Prior to the start of free agency, Saints head coach Sean Payton laid out a list of needs that would be key areas of focus in the off season. The original list included edge pass rushers, interior offensive line and cornerback. The latter two where addressed with the additions of center Max Unger via the Jimmy Graham trade and cornerback Brandon Browner through free agency. Since then Payton has revised the list saying that while pass rusher is still a priority, both of the other two positions had moved down the teams’ needs list. He also added a new position as a top priority alongside edge rusher: wide receiver.
With the departures of Graham and Kenny Stills, the Saints are in need of some young, talented targets for Drew Brees. While there are a few prospects currently moving up the boards, there are three in particular who have consistently hung around the top of the first round. Alabama’s Amari Cooper, West Virginia’s Kevin White and Louisville’s DeVante Parker have become the consensus top three among draft experts and are expected to go quickly in the top of the first round. Up to this point it has been uniformly accepted by most draft evaluators that the Raiders would take either Cooper or White at #4 with the Bears, Rams, Vikings and Browns considered possible landing spots for the remaining two of the group. With all of these teams selecting ahead of the Saints it has seemed unlikely so far that one of the top three would simply fall as far as 13. However, a new report out Wednesday puts an interesting new spin on how the first night of the draft could unfold.
Why The Raiders May Hold Saints Golden Ticket On Draft Night
In a report posted by Bleacher Report NFL Insider Jason Cole, sources are telling him that the player the Raiders truly want is USC defensive end Leonard Williams. Despite having the fourth overall pick in the draft, Oakland would likely have to move up to #2 to land Williams. Fortunately for the Raiders, there have been plenty of rumblings that the Titans have been looking to move the second overall pick. A Tennessee/Oakland trade would work make a lot of sense for both sides involved. For the Raiders it would get them the player they truly want. For the Titans, not only would they gain extra assets in the form of picks and/or players but they would almost certainly be able to trade back again out of the #4 pick and acquire even more assets since by nearly every projection star quarterback prospect Marcus Mariota would still be in play. In the end, Tennessee could net multiple picks to help in their roster rebuild that their ownership declared for this off-season shortly after the 2014 regular season ended.
Oakland landing Williams would also greatly benefit the Saints when it comes to landing a top end wide receiver. While the Bears could potentially take a receiver at #7, they appear to have far more pressing issues on the other side of the ball. That would mean that barring a trade, it’s likely that a receiver wouldn’t come off the board until St. Louis at #10 at the earliest. However, there’s a fairly decent chance of Cooper, White and Parker all going back to back to back to St. Louis, Minnesota and Cleveland with picks 10 through 12. So while Oakland not taking a receiver greatly increases the chance of a top three receiver falling to 13, it’s not a guarantee. According to trade value charts though, packaging picks 13 and 78 (the third round pick from Miami) would be a perfectly fair deal for the Giants’ 9th overall pick which would almost certainly give Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis their choice of any receiver they want.
With a little dealing and some good luck, five different teams could have a very beneficial first night to the draft. The Raiders could get the piece they truly, Tennessee could land a handful of extra picks, some quarterback needy team could negotiate their way to Mariota, New Orleans could land a new crown jewel for their receiving corps, and New York could grab another pick to help them make up for a quiet year in free agency. In short, what could turn into one of the craziest first rounds of the draft ever could also prove to be an extremely beneficial one was well for a lot of people.
It all starts with Oakland.