Saints go back to Ohio State in the latest 2021 NFL mock draft

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
John Sigler
·3 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Could the New Orleans Saints go back to the well in Columbus? They’ve had a ton of success drafting prospects out of Ohio State in recent years, ranging from wide receiver Michael Thomas to cornerback Marshon Lattimore and safety Vonn Bell (replaced in free agency by another Buckeyes product and former Saints first-round pick Malcolm Jenkins).

That’s the plan in the latest 2021 mock draft from Mark Schofield for Touchdown Wire, where New Orleans was connected to Ohio State defensive back Shaun Wade. Here’s what was written to justify that match in the first round:

“The New Orleans Saints have put together one of the league’s best defenses this season, but this pick makes them even better on paper for 2021. Dennis Allen has relied on Chauncey Gardner-Johnson as their slot cornerback this season, and while he has played well, most of Gardner-Johnson’s experience is at safety and cornerback during his college days.

“That is where Shaun Wade comes in. He has been used often in the slot for Ohio State, and his skills working underneath and against slot receivers translates perfectly to the NFL game. Adding him to this defense allows Allen to play some more matchups and to move Gardner-Johnson around to different spots based on opponent and scheme.”

It’s an interesting pick, but maybe redundant from a schematic fit. Gardner-Johnson has played well in the slot and appears to have a future there; the Saints could move him to a more-traditional safety role to accommodate Wade’s addition if they also lose Marcus Williams in free agency, but moving a good player out of position to make room for a new face is nearly the definition of hustling backwards.

That said, Wade is a great player in his own right. He’s got prototypical size at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, with the athleticism to warrant his former five-star recruit status. He’s bagged 6 interceptions (17 total passes defensed) and 3 forced fumbles in 30 games with the Buckeyes. He’s not as disruptive a player in run defense as Gardner-Johnson (with just 4 of his 77 total career tackles stopping the offense for a loss of yards) but he probably has an edge in ball skills.

The issue is his usage and fit on the team. New Orleans needs more help outside the slot, with Marshon Lattimore entering the final year of his rookie contract and Janoris Jenkins looking like a potential salary cap casualty in the spring. A long-term fix would be ideal there, but Wade doesn’t fit the profile. He only took 55 snaps as an outside corner before the 2020 season, per Pro Football Focus, and he hasn’t played very well in the role since moving there full-time.

But he’ll have an opportunity to turn that narrative around against Clemson in the upcoming Sugar Bowl. Maybe he can make enough plays to put himself on the map inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. And maybe it ends up being enough to keep him there after next year’s draft.

List

Saints vs. Panthers: Josh Hill, Marcus Williams DNP on initial Week 17 injury report