The 15th overall pick has returned some high-profile linebackers in recent history, including Derrick Johnson (Chiefs, 2005), Lawrence Timmons (Steelers, 2007), and Brian Cushing (Texans, 2009), and some devastating pass rushers including Bruce Irvin (Seahawks, 2012) and Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants, 2010).
One more historical note: no player drafted by the Saints from LSU has ever recorded a sack for the Saints. (For that matter, the same goes for other Louisiana schools, Tulane, Louisiana Tech, McNeese, and Southeastern.)
Will that change in 2013? LSU DE Barkevious Mingo is a definite first round possibility with the 15th overall pick, and his teammates DE Sam Montgomery and DT Bennie Logan could be considerations in later rounds.
With our penultimate mock draft of the 2013 season, we will take into account the few free agent additions made by the Saints, pro days and workouts.
1. Kansas City Chiefs - Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel* - We don't buy the talk of Fisher going here, as Joeckel is a better fit in the short and long term for the Chiefs, who will need to answer some questions about franchise left tackle Branden Albert.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars - Florida DT Sharrif Floyd* - The draft's top defensive lineman is a good start for Bob Babich, who with the Bears was used to getting pass rush from the interior defensive line.
3. Oakland Raiders - Alabama CB Dee Milliner* - Raiders address their top need with the top defensive back.
4. Philadelphia Eagles - Utah DT Star Lotulelei - We can't shake the idea of Kelly taking Jordan, but with Lotulelei falling, we project him there. Kelly never coached against Lotulelei while he was at Utah, but has lots of connections to get an inside scoop on him.
5. Detroit Lions - Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher* - Perfect fit here for Lions. Can't imagine they'll let any time run off the countdown if Fisher is there.
6. Cleveland Browns - Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes* - Browns' last big gap on D is at cornerback. Rhodes could make this defense complete.
7. Arizona Cardinals - Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson* - Cardinals jump on the last elite left tackle in the draft.
8. Buffalo Bills - Alabama OG Chance Warmack - Warmack is an old-school, blue-collar, Buffalo Bills kind of player, and a perfect fit.
9. New York Jets - North Carolina G Jonathan Cooper - Cooper helps replace Brandon Moore and end the Vlad Ducasse experiment. Could there be any more clear signal that Idzik is building for a future without Rex Ryan than a guard in the Top 10?
10. Tennessee Titans - BYU DE Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah - Who would have thought that the 10th overall pick wasn't high enough to get the draft's best offensive guard? That's what the Titans really wanted. But picking up a raw talent like Ansah and putting him in a rotation at 4-3 defensive end is hardly a consolation prize - Ansah smacks of Jevon Kearse.
11. San Diego Chargers - Oregon DE/OLB Dion Jordan - The top five offensive lineman are out, so the Chargers will have to make do with a free agent patchwork. Instead, the Chargers nab a new starting rush outside linebacker in Jordan.
12. Miami Dolphins - Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert - Too early for a tight end? Rubbish. Eifert is the safest pick in the draft, and young Tannehill needs that safety blanket as a pro QB.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson* - The best defensive lineman on the board and someone who reminds of Warren Sapp, Richardson's interior pass rush and killer mentality fill definite needs for the Bucs defense.
14. Carolina Panthers - North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams - Carries some very high grades in some circles, where Williams is regarded as potentially the best defensive lineman in the draft. Others see a player too young and too immature to contribute soon to the NFL.
15. New Orleans Saints - The Draft's 15th pick arrives with all wide receivers and quarterbacks still on the board, but none of its elite offensive linemen. This likely scenario means that the Saints will wait out all 10 minutes trying desperately to trade down.
A star pass rusher like LSU's Barkevious Mingo is a popular pick and a hometown favorite but if the Saints wanted a fast, light, pass rushing specialist, they have only to look on their roster, where Junior Galette, Martez Wilson and Victor Butler have that niche covered. Mingo is certainly a special player and would even be a great value here at 15, but how much the Saints like their existing set of one-trick pony pass rushers - especially former second round pick Martez Wilson - will determine if Mingo is the pick.
