After three consecutive 7-9 finished from 2014-2016, the Saints won back-to-back divisional titles and nearly went to the Super Bowl last season. They finished 13-3 and were 3rd in scoring at 31.5 points per game and 14th in points allowed at 22.1 per game. With only five picks in this year’s draft, let’s examine the selections and how they can impact the team.
2nd round (48th) Erik McCoy (C) Texas A&M
McCoy was a redshirt in 2015 and started all 13 games in 2016. Again a starter for every game in 2017, McCoy showed some versatility by playing two games at guard. He was one of the team captains as a senior and started all 13 games at center.
With the retirement of Max Unger, the Saints had a hole to fill at center and McCoy should solve that issue. McCoy is strong and athletic, but isn’t extremely quick. However, he has shown the ability to hold his own against cut-off blocks. McCoy will be an instant starter and could anchor the line for years to come.
4th Round (105th) Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (S) Florida
In 2016, Gardner-Johnson started three of the 13 games he played, recording 32 tackles on special teams and also had three interceptions. The following season, his contributions increased to 58 tackles, seven passes defensed and two interceptions. Last season, Gardner-Johnson recorded a personal best 71 tackles with three sacks and four interceptions.
Gardner-Johnson has great size for a defensive back who is capable of multiple duties such as blitzing, coverage of slot receivers, tight ends and run support. He also displays the athletic ability and hands to break up the deep ball. He was one of the best available players in the draft after the first two days and a very solid selection for the Saints to help their secondary.
6th Round (177th) Saquan Hampton (S) Rutgers
Hampton played in 12 games as a redshirt freshman, recording 28 tackles and an interception. Injury prone over the next two seasons, Hampton made a combined 84 tackles with an interception. Healthy during his senior season in 2018, Hampton had 65 tackles and three interceptions, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten.
Displaying above average size and versatility, Hampton needs work on his coverage skills in the slot and more aggressiveness in run support. He shows some ability to cover tight ends and better against the run when night lined up on the line. A very good selection for a late round pick, Hampton could be a solid back up given time to hone his skills.
7th round (231st) Alizé Mack (TE) Notre Dame
Mack made marginal contributions as a freshman, hauling in 13 passes for a 14.6 yard per catch. After missing 2016 due to academic ineligibility, Mack returned in 2017 and caught 19 passes and a touchdown. He was more of a factor in the offense last season, on the receiving end of 36 passes and three touchdowns.
Mack shows some decent receiving skills and first level route running, but need much improvement in run blocking. At this point, Mack looks like a long term project that could be a practice squad member or part of the special teams, eventually working into a back up tight end.
Round 7 (244th) Kaden Ellis (OLB) Idaho
Ellis recorded 83 tackles in 2015 after not appearing in a game in 2014. He was honorable-mention All-Sun Belt conference in 2016 after making 65 tackles and five interceptions. Increasing his production to 80 tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles in 2017, Ellis also caught seven passes with two touchdowns. He was first-team All-Sun Belt as a senior after having seven sacks and 16 tackles for loss among his 60 total tackles.
With nice size and athletic ability, Ellis is very versatile and could be used in both a 4-3 defensive scheme or as an outsider linebacker used to rush the passes. He could possibly have enough skills to cover tight ends or running backs in pass routes. A very good choice at the end of the draft who could develop into a decent contributor.