Each time we do a mock draft, we like to shake it up to give a different view from the previous list. With so much up in the air with the CBA, it is very difficult to project which of the Saints' 27 free agents will be retained, if the Saints will be able to add any free agents, or even if free agency occurs.
The Saints have a small and front-loaded draft class in 2011. Four picks in the first three rounds but then only one in the final four rounds. They have a pick in each day of the draft but a long day three won't see much action unless the Saints trade into the 4th, 5th, or 6th rounds.
1. Carolina - Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers
2. Denver - Auburn DT Nick Fairley
3. Buffalo - Auburn QB Cam Newton
4. Cincinnati - Georgia WR AJ Green
5. Arizona - Texas A&M OLB Von Miller
6. Cleveland - North Carolina DE Robert Quinn
7. San Francisco - LSU CB Patrick Peterson
8. Tennessee - Alabama DT Marcel Dareus
9. Dallas - Cal DE Cameron Jordan
10. Washington - Alabama WR Julio Jones
11. Houston - Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara
12. Minnesota - Mississippi State T Derek Sherrod
13. Detroit - Alabama RB Mark Ingram
14. St. Louis - Colorado T Nate Solder
15. Miami - Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert
16. Jacksonville - UCLA LB Akeem Ayers
17. New England (from OAK) - Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt
18. San Diego - Oregon State DT Stephen Paea
19. New York Giants - Boston College T Anthony Costanzo
20. Tampa Bay - Missouri LB Aldon Smith
21. Kansas City - Wisconsin T Gabe Carimi
22. Indianapolis - USC T Tyron Smith
23. Philadelphia - Colorado CB Jimmy Smith
24. New Orleans - Top prospects on the board are Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan, who is an undersized (255 pounds) but high-motor, high energy, three-down player. Ron Zook has two prospects worth mentioning here, RB Mikel LeShoure (pronounced "muh-KEL luh-SHORE"), a 6'1, 230 pounder with great strength and power, and DT Corey Liuget (pronounced "legit"), an underclassman interior pass rusher. Another underclassman interior defensive lineman should be in the picture too, Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson. Ohio State's DE Cameron Heyward, our pick in v1.0, has concerns thanks to postseason Tommy John surgery. Injury concerns also haunt Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn, who could drop despite enormous potential. Georgia's underclassman LB Justin Houston is a bundle of potential but in college was a one-dimensional pass rusher without three-down instincts and would not be a good value here.
Can't be surprised with a pick anywhere on the defensive line, especially if Gregg Williams gains more traction in the draft room. With Will Smith facing two possible suspensions, one from Starcaps and the other from a domestic battery charge, defensive end is an obvious need.
There's a lot that will happen between then and now that will affect the runningback situation - especially the fates of Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, who may only be Saints until there is labor peace - so LeShoure wouldn't be a shock.
Taking a chance on Clayborn or Heyward would be understandable considering their high potential. But we'll pencil-in here, in mid-February, Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan, who may be undersized but he is a relentless to the ball and violent at the point of attack. A great team leader, Kerrigan compares favorably to Saints DE Will Smith, who also arrived in the NFL as undersized at less than 270 pounds and with a knack for forcing fumbles. We expect Kerrigan to go higher, so seeing him at 24 would also be an excellent value pick for the Saints.
Second round pick: Oklahoma S Quinton Carter
We loved our pick of Kentucky's Randall Cobb in v1.0 because he makes so much sense as a returner and short route receiver. But to switch things up we'll go with a young defensive back. Carter played free and strong safety for the Sooners in a pro style defense, and has great intangibles. The Saints will face the possible departure of starter Roman Harper, reserves Usama Young, Darren Sharper, Pierson Prioleau and special teamers Chris Reid and Matt Giordano. You better believe they'll be targeting a safety, and soon. Carter could start as a rookie. Iowa DT Christian Ballard, Miami LB Colin McCarthy, USC DT Jurrell Casey and Cobb are also options here.
Third round pick (from Washington): Clemson DT Jarvis Jenkins
Jenkins is an All-ACC wide-body who played nose tackle and special teams at Clemson. A minor knee injury is worrisome and pushes this one-dimensional run stuffer to the third round or deeper, but with the right medical checkout, Jenkins is a steal in the third round. He should be everything the Saints wanted out of Al Woods last year - a stout run defender in the rotation. Sedrick Ellis is set to be the only DT not to hit free agency. Mississippi State LB K.J. Wright, Temple S Jaiquawn Jarrett, and Michigan State LB Greg Jones also make sense here.
Third round pick: TCU WR Jeremy Kerley
Facing tough contract decisions with Reggie Bush and Devery Henderson, and the free agency of Lance Moore, the Saints may find themselves in late-April for speed and kick return ability. Kerley, barely 5'9", can do his best Moore impression with great body control and catching radius. A superior athlete and former high school quarterback, the speedster Kerley would have a shot at punt returns. At TCU, Kerley broke Davey O'Brien's single-season school punt return yards record with 563. Yes, the Davey O'Brien. UConn RB Jordan Todman, Nevada RB Vai Taua, and Georgia Tech S Jerard Tarrant also make sense here.
Seventh round pick: Penn State RB Evan Royster
The Saints have hit big with two undrafted runningbacks in Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory. Without a CBA, undrafted free agents will not be able to sign with teams. These players will be among the lucky ones to find an NFL team if labor peace hasn't been found yet. Royster is a solid but unspectacular runningback and the Saints may be anticipating getting thin at the top of that position. He's got as much experience under his belt as any back in the draft, having broken Curt Warner's school rushing record with room to spare.