Sean Payton might no longer coach the Saints, but GM Mickey Loomis and new coach Dennis Allen continue to make aggressive moves with the team’s draft picks. They pulled off the first big picks-only trade in this year’s cycle, sending first- (18th overall), third- (101) and seventh-rounders (237) in 2022, as well as a 2023 first-round pick and 2024 second-rounder to Philadelphia for two of the Eagles’ three first-round picks (Nos. 16, 19) this year, as well as a sixth-rounder (194).
While the trade appears somewhat lop-sided in a vacuum, New Orleans might be banking on recouping some or all of that lost value via compensation from another franchise interested down the line in hiring Payton, who is still under contract with the Saints.
This four-round mock draft rolls with the idea the Saints are packaging their newly acquired first-rounders to move into the top five for a future signal-caller. They could wait for a quarterback to fall to them at No. 16 or trade into a lower spot in the top 10 for the apple of their eye, but that approach invites competition from other teams looking at those same prospects.
Interestingly, the last time a “two-for-one” trade of current-year first-round selections happened was 2003, when the Jets and Saints both pulled off the feat to move up to No. 4 (Dewayne Robertson) and No. 6 (Johnathan Sullivan), respectively.
This mock follows the script from 19 years ago, with another team joining the Saints in sending its two first-rounders to climb up the draft board.
The Jaguars have a tough choice in front of them, but for now, I’ll stick with the athletic, determined Hutchinson over fellow pass rushers Travon Walker and Kayvon Thibodeaux, as well as offensive lineman Ickey Ekwonu.
Detroit could take Travon Walker or Kayvon Thibodeaux with this pick, but Willis is the player who would make the biggest impact on the future of the franchise. His playmaking ability and personality will allow him to lead the Lions to a playoff win during his career, something missing from their résumé for the past 30 years.
Ickey will be a dominant guard or could step in at right tackle this year with a potential move to the left side when Laremy Tunsil is no longer in Houston.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH NEW YORK JETS
The Seahawks trade ahead of Carolina and New Orleans, giving up their 2023 first-round pick and a 2022 fifth-rounder for one of the Jets’ two fourth-rounders (No. 111). Corral’s toughness and quick release might be more enticing to NFL teams than they are to those who cover the league.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH NEW YORK GIANTS
The Saints move up to take whichever of the top three passers are available in a deal similar to the one San Francisco made last year to select Trey Lance at No. 3 overall. Pickett’s experience, athleticism and accuracy from the pocket should allow him to have at least a Derek Carr-level NFL career. Veteran passer Andy Dalton, the team’s current QB2, gets bitten again, just one year after signing with the Bears to be their starter only to see them trade up for Justin Fields one month later.
If the Panthers don’t jump to Houston’s pick (No. 3), then a trade for veteran Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield seems likely (which might have been the team’s plan all along). Neal’s huge frame bolsters Carolina’s left tackle spot for whomever takes over QB1 duties.
Imagine Thibodeaux’s strength and bend coming off the same side of the line as Leonard Williams or crashing inside on a twist with Dexter Lawrence. … Offensive linemen won’t know what to do.
It will be interesting to see if Atlanta goes with a receiver or Walker in this situation, as the team’s depth chart is severely lacking at both positions. Walker’s strength, length and inside-out versatility might win out, though, with the Falcons more likely to find good value at receiver in the second round.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Gardner’s tape was very good (even though he wasn’t tested often because of his talent) and his combine workout sealed the top-10 deal. The Jets need playmakers in the secondary, so his length and tenacity should be coveted.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH NEW YORK JETS
The Eagles had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL last year. Davis immediately rectifies that issue with his block-out-the-sun build. GM Howie Roseman continues his wheeling-and-dealing ways, giving up third- and fifth-round picks to move up five spots for Davis.
Whether it’s the lean, speedy Wilson or the tall, agile Drake London, Commanders lead receiver Terry McLaurin applauds the addition of anyone who can free him up downfield. Don’t think he’d mind having another former Buckeye as a running mate.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH MINNESOTA VIKINGS
GM Kevin Colbert was willing to give up second- and third-round picks to move up 10 spots to No. 10 overall for linebacker Devin Bush in 2019. So it’s not a stretch to think he would give up a future first- and third-rounder (equivalent value to those aforementioned current-year selections) for a quarterback with maturity, poise and striding open-field speed like Ridder.
