The 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia gets under way exactly 2 weeks from tonight, and your New Orleans Saints are “armed” with 5 out of the first 103 picks — and an opportunity to get one step closer to what hopefully will be a return to the NFL Playoffs after a 3-year absence.
As we do at this time of the off-season every year, the Saints News Network and myself are taking a detailed look at the very latest “hot rumors” that are currently out there surrounding the Saints and what their intentions might be when the Draft gets underway on the night of April 27th.
So with out any further delay, let’s dive right into it; as I look at the latest talk that’s floating around out there about the Saints organization, and my personal take (after covering this stuff for many years) as to whether or not you can put any amount of faith into it or not.
Starting with this one:
RUMOR #1: If Cleveland takes North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky at #1, the Saints will trade up with the 49ers to the #2 spot and take Texas A&M edge rusher / defensive end Myles Garrett
TRUE OR FALSE: Maybe true, but very unlikely
This rumor began originally when ESPN’s NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that that the Cleveland Browns — who have the #1 overall pick in the Draft and a whopping 11 picks total — are actually considering passing on the consensus #1 player in the Draft, sensational Texas A&M edge rusher / defensive end Myles Garrett — in favor of North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky.
Cleveland has not made up its mind at No. 1, per source. Split opinions. Some like Myles Garrett, some like Mitchell Trubisky. We will see.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 12, 2017
Considering that Cleveland is the NFL’s worst team (1-15 last year) and needs all of the help that they can get, it seems like a really dumb move to pass on Garrett for Trubisky — an unproven signal-caller who only started 1 season for the Tarheels football program and is a part of what might be the worst Draft class for quarterbacks in recent memory.
But Cleveland has developed a reputation for making unwise or downright stupid decisions in the Draft over the most recent years (much like the Saints did early on in their past team history), so them actually taking Trubisky over Garrett certainly isn’t out of the question.
So why are the Saints even in this conversation?
Because yesterday, new San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch — whose team has the #2 overall pick right behind Cleveland — basically told everyone that the 49ers would be willing to entertain any offers that their team would get (so that they can gain additional Draft picks for themselves) from a team looking to jump up to the #2 spot to take Garrett.
#49ers GM John Lynch said he’s received calls expressing interest in No. 2 pick: “We’re open for business.”
— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) April 12, 2017
The Saints of course “could” potentially be one of those teams, since they have two 1st Round picks (#11 and #32) and also because it’s well-established that an edge rusher is probably the team’s biggest need right now; and Garrett would certainly fill that need almost immediately.
The Saints would be foolish (in my opinion) to make such a trade, only because that with this Draft said to be one of the DEEPEST on the defensive side of the football in a very long time, the Saints would be shooting themselves in the foot by giving up the 11th, the 32nd, and probably one of their two 3rd Round picks, to get Garrett.
Make no mistake: Garrett is a tremendous talent who will become an NFL “superstar” some day.
But if you’re the Saints, you DO NOT give up what potentially could be 3 “very good” players, in exchange for only one player that you hope might be “great” sometime in the future.
RUMOR #2: The Saints will PASS on taking Alabama middle linebacker Reuben Foster if he falls to #11, not because of his attitude — but because of “issues” with his ability to learn and comprehend the defensive playbook
TRUE OR FALSE: False, as far as we know
Foster, who was in town yesterday where he made a pre-Draft visit with the Saints coaching staff at the team’s Training Facility in suburban Metairie, is a player that a large portion of Saints fans (especially those who live in the great state of Alabama and that particular part of the surrounding Gulf Coast region) would like to see the team take if he somehow should still be available with their #11 overall pick in Round 1.
However, the word floating around yesterday on Social Media was that despite the Saints visiting with the talented and notoriously hard-hitting All-American middle linebacker, that New Orleans — along with the other 32 teams in the NFL — are hesitant to take Foster now over concerns that have arisen over his ability to understand and mentally comprehend a defensive playbook; the very same problems that allegedly have plagued Saints 2015 1st Round pick Stephone Amthony.
Sports Illustrated writer Robert Klemko reported that Foster had trouble back at his Pro Day a few weeks ago with diagramming plays on a dry-erase board for NFL scouts in a team meeting room, prompting some who were there to question Foster’s ability to adequately understand how to successfully defend the plays run by high-powered NFL offenses.
From Klemko’s story, this is the paragraph that allegedly has many teams suddenly now deciding to distance themselves from Foster.