Georgia's Jarvis Jones, on the other hand, would play 3-4 outside linebacker with a different skillset. Jones is a fantastic pass rusher but is also a three-down player, with better experience actually playing linebacker - not just pass rusher. Putting on a Saints jersey would alone make him one of the most athletic linebackers in the Sean Payton era for the Saints, and one with the most promise.
Jones' teammate Alec Ogletree is another consideration, a light, fast linebacker with none of Jones' neck condition baggage but plenty of off-field behavior baggage. Ogletree was used by Georgia as a matchup against tight ends over the middle and excelled there, so he could be a neutralizing weapon against Tony Gonzales, Greg Olsen, Jason Witten, Vernon Davis, and other star tight ends on the Saints' schedule. Ogletree has starting experience at safety help his cause to be a three-down linebacker, though the Saints will have to look long at his off-field questions marks. He's just so fast, so violent, and so natural at linebacker, traits the Saints don't really have at linebacker. Rob Ryan is the sort of defensive coordinator that could talk the usually conservative Saints into picking Ogletree.
The top remaining offensive tackle is Alabama's DJ Fluker, and the Saints will have to decide for themselves if this prototypical right tackle is a fit for their left tackle vacancy. 6'4 5/8", 340 pound Fluker has three years of starting experience at a near-Pro program - but all at right tackle in a run-heavy offense. Does he have enough pass rush quicks to protect Brees' blind side and justify the 15th overall pick? Sure he'd be helpful at right tackle too, but the Saints have a veteran titan of their own there in Zach Strief.
More suited for left tackle would be Menelik Watson, the impressive native of Manchester, England, former Marist baseketballer and Florida State right tackle (for just one season). Watson has all the potential and very little of the seasoning to play in the NFL trenches and is a huge risk. Is he worth picking at #15, with the team low on draft picks, when he could be available in the second round? It isn't like he's going to step in and solve the unsolved left tackle position, what with his twelve games of major college football experience and eight games of junior college football experience to round out his entire American football resume.
We'll stick to our version 5.0 pick and project Georgia LB Alec Ogletree, though a trade down in this scenario seems more likely. Unlike Watson, Ogletree is good value at #15. After trading down and picking up an extra day two pick, OT Menelik Watson begins to make more sense.
16. St. Louis Rams - Tennessee WR Justin Hunter* - Their choice of any wide receiver in the draft, including Hunter's teammate Patterson, project Hunter, who is taller and reminds of AJ Green.
18. Dallas Cowboys - Florida State DE Bjoern Werner - Though we expect Derek Dooley to rally hard for Patterson, Werner is an ideal 4-3 DE candidate and gives the Cowboys leverage against Anthony Spencer. Besides, setting the franchise low in sacks last year doesn't exactly scream "we have enough pass rushers."
19. NY Giants - Alabama RT D.J. Fluker - Giants lock up the right side of the line with Fluker.
20. Chicago Bears - LSU DE Barkevious Mingo* - Mingo slips through the cracks and falls to Chicago, where they want to play more man coverage. More man defense needs more pass rush.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Texas S Kenny Vaccaro - Bengals grab the top safety on the board to secure the backside of the defense.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Redskins) - LSU S Eric Reid - Rams pick up a receiver to stretch opposing defenses and a safety to bottle up opposing offenses. Reid is a ready-to-start pro.
23. Minnesota Vikings - Georgia DT Johnathan Jenkins - Vikings pick up a massive space-eater on the interior of the defensive line.
24. Indianapolis Colts - Alabama DT Jesse Williams - Former rugby player will be coveted by the Indianapolis Impalas as much as the Colts for his tremendous lower body strength.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle Seahawks) - West Virginia WR Tavon Austin - Can't let Austin slip much further here, as the Vikings grab an electrifying threat for the offense.
