QB Sam Howell
These three selections may not yield three immediate starters for the team, but certainly address three of the Saints’ four top needs, leaving safety for a later round or post-draft free agency. Penning and Olave immediately upgrade their positions while Howell gets to sit back and learn while quarterback Jameis Winston leads the way for 2022 and possibly 2023.
Though we’re not factoring into our evaluation in this exercise, Easterling also added Arkansas defensive tackle John Ridgeway in the third round. He’d become the Malcom Brown replacement the Saints have been searching for since trading Brown to Jacksonville before last season.
Doug Farrar's mock draft
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1, Pick 16: Alabama WR Jameson Williams
Round 1, Pick 19: Central Michigan OT Bernhard Raimann
Round 2, Pick 49: Penn State EDGE Arnold Ebiketie
Farrar’s approach has New Orleans starting off at wideout and tackle as well, but in the opposite order. The Saints land another speedy multi-level threat in Williams, giving Jameis Winston an explosive option opposite All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas. Williams is coming off of a late ACL injury, but is reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation.
Farrar has the Saints actually passing on Easterling’s tackle pick, Penning, in favor of Raimann. To be honest, the drop off in skill is likely to be negligible from one to the other. Both are raw in terms of technique and discipline but have NFL traits.
The selection of Ebiketie, an early-round edge rusher is a bit surprising. The Saints have a stable of pass rushing defensive ends with Jordan and Davenport leading the way, but Carl Granderson, last year’s first round pick Payton Turner, and the newly acquired Taco Charlton rounding out the bunch.
Which scenario is best?
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Luke Easterling’s mock draft feels like the better scenario for me. Landing either Williams or Olave would be a homerun for the Saints, but I’ll take Olave’s day one impact as a plus. Williams might need some time to continue his recovery before hitting the field. Without a doubt, both will be productive at the next level.
One crucial factor that moves the needle Easterling’s way is the development potential of Penning over Raimann. Both candidates are raw and will need coaching up, something the Saints are clearly prepared for with the addition of Doug Marrone as offensive line coach. Penning has a better edge in this category simply because of his age. At 22 years old, he has room to grow while Raimann, who has only played tackle since 2020 after converting from tight end. The late start at the position and lack of development time remaining give Penning the edge, especially with both on the board in each analyst’s scenarios.
While I don’t think moving up for a quarterback is not a wise use of their draft capital, landing one in the second round could be a high value move. With top safeties like Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker and Michigan’s Daxton Hill off the board I might have personally leaned in favor of Baylor’s Jalen Pitre here, Howell makes a ton of sense. Investing in the most important position in football with a late second round selection is, in my opinion, a better use of draft assets than adding another edge rusher (granted, the second or third most important) to a crowded room.