Adam Forsythe / March 2, 2022
The 2022 NFL Scouting Combine kicks off this week, allowing some of this year’s top prospects to show off their skills on the gridiron. On-field workouts are scheduled to begin on Thursday, so there is still time to put together a pre-combine mock draft for the New Orleans Saints before prospects start moving up and down the team’s draft board.
For this mock draft, I proposed that the Saints retained QB Jameis Winston, FS Marcus Williams, and WR Deonte Harty as key free agents. However, I also assumed that the Saints were unable to resign free agents LT Terron Armstead, WR Tre’Quan Smith, and DB PJ Williams.
Here is my first mock draft of the season, dictating how I believe the Saints will spend their 8 selections in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Round 1, Pick 18: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
The offensive side of the ball struggled mightily throughout the 2021 season. Across the offense, the wide receiver group seemed to struggle the most, mostly due to the season-long absence of former All-Pro WR Michael Thomas. Without Thomas on the field in 2021, the Saints’ desperate need for en elite playmaker was evident. Enter, Jameson Williams.
The former Alabama wide receiver is a very smooth route-runner who, once he gets the ball, is quite a slippery target for defenders to bring down. Those skills paired with his deep threat capabilities make him dangerous from any point on the field. Williams proved how electric he can be in 2021 as he hauled in 79 receptions for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The most obvious red flag for Williams is the ACL injury he suffered in the National Championship matchup against Georgia. The recovery time for this type of injury is long, which makes it even more unfortunate that it occurred in Alabama’s final game of the season. Williams underwent surgery for the ACL tear and it reportedly ahead of schedule in his recovery.
Williams’ injury is certainly a situation to monitor, however, it shouldn’t deter the Saints from calling his name on draft night. With Michael Thomas making his long-awaited return, the Saints could select a top-tier talent like Williams despite the lack of certainty regarding his week 1 availability.
Round 2, Pick 49: OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
In the second round, the Saints look to fill the hole left by the potential departure of long-time left tackle Terron Armstead. Central Michigan OT Bernhard Raimann could be a prospect who could do just that.
The Austrian-native was a former TE who converted to LT in 2020, so he is still very raw at the position. His experience and athleticism as a former TE is evident in his play. However, he has shown some inconsistencies in his play that were highlighted in the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl. Despite plenty of hype leading up to the Senior Bowl, Raimann didn’t quite live up to the high expectations. That isn’t to say that Raimann will struggle in the NFL. Raimann could benefit greatly from recently hired Saints OL coach, Doug Marrone.
Round 3, Pick 100: TE Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State
The Saints continue to build up the offensive side of the ball with the first of their two 3rd round picks by selecting TE Jeremy Ruckert.
Ruckert is not an electrifying athlete at the TE position, but he can be a solid option in a team’s passing game. Furthermore, Ruckert has also proven that he can hold his own as a blocker.
The breakout that the Saints and many fans were hoping for from current TE Adam Trautman didn’t quite culminate in 2021, leaving the possibility of the team adding another piece to the tight end room. Ruckert has the potential to be an upgrade over Trautman, altough he had limited production in a crowded Ohio State offense that featured two likely first-round receivers in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.
Despite his limited opportunities in college, Ruckert made the most of it by recording a catch percentage of 65% en route to 309 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.
Round 3, Pick 113: CB Coby Bryant, Cincinnati
To wrap up their pair of third round selections, the Saints swap over to the defensive side of the ball and pick former Cincinnati CB Coby Bryant.
In the NFL, teams can never have enough cornerbacks. After star corner Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo, who enjoyed a solid rookie campaign in 2021, the Saints could look to add depth at the position, especially if they elect to let free agent PJ Williams test the open market.
Bryant spent five seasons with the Bearcats where he intercepted opposing quarterbacks nine times over his tenure. Those five seasons in Cincinnati provided Bryant with the opportunity to develop his football IQ and instincts, an opportunity that Bryant capitalized on. Bryant also has good size standing at 6’1″ and weighing 191 lbs.
The former Bearcat impressed teams at the Senior Bowl and earned the award for top defensive back of the week during his time in Mobile. If Bryant continues to impress at the combine this week, he likely will go much earlier than pick 113.
Round 4, Pick 136: IDL John Ridgeway, Arkansas
After taking three consecutive offensive players, the Saints double dip on defense and select John Ridgeway out of Arkansas.
Defensive tackle is not a glaring need for the New Orleans Saints, but it is certainly an area that could benefit from rotational depth.
John Ridgeway could be a nice addition to a defensive line rotation that already includes Marcus Davenport, Cam Jordan, Payton Turner, and David Onyemata. Ridgeway was invited to the 2022 Senior Bowl and made the most of his opportunity, catching the attention of several NFL coaches and GMs.
The Saints have proven successful at developing defensive linemen. Ridgeway only notched two sacks and four tackles for loss with the Razorbacks in 2021, but his talent may be one that the Saints coaches can capitalize on.
Round 5, Pick 160: RB Zamir White, Georgia
The Saints return to the offensive side of the ball in this mock draft with the selection of Georgia RB Zamir White.
Zamir White is a powerful running back that could pair nicely with the explosiveness that Alvin Kamara already brings to the table. At the time of writing this, Kamara has not yet made his court appearance for a battery charge in Las Vegas earlier this year. Adding another running back to the team may become a necessity depending on the verdict of the hearing.
White gained over 2,000 yards on the ground and scored 25 times during his tenure with the Bulldogs. White is not much of a factor in the passing game, but the Saints likely won’t be asking him to take on that type of role. Another potential red flag is White’s injury history. He suffered a torn right ACL in 2017 and a torn left ACL in 2018, which may scare some teams away. I believe that selecting White is certainly worth considering for the Saints on day three of the NFL Draft.
Round 6, Pick 213: IOL Chris Paul, Tulsa
The city of New Orleans gets the opportunity to draft another athlete with the name Chris Paul, this time for the Saints.
As injuries and COVID protocols ravaged the Saints offensive line in 2021, the team learned just how valuable it is to have quality depth behind their starters. Selecting Chris Paul could add that depth to this unit.
Paul has experience at both offensive guard and offensive tackle as he spent two seasons starting at each spot. While he projects better as a guard in the NFL, that versatility and experience is extremely valuable.
Additionally, Paul spent time outside of football volunteering with groups that promote racial equality. Furthermore, he volunteered with groups like the Black Men’s Initiative and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. His off the field activism and his versatility as an offensive linemen, should be intriguing for the Saints front office.
Round 7, Pick 234: WR Tre Turner, Virginia Tech
To finish off their 2022 NFL Draft, the Saints continue to bolster their wide receiver room by adding former Virginia Tech WR Tre Turner.
Although Michael Thomas is returning to the team, and I had the Saints spending the 18th overall pick on a wide receiver, last season’s revolving door of wideouts proves that the Saints need more depth. This is why double dipping at the position is a likely scenario that the Saints could find themselves in.
Over the course of four seasons with the Hokies, Turner caught 134 passes for 2,292 yards and 14 scores while also adding four touchdowns on the ground. One of Turner’s most impressive traits is his ability to win contested deep passes. While some may use this a knock on a receiver’s ability to separate from defenders, I view it as an emphasis on his body control and concentration. This level of skill could drastically improve the Saints offense in 2022 and beyond.
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