April 22, 2008

2008 NOPF Mock Draft v4.0

New Orleans back in top 10 for second time in three years

*Changed from version 3.0.

1. Miami (1-15)
Michigan OT Jake Long* (signed)

2. St. Louis (3-13)
LSU DT Glenn Dorsey*

3. Atlanta (4-12)
Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston *

4. Oakland (4-12)
Virginia DE Chris Long*

5. Kansas City (4-12)
USC DT Sedrick Ellis*

6. New York Jets (4-12)
Arkansas RB Darren McFadden

7. New England (from San Francisco (5-11))
Virginia G/T Branden Albert*

8. Baltimore (5-11)
Boston College QB Matt Ryan

9. Cincinnati (7-9)
Vanderbilt OT Chris Williams*

10. New Orleans (7-9)
According to the draft board, USC LB Keith Rivers is the highest rated player on the board. So for the third straight mock draft, NOPF predicts Rivers. That is the short answer.

We'll take this opportunity to explain the draft board. The way we decided the board was simple: barring any trades up or down, if any two players were on the board, who would the pick be for the Saints?

No player would look better in a Saints uniform than LSU DT Glenn Dorsey. It makes sense on and off the field for the franchise. Similarly, no player will provoke as large a draft bounty from the Saints than Dorsey.

Chris Long is the kind of player at 10 that Will Smith was at 18 in 2004. Same story for Gholston; the Saints would take him at 10 in a heartbeat, and groom the ex-Buckeye to replace another ex-Buckeye.

Sedrick Ellis is a very special inside talent at defensive tackle, is bigger and stronger than Dorsey but perhaps less agile. There's not much to complain about for either prospect, and the pick for the Saints should Ellis inexplicably slip to 10 would be immediate. The bullet train that is Darren McFadden would be a Deuce-like pick for the Saints, minus of golden bill of character. An unpredictable drop by the next top offensive lineman, the monstrous Branden Albert, would probably bump Jon Stinchcomb or Jamar Nesbit to the bench.

But lets be realistic. Barring a trade up, none of those prospects will be available. The best prospect with a legitimate chance to be there at 10 is Rivers. The top cornerbacks will likely be there as well, but none can compare to Rivers. The best of the defensive backs in the draft, Leodis McKelvin, is far from a safe pick, despite his talent. Another small-school prospect CB Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie has an even higher upside and an even greater risk.

Runningbacks Mendenhall from Illinois and Stewart from Oregon are the x-factors for the Saints this draft. Despite an amicably-agreed contract extension for Deuce McAllister, the deal essentially is for one more year. The selection of either strong, power-running bull would be a bittersweet surprise. There is no greater Saint in modern history, despite his knee problems, and the franchise has wisely handled his future so far with respect and dignity.

Rounding out our Draft Board is former Catholic High - Baton Rouge product Chris Williams, who became the class of the SEC while allowing only two sacks against some of college football's best pass rushers at Vanderbilt. It would be luxury to take Williams at 10, but there isn't a better class and character pick in the draft.

As for Rivers, we'd said all we can in our past mock drafts. There are concerns - his curious lack of turnovers despite a long career at USC, his good but not great speed, his left ankle injury. There are unmistakable positives - good intanglibles, pro-style grooming, great size and strength, solid tackling. There's also the secondary benefits: a former teammate of Reggie Bush, and perhaps a steadying influence. Rivers' arrival would make linebacker the strength of the defense and the most loaded collection of talent on the depth chart.

11. Buffalo (7-9)
Florida DE Derrick Harvey

12. Denver (7-9)
Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart*

13. Carolina (7-9)
Illinois RB Reshard Mendenhall

14. Chicago (7-9)
Boise State T Ryan Clady*

15. Detroit (7-9)
Troy CB Leodis McKelvin*

16. Arizona (8-8)
Clemson DE Phillip Merling*

17. Kansas City (from Minnesota (8-8))
Auburn LB/DE Quentin Groves*

18. Houston (8-8)
Michigan State WR Devin Thomas*

19. Philadelphia (8-8)
Texas WR Limas Sweed*

20. Tampa Bay (9-7)
Louisville QB Brian Brohm

21. Washington (9-7)
Indiana WR James Hardy*

22. Dallas (from Cleveland (10-6))
Tennessee State CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie*

23. Pittsburgh (10-6)
Pitt OT Jeff Otah*

24. Tennessee (10-6)
Penn State LB Dan Connor*

25. Seattle (10-6)
Arizona CB Antoine Cason*

26. Jacksonville (10-6)
North Carolina DT Kentwan Balmer

27. San Diego (11-5)
USC OT Sam Baker

28. Dallas (11-5)
Cal WR Desean Jackson*

29. San Francisco (from Indianapolis (13-3))
Tennessee LB Jerod Mayo*

30. Green Bay (13-3)
LSU WR Early Doucet

31. New York Giants (13-3)
Notre Dame DT Trevor Laws

Saints Draft:

2 (40). Indiana CB Tracy Porter

3 (78). Virginia Tech WR Eddie Royal*

5 (146). Louisville TE Gary Barnidge*

6 (178). New Hampshire QB Ricky Santos*

7 (218). Texas DT Derek Lokey*

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