Who are the Saints picking in way-too-early 2022 mock drafts?

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The 2021 NFL draft is finally behind us, so of course draft experts and college football enthusiasts are already turning their attentions towards 2022. Mock drafts are flying around fast and furious, and there’s little consensus on what the New Orleans Saints will do. But that’s often the case given their aggressive approach to the draft and unconventional preferences.

In surveying the ten most recent 2022 NFL mock drafts, I found that the Saints have been connected to a pair of college quarterbacks and a crowd of receivers, but few draft analysts are expecting the Saints to go get a cornerback — which Sean Payton identified as the team’s most important need going into the 2021 draft.

Of course there are many different opinions this early in the process. We don’t know which underclassmen will declare and leave early, we don’t know where the Saints will be picking or what they’ll need; it’s all over the place. Our colleague at Draft Wire, Luke Easterling, has the Saints choosing Ohio State receiver Chris Olave, who was also tabbed for New Orleans by other analysts (more on him shortly) and linked to the Saints in these way-too-soon mock drafts last offseason. Here are the prospects to keep in mind once college football returns in the fall. Let’s dig in:

Trevor Sikkema, The Draft Network: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State

Ohio State receiver Chris Olave plays against Rutgers during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Link "Every year there are always a handful of players who are draft eligible but decide to go back to school to the chagrin of many draft analysts who love them as a prospect and believe they are already pro-ready. Chris Olave was one of those players. Olave is a smooth-moving wide receiver who knows how to win vertically. The New Orleans Saints would have loved him at the back end of the first round in 2021. Maybe they’ll get the chance to take him a year later."

Todd McShay, ESPN: WR George Pickens, Georgia

Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver George Pickens (1) catches and comes down with a touchdown in the second quarter as Cincinnati Bearcats safety Bryan Cook (6) defends during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. USA TODAY Sports

Link "Despite it being a big need, the Saints waited until Round 7 to draft a receiver last week (Kawaan Baker). Their current WR depth chart beyond Michael Thomas has Tre'Quan Smith and Marquez Callaway in starting roles, and regardless of who the quarterback is, the Saints need receiving help. Pickens is a 6-foot-3 receiver with 14 TDs over the past two seasons. He tore his ACL in March, but he is still a top receiver in the class and could return late in the season for a final draft push."

Derrik Klassen, Yahoo Sports: QB JT Daniels, Georgia

Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) leads the team onto the field before the start of the Georgia G-Day Spring football game in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Photo/Joshua L. Jones, Athens Banner-Herald)

Link "Daniels is not yet a first-round lock, but there is a pretty decent chance he gets to that range after the 2021 season. Daniels, a former five-star recruit and freshman starter at USC, came on strong for the Bulldogs down the stretch after returning from a knee injury that took him down in 2019. Though he does not have the strongest arm, Daniels’ decision making is sound and he’s got the accuracy to be a difference maker. Potentially not having George Pickens at WR this year will hurt, but that UGA offense is well constructed and has some other ball-winners."

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: CB Josh Jobe, Alabama

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Josh Jobe (28) against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Link "Jobe doesn't come into the '21 season with the recognition of, say, Patrick Surtain II or even Trevon Diggs, but he's a long CB who plays at Alabama and has more than held his own against some of the best players in the country."

Dane Brugler, The Athletic: S Jordan Battle, Alabama

Alabama defensive back Jordan Battle (9) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Southern Miss, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Link "Battle became a full-time starter as a sophomore last season and didn’t disappoint, earning high marks from the coaches for his play versus the run and the pass. Safeties have been shut out of the first round each of the last two years, but players like (Notre Dame's Kyle) Hamilton and Battle will try to change that next spring."

Seth Tractman, Yardbarker: WR Justyn Ross, Clemson

Jan 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Justyn Ross (8) catches a pass against LSU Tigers cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (24) in the fourth quarter in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Link "Ross has major health questions following spinal surgery. If he's able to rebound in 2021, Ross has shown No. 1 wideout ability in his first two seasons at Clemson with over 1,800 yards receiving."

Glenn Morgan, NBC Sports: WR Ty Fryfogle, Indiana

Nov 21, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Indiana Hoosiers wide receiver Ty Fryfogle (3) makes the catch over Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Shaun Wade (24) and eventually scored on the play during the third quarter at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Link "Fryfogle's name may sound funny to some, but for those defenders that have to cover him, it's not a laughing matter. The Associated Press' third team All-American, Fryfogle is the only Big Ten player to ever post back-to-back games of 200 receiving yards. This Hoosier may be laughing all the way to the bank with an impressive 2021 college campaign."

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Garrett Wilson (5) runs onto the field before playing the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Link "The Saints didn't go after the flashy field-stretching receiver for the outside to better complement Michael Thomas. They should be comfortable going back to the Buckeyes to land him."

Mark Schofield, Touchdown Wire: QB Kedon Slovis, USC

Southern California quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) throws a pass during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Utah on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Link

"The football world awaits the camp battle between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill to determine the successor after the retirement of quarterback Drew Brees. But with rumblings that the New Orleans Saints were looking to move up in the first round a few days ago, potentially to draft a quarterback if the one they liked was available, QB might be a position to watch for the Saints next spring.

"Kedon Slovis, the USC passer, might be the kind of QB to catch Sean Payton’s eye. Through 18 career games for the Trojans Slovis has posted a completion percentage of 70.0%, along with 5,423 passing yards, 47 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, giving him a career NCAA Passing Efficiency mark of 158.2. His ball placement and proficiency could be a fit in Payton’s offense."

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