ESPN’s 7-round NFL mock draft brings a big haul for the Saints

  • Round 1, Pick 29: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
  • Round 2, Pick 40: DT Mazi Smith, Michigan
  • Round 3, Pick 71: OL Cody Mauch, North Dakota State
  • Round 4, Pick 115: WR Tank Dell, Houston
  • Round 5, Pick 146: RB Eric Gray, Oklahoma
  • Round 5, Pick 165: DE Tavius Robinson, Ole Miss
  • Round 7, Pick 227: QB Stetson Bennett, Georgia
  • Round 7, Pick 257: DT DJ Dale, Alabama

The Saints came away from this seven-round mock draft without any clear and immediate starters, but with plenty of high-impact help and significantly better depth at some key spots.

Mayer would probably play 30 or more snaps a game as a rookie, helping to improve the rushing attack with his blocking while raising the first down conversion rate with his sure hands on contested catches. Derek Carr’s No. 2 tight end has seen 3 or 4 targets per game the last few years, so he could funnel passes Mayer’s way while continuing to give Juwan Johnson as many throws as he can handle.

Smith could make a positive impact on both passing and running downs while rotating with Saunders and Shepherd. The Saints had three different defensive tackles average 30 or more snaps per game last year so they’re used to platooning at that spot. He’s averaged 42 plays per game at Michigan so a slightly lightened workload could help keep him fresh.

Injuries along the offensive line last year meant six different players lined up at the two guard spots last season, with four of them seeing 100-plus snaps. If Mauch can help stabilize that position and make his case for a starting job next year, that pick justifies itself. He’s very athletic for his size and does a lot of things well that the Saints value as a pulling blocker out in space.

The late-round picks are a mixed bag. Dell, Robinson, Bennett, and Dale might be eliminated by the Saints’ athletic thresholds before we even get to draft day. The team would probably rather come away from this draft with more depth at linebacker while finding players who better fit their established prototypes at receiver and along the defensive line. It’s always worth taking a flier on a quarterback prospect, but Bennett’s shortcomings could be highlighted once he’s competing against pro-quality athletes rather than leaning on them as teammates.