26. Green Bay Packers - Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson* - Patterson is too good to pass up in the wake of Greg Jennings' treasonous betrayal.
27. Houston Texans - Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o - A run on wide receivers leaves the Texans looking at the next tier of receivers, or for best player available. Te'o can help in the middle of that defense, and provide long-term security against Brian Cushing, who is a free agent in 2014 and likely to ask for more money than he's worth.
28. Denver Broncos - Boise State CB Jamar Taylor - How can they not draft secondary? Remember how you lost your last game.
29. New England Patriots - Washington CB Desmond Trufant - Patriots invest in the secondary that had them scratching their heads in 2012.
30. Atlanta Falcons - Stanford TE Zach Ertz - They're not sure how much gas Tony Gonzales has left in the tank, but they do know the offensive clicks with a premiere tight end.
31. San Francisco 49ers - Florida State DL Cornelius "Tank" Carradine - Perfect developmental prospect on the defensive line.
32. Baltimore Ravens - LSU LB Kevin Minter* - Ravens retool the defense with one-man army Minter, a worthy heir to Ray Lewis.
2nd round (14th pick) - forfeited as punishment for the bounty scandal and coverup
3rd round (13th pick, 75th overall) - Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore
Quite the fall for All-American Moore, who was a popular first round pick based off his tremendous production in the SEC. Compared often and unfavorably to Broncos star Von Miller, as the two played the same position in the Aggie defense, but Miller has superior overall athleticism, strength and maturity. 20-year old underclassman Moore is going to drop based on terrible workouts and interviews at the combine that betrayed a lack of off-field stability. But in the third round and later, Moore's production, quickness, and upside will make him an attractive developmental prospect, and a humbling will serve him well. For the Saints, Moore would be transformed into a 3-4 OLB at 6'4, 250 pounds.
4th round (12th pick, 109th overall) - USC S T.J. McDonald
Son of USC and 49er great Tim McDonald, T.J. (Tim Jr.) has all the pedigree that the Saints want. And the Saints do value pedigree want (see: Jordan, Ingram, Toon). Like his father, was a USC team captain and an All-American. A free safety with great size at 6'2, 219, McDonald is a big hitter who better as a center-fielding safety as a junior than a close-in-the-box enforcer as a senior, and his stock is dropping. Can jump out the roof and has fantastic intangibles. Experience and willingness on special teams. Not one of the elite safeties in the draft because film is full of mediocre tackling, inconsistent coverage and a lack of killshots. Safeties who go higher in this draft have the knack for devastation that McDonald does not.
5th round (11th pick, 144th overall) - Ohio State OT Reid Fragel
Nearly 6'8 and over 300 pounds, Fragel played tight end for the Buckeyes until the spring of the 2012 season when he added 30 pounds of weight and moved to offensive right tackle. With enormous 33" arms and 10 5/8" hands, he has an ideal frame for the offensive line. As a tight end he was strictly a blocker, collecting just 14 catches through his junior year but appearing in all 39 games, so he isn't inexperienced as an in-the-trenches blocker. He started 12 games at his new position and demonstrated good athleticism, but remains raw to the position. Is the kind of athletic, late-round offensive lineman the Saints traditionally groomed into starters, and visited with the team in April.
6th round (15th pick, 183rd overall) - Regina DE Stefan Charles
Teammate of Saints 2012 third round pick Akiem Hicks in Canada, Charles is a prototype 3-4 defensive end at 6'5, 310. Charles has three seasons under his best at Regina, but unlike Hicks, who signed with LSU, Charles wasn't recruited by major college football programs. Has a four year old daughter. The Saints surely saw him on film next to Hicks last season and already have done their homework. The Saints have a history of drafting college teammates.
7th round (14th pick, 200th overall) - traded to Seattle for LB Barrett Ruud