That was a fun exercise: Pro Football Focus analysts Mike Renner and Gordon McGuinness each released three-round mock drafts this week, giving us an opportunity to compare and contrast their picks for the New Orleans Saints.
Things started on the same page but we went haywire on lap three. Here’s a quick look at where each projection agrees and disagrees on what the Saints should be doing on draft day, and where they both went wrong:
Racer selection: DT Mazi Smith, Michigan
McGuinness selection: DT Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh
Both projections got the Saints solving their main need in defensive tackle, but they went about it in very different ways. Smith is a powerful nose tackle, similar to Khalen Saunders, at 6ft 3 and 323lbs with 33.7in arms – he plays with a lot of violence and uses his longer length to frustrate blockers when they’re in trouble have to put paws on him.
Compare that to Kancey, who is notoriously undersized by pro standards at 6ft 1 and 281lbs, with arms measuring just 30.6 inches. Not only is that below the Saints’ average for the position; it doesn’t reach the minimum they’ve been looking for over the past five years. He’s a fleet-footed disruptor up front, using his speed to split blockers before they get to their spots.
Kancey is probably a better fit for what the Saints are looking for in an athletic playmaker who can line up in the spot with three techniques. But Smith is arguably a better prospect given his taller frame and strength on run defense, with the potential to grow as a pass rusher. There is a case for both.
Racer selection: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
McGuinness selection: LB Daiyan Henley, Washington State
Now things are diverging. Renner lets the Saints add more firepower on offense at Hyatt, which made a big breakthrough last season; He’s been a major threat to speed for days, but he hasn’t shown he can run a variety of routes with great success. The Saints will soon be hosting Hyatt for a pre-design visit to get a better idea of where its ceiling might sit.
The story goes on
McGuinness has an interesting choice. Henley is one of the most athletic linebackers in this draft class, having clocked the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds at 225 pounds. He was also good at his jumps and that explosive ability is clearly visible on his tape. Teams have exploited him in cover, but he has performed well as a pass rusher and is very effective on run defense.
Of those two options, we’d probably go with Henley. Hyatt offers nothing the Saints don’t already have in Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed. Henley adds athleticism to the depth chart at Linebacker and he has a lot of experience running with the special teams. With quality coaching, he can apply for an entry-level job as soon as Demario Davis is ready to make it a career.
Racer selection: LB Nick Herbig, Wisconsin
McGuinness selection: QB Tanner McKee, Stanford
Linebacker is a bit of a necessity for New Orleans. Pete Werner missed some time with injuries in his first two years, making Demario Davis the only reliable player with a lot of experience on the depth chart. So, to that end, it would make sense to target Herbig in the third round of Renner’s mock draft. Like Henley, he has experience on special teams, but more importantly, he was very effective as a pass rusher from the edge (and he’s a good size at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds).
But that brings us to McKee. PFF has touted his draft stick for too long, confusing his bad habit of checking the ball too short off the sticks for quick processing and a quick deduction. He’s not a good passer and shouldn’t be considered in the first three rounds of this year’s draft.
Honestly, none of these tips would be good for New Orleans. Herbig is exactly the kind of player that the Saints can’t already use in Zack Baun. McKee would be a waste of a roster spot behind Derek Carr and Jameis Winston, with little room for growth in his game. Both analysts need to bring this round back to the drawing board.
Story originally appeared on Saints Wire