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.
The good news about this year's draft is that it is loaded at defensive ends, benefiting from a huge underclassman influx that added many quality defensive linemen.
1. Carolina - Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers
2. Denver - Auburn DT Nick Fairley
3. Buffalo - Texas A&M OLB Von Miller
4. Cincinnati - Alabama DT Marcel Dareus
5. Arizona - LSU CB Patrick Peterson
6. Cleveland - Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara
7. San Francisco - Auburn QB Cam Newton
8. Tennessee - North Carolina DE Robert Quinn
9. Dallas - Mississippi State T Derek Sherrod
10. Washington - Georgia WR AJ Green
11. Houston - Oregon State DT Stephen Paea
12. Minnesota - Alabama WR Julio Jones
13. Detroit - Alabama RB Mark Ingram
14. St. Louis - Maryland WR Torrey Smith
15. Miami - Illinois RB Mikel LeShoure
16. Jacksonville - Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan
17. New England (from OAK) - Missouri LB Aldon Smith
18. San Diego - USC T Tyron Smith
19. New York Giants - Colorado T Nate Solder
20. Tampa Bay - Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
21. Kansas City - Boston College T Anthony Costanzo
22. Indianapolis - Wisconsin T Gabe Carimi
23. Philadelphia - Miami CB Brandon Harris
24. New Orleans - A run on offensive tackles eliminates that as value pick here. The top defensive ends are gone, as expected, but some value picks remain, including Ironhead's son, Ohio State's Cameron Heyward, Wisconsin's J.J. Watt, and Cal's Cam Jordan. All three are tall, play in the high 280's and are stout run defenders. Heyward has pedigree, experience and seniority, the underclassman Watt has an unstoppable motor on defense and special teams, and Jordan resembles his former teammate Tyson Alualu, a surprise but now-justified 10th overall pick last year and NOPF's Final 2010 Mock pick for the Saints. All three would be a solid value and need pick given projects here. Another major need for the Saints is outside linebacker, and though superior athlete Akeem Ayers of UCLA remains on the board, he'll need to impress in interviews with the Saints to prove he's got the football smarts. Oklahoma's Jeremy Beal and Georgia's Justin Houston project more as 3-4 outside linebackers, drafting either of them could trigger a shift in scheme for Gregg Williams.
We'll go with the Buckeye Cameron Heyward here, a versatile powerhouse who can benefit from the veterancy of Alex Brown and Will Smith. Heyward could be used much like Charles Grant was - a strong-side defensive end on rush downs and an interior rusher on passing downs. Heyward's Sugar Bowl elbow injury required surgery and could limit his pre-draft exposure, and will be carefully evaluated for sure.
Second round pick: Kentucky WR/KR Randall Cobb
USC DT Jurrell Casey or another defensive lineman makes sense here, as does a young safety prospect like Florida's Ahmad Black. But the temptation to one-up Reggie Bush's game as a versatile open field threat and returner could be too much to withstand. Cobb is a dynamic thread in the field and as a kick returner, though his role as a "wildCobb" quarterback wouldn't be needed in New Orleans. We would be shocked to see the Saints not take an explosive offensive weapon at some point with its first four picks, perhaps even its top pick. With Courtney Roby, Pierre Thomas and Lance Moore possibly hitting free agency and Reggie Bush's future in doubt, the Saints will have no familiar faces back to return in 2011.
Third round pick (from Washington): Temple S Jaiquawn Jarrett
Despite a football program that has risen from the dark ages, we wouldn't be surprised to see the Saints end up with one of their second-day football prospects, including speedy safety Jarrett, underclassman DT Muhammad Wilkerson, or LB Elijah Joseph. Jarrett is billed as an intelligent, highly-coachable field captain whose leadership skills were fired on the field of Temple on the field who, though undersized, could find a home in the Saints' fungible secondary. A four-year starter, Jarrett could help replace the potential losses of Usama Young, Darren Sharper, Roman Harper, Chris Reis, Matt Giordano and Pierson Prioleau.
Third round pick: Mississippi State OLB K.J. Wright
A quality leader and character man with length, frame and size to challenge for playing time at strongside linebacker, which was a committee of 33-year old Danny Clark and special teamer Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Opposite starter Scott Shanle is also set to hit free agency. Jonathan Casillas' healthy return cannot alone bring youth and stability to the positions.
Seventh round pick: Portland State TE Julius Thomas
A protege' of former Saints tight end Billy Miller, Thomas is another hyper-athletic collegiate tight end who exhausted his basketball eligibility and gave football a try in year five. It was a success, as the 6'5, 240 pound Thomas traded a .663 shooting percentage for a 15.6 yard/catch average on 29 receptions in one year of football. Thomas, though raw and from a small football program, may not be so easy to hide after a touchdown reception to cap a good East-West Shrine All-Star game showing.