Getting offensive line help with the third overall pick means new coach Lovie Smith can find a pass rusher here. Johnson’s transfer from Georgia to Florida State last summer helped him showcase his power and hustle on the edge.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH BALTIMORE RAVENS
The Chiefs package the 29th and 30th overall selections and send them to the Ravens for the right to draft Williams. (They also receive one of Baltimore’s five fourth-rounders in the trade.) The Alabama receiver would likely have been a top-10 pick if healthy and, when back at 100 percent, will be a terror catching passes from Patrick Mahomes.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
London’s combination of size and agility makes him a bargain at this spot. The Jets would likely take him if they stayed at No. 10, as his tools complement Braxton Berrios and Elijah Moore quite well.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
With the first of the two mid-first-round picks gained in the Saints trade (sending their fourth-round pick back to New Orleans to equalize value), the Giants land an excellent corner in Stingley — if he’s able to return to his 2019 form. This assumes James Bradberry will be dealt before or during the draft.
The Chargers need to shore up the right side of the offensive line. Even if they think Trey Pipkins or Storm Norton can be the answer at right tackle, Penning’s athleticism and nasty streak could make him a very good right guard (where he played about 100 snaps at Northern Iowa in his career). Or he could play right tackle if given the chance to compete for that role. Another possibility would be picking Zion Johnson and plugging him in at guard.
The Eagles take advantage of teams’ “positional value” knock on safeties, much like the Chargers did when landing Derwin James at No. 17 overall four years ago. Hamilton’s athleticism is not as impressive as James’, but his intelligence and big range in the back half will make him an excellent addition to Philadelphia’s secondary.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Draft analysts are split on Cross: Some believe he is a top-10 pick while others think he would be a better value in the lower-third of the round. I think he’ll fall somewhere in the middle. In this scenario, the Giants nab him and install him on the right side of the line to start his career.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH PITTSBURGH STEELERS
If the Vikings stayed at No. 12, they’d probably still take Lloyd because he fits a strong need inside as they transition to a 3-4 system. He can do a bit of everything, even though he doesn’t test off the charts athletically.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
There will be many suitors for the Patriots’ pick, and the Packers understand they can’t just sit back at No. 22 and wait for the top players on their board to fall into their laps. Whether they pick a receiver at No. 21 or a strong edge rusher like Karlaftis, moving into this spot prevents others from jumping ahead of them.
Trading Davante Adams and failing to re-sign Marquez Valdes-Scantling means there’s a big hole on the Packers’ roster. Olave’s smooth speed fills part of that need, as will any acquired veteran free agents, pass-catchers selected later in this draft and, as I’m sure Green Bay hopes, last year’s third-rounder, Amari Rodgers.
Adding Burks to a receiver room that already includes DeAndre Hopkins and Rondale Moore makes the Cardinals much more dangerous over the next couple of seasons.
Johnson’s a nice fit as a strong left guard for Dallas, possessing the versatility to play tackle or center in a pinch.
McDuffie is not the tallest (5-foot-10 3/4 at the combine) or longest (29 3/4-inch arms) corner in the draft. In fact, no corner with that lack of length has been drafted in the first round the past 20 years. Teams should upend that trend, though, and pick him in the top 25 because of his strong play in coverage and against the run.
Forget the comparisons to Baker Mayfield and Mitch Trubisky — they’re not representative of Howell’s ability. Tennessee could be the next team to select a quarterback with a veteran already in place (Patrick Mahomes/Alex Smith in Kansas City; Jordan Love/Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay; Trey Lance/Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco), as Ryan Tannehill‘s up-and-down 2021 performance might very well still be weighing on their minds.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Jets’ extra draft capital allows them to move back into the first round to find their defensive leader in Dean. New York gives up second-, fourth- and fifth-round picks in this trade, which the Buccaneers happily accept knowing they can get similar cornerback or edge rusher value with the 35th overall selection.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH GREEN BAY PACKERS
The deal with Miami for receiver DeVante Parker makes it even more likely the Pats trade out of their scheduled pick. Bill Belichick will gladly accept a third- and fourth-round pick from Green Bay to move down seven spots. New England could select Daxton Hill at this spot but Belichick might appreciate Pitre’s strength against the run and ability as a blitzer, as well as his movement in coverage.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Baltimore needs a new center after letting Bradley Bozeman walk, and Linderbaum’s a much better value here than at No. 14. The team hit a home run with Iowa lineman Marshal Yanda years ago, so picking up this Hawkeye seems like a natural fit.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Booth’s a top-20 talent who is still available because of injuries. The Ravens simply need more bodies at cornerback, so they take a shot on his athleticism and nasty attitude outside.
Wyatt could go much higher come April 28, but in this scenario, the Bengals would pinch themselves if a stud three-technique was available to take over for free agent Larry Ogunjobi.
Head coach Dan Campbell spoke at the NFL Scouting Combine about the Lions’ defense becoming more multiple in its fronts next year. Jackson can rush the passer and play the run both with his hand down or in a two-point stance, giving him the versatility required for such a scheme change.
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