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Saints linked to an exciting draft prospect at Wisconsin pro day

The 2024 NFL draft is just five weeks away, and the New Orleans saints are busy sending personnel out to college pro day workouts around the nation. These aren’t just opportunities for the future pros who attended those universities to shine — locals from smaller schools are sometimes invited, too, giving them a chance to show how they compare to their peers in front of NFL scouts and coaches.

One of the first pro days on this year’s schedule was held at Wisconsin, where a clan of Badgers met with 31 of the 32 teams (everyone except the Los Angeles Rams). And while the New Orleans Saints were there scouting everyone, there’s one small-school prospect hot on their radar. The big names were running back Braelon Allen and offensive lineman Tanor Bortolini, but we’re focusing on one of those local invites.

Meet Justin Blazek, from Wisconsin-Platteville. If the school sounds familiar, it’s the same program that the Saints plucked tight end Dan Arnold from back in 2017 as an undrafted free agent. And Blazek figures to take the same path to the NFL. But if he can continue doing well in the pre-draft process, there’s a good chance he’ll hear his name called as one of 256 draft picks in April.

Blazek wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but his athletic testing numbers suggest he should have gotten in. After weighing in at 6-foot-3 and 252 pounds, he hit a 6.91-second time in the three cone drill and a 4.25-second pace in the short shuttle. He jumped 36.5 inches vertically and 9-foot-11 broad. His 40-yard dash time was 4.85 seconds. Those are all very impressive numbers, and they gave him an 8.29 Relative Athletic Score, which is a metric that’s lined up very closely with the Saints’ in-house preferences.

And here’s where the Saints come in: Blazek met with their scouts at the College Gridiron Showcase all-star event in January, per the Draft Network’s Justin Melo. Blazek was credited with 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss last season, which is the kind of production New Orleans badly needs along the defensive line. Even if he’s going to be picked in the final rounds on the last day of the draft, Blazek could be a good get. He might offer more at the bottom of the Saints’ pass-rush rotation than guys like Kyle Phillips did last year.

So he’s a name to keep in mind as we look over mock drafts and evaluate the Saints’ offseason strategy as it takes shape. Spending, say, a sixth-round pick on Blazek and giving him five or six snaps per game won’t fix the team’s problems. Adding him as competition for Payton Turner while leaning hard on Chase Young or an early-round prospect like Laiatu Latu to push Cameron Jordan into a two-down role opposite Carl Granderson, with Isaiah Foskey and Tanoh Kpassagnon still in the mix, just might work. The Saints were so poor rushing the quarterback last season that they must consider all options at getting better.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire