The long awaited wait is almost over with the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft slotted to take place on Thursday night. My sources continue to tell me it is unlikely that the Saints will trade up in the first round, and it is also unlikely that they will take a quarterback in the first round, despite all the chatter otherwise on various news outlets.
We will find out soon enough. Below is my final mock draft for every pick the Saints will make assuming no trades.
1st Round, 16th Overall: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The Saints’ receiver group last season without Michael Thomas struggled mightily. The Saints’ leading pass catcher was a running back with only 47 receptions in Alvin Kamara. Kenny Stills had a catch percentage of 26.1% and that is the worst in Saints history for a wide receiver (20 or more targets) since the statistic was tracked. Worst yet, the Saints ranked dead last in the NFL in passing yards per game. Enter Olave, a Z and slot receiver that can do serious damage giving Jameis Winston an important field stretching weapon. He is a terrific route runner with soft hands and terrific athleticism. He may not be the most physical receiver in this draft, but the Saints need guys that can run and catch and Olave is most certainly that.
1st Round, 19th Overall: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
Cine has everything you want in a safety. He has size, elite speed, devastating hitting power, ball tracking ability, and great athleticism. As if his tape at Georgia wasn’t exceptional enough, he followed that up with a dominant combine that produced a 9.92 RAS score out of 10. The Saints lost Marcus Williams in free agency, and while they picked up Marcus Maye, he’s recovering from a season ending injury and he’s facing a looming suspension for a DUI arrest. Don’t for the Saints also saw Malcolm Jenkins retire. With Cine the Saints will have another safety with positional flexibility to move near the line of scrimmage or drop back in post, making he and Maye more interchangeable to give Dennis Allen the ability to move them around and change his looks.
2nd Round, 49th Overall: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
With Terron Armstead departed in free agency, the Saints hope they have his future replacement in Raimann. To select Raimann at this spot would be of tremendous value. The 6’7” tackle from Austria has elite strength, agility, speed and athleticism, also testing off the charts at the combine (much like Armstead did). He possesses all the traits the Saints value and look for each year in the draft. It will take some seasoning and coaching to develop him, but fortunately the Saints brought back former NFL Head Coach Doug Marrone to teach the offensive line and paired with former stalwart right tackle Zach Strief they will be able to get the best out of Raimann in short order.
3rd round, 98th Overall: Damone Clark, LB, LSU
This is maybe not a position the Saints would prioritize getting in this draft, but the value here is too good to pass up. Clark has size and he’s a rangy linebacker able to get from sideline to sideline with ease. Many Saints fans want Kwon Alexander back but perhaps this would help mitigate his loss. This gives the Saints depth behind DeMario Davis and Peter Werner and with Davis getting older, Clark will be waiting in the wings to be his eventual heir.
4th Round, 120th Overall: Brian Robinson, Jr., RB, Alabama
The Saints are bracing themselves for the possible suspension of Alvin Kamara after his offseason arrest in Las Vegas. While Mark Ingram is back, the Saints will want to have more depth and insurance at the running back position this season. I’m told this is a draft priority. Robinson is a nice find at this stage and he can contribute in year 1.
5th Round, 161st Overall: Lucas Krull, TE, Pitt
Krull has terrific size, speed and leaping ability. He was a weapon for Kenny Pickett in the Pitt offense with 6 receiving touchdowns last season. His soft hands and plus catching ability make him a prospect that could develop into a starter. He will need to develop strength to be an NFL tight end but all of the athletic traits are there and he’ll be able to compete for a spot right away. Blocking wise he shows a lot of potential if he can bulk up physically.
6th Round, 194th Overall: Thomas Booker, DT, Stanford
The former Stanford DT is a big time sleeper in this draft class. His puzzling lack of production in college is to blame for the lack of buzz surrounding him currently. But he’s very quick, athletic and as a 3 year starter and captain for Stanford he has tremendous potential at the next level.
Andrew Juge is the co-host of “The Saints Happy Hour Podcast.”