The major concern with Foster for NFL teams, beyond the off-field questions, is his ability to absorb a playbook. Foster has struggled in interviews with teams who ask him to draw concepts with X’s and O’s. “I’ve been working to get better,” Foster says. “Other people learn different, other people have ADHD, or have a learning disorder. X’s and O’s on boards is hard to do for me. I second-guess myself.”
Klemko’s warning raises a lot of “red flags” for many observers, and given the Saints’ current experience surrounding Stephone Anthony — who apparently has struggled with a similar issue since the Saints selected him with the #31 overall pick in 2015 — it’s a possible situation that the Saints don’t want to find themselves having to go through once again.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban has tried to give teams reassurances that Foster can overcome any such learning deficiencies, telling Klemko that Foster performs best when watching film and learning on the field. “If you put on the film he’ll be able to tell you chapter and verse because that’s how he learned it”, Saban told Klemko.
Foster was already looked at by NFL scouts and front office personnel as being a potential “attitude problem” in the locker room (and possibly getting in trouble off the field as well), after his much-publicized incident at the NFL Combine where he engaged in a heated argument with a hospital employee while waiting in the long line for medical tests at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital.
So the recent ‘dry-erase board issues’ have only added to the craziness surrounding one of the 2017 Draft class’s most talented players.
Here’s the biggest question as far as New Orleans is concerned: would the Saints REALLY “pass” on Foster, if he falls down to #11?
From my own perspective (and this isn’t based on anything that I’ve ‘heard’ otherwise), it’s just hard to envision the Saints passing on a player who many consider to be one of the best overall players in the entire Draft; a player who’s considered a “game changer” and an All-American that many of those same NFL scouts say is the best “pure” linebacker of this Draft class.
However, it’s also a fact that the Saints likely are a bit wary given that they were just recently “burned” by the Stephone Anthony pick (remember: Anthony was also considered by many to be the best “pure” linebacker of that 2015 class), and are hesitant to re-live that experience again just 2 short years later.
IF Foster, who many still consider to be a Top 10 pick in this class, falls to New Orleans at #11; then the Saints brain-trust (Mickey Loomis, Sean Payton, and Jeff Ireland) will have a very interesting decision on their hands.
RUMOR #3: The Saints are SERIOUSLY considering taking Clemson QB Deshaun Watson if he’s still available with the #11 pick
TRUE OR FALSE: Who knows?
A long, long time ago, I learned a very valuable lesson, which was: NEVER say “never” when it comes to anything regarding the New Orleans Saints football franchise — either on the football field or behind the scenes at the team’s front office.
The ‘short but sweet’ version of this rumor is that the Saints of course will have to replace Drew Brees at QB in the not-too-distant future; once the 38-year old future Hall of Famer decides to hang up his helmet for good and retire from the sport of Pro Football.
Whether that happens as soon as the end of this season (but unlikely) or in a couple more years from now, it will happen — and the Saints know that they have to start preparing for it sooner rather than later.
Watson is said to be a player that some consider to be the best QB in this year’s class, although this year’s QB class is considered to be one of the WEAKEST classes at the quarterback position in recent memory.
The question then becomes: should the Saints (even though they know that they have to replace Brees someday) hold off until NEXT year, when they will have the opportunity to select a QB from the 2018 NFL Draft QB class — which potentially could be one of the BEST quarterback classes in recent memory?
Next year in the 2018 class, you’ll have 2 players — UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Southern California’s Sam Darnold– that are considered “franchise QB’s”.
Besides Rosen and Darnold, there are other top-notch QB’s such as Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph, University of Washington QB Jake Browning, Wyoming QB Josh Allen (who some have compared to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers), and Louisville QB Lamar Jackson.
It would appear that the Saints would be much better off waiting one more year, rather than taking a big risk on Watson.
That’s not to say that Watson won’t become a good and perhaps even a great QB someday in his own right. But a handful of NFL scouts have Watson rated as low as a 3rd Round pick, and a few also note that Watson played in a college spread offense that doesn’t correlate well to the NFL.
Therefore, as WalterFootball.com NFL Draft expert Charlie Campbell noted recently: Watson is going to need to learn working under center, operating the huddle, footwork, not having coaching boards predetermine plays, calling audibles, calling line checks, and not being a running quarterback.
Meaning that he’s a big-time “reach” for the Saints at #11, from my perspective.
You would rather wait a year and get a guy with a MUCH BETTER CHANCE of succeeding long-term; since you need a FRANCHISE QB to replace a player like Brees — and not just a guy who “might” be good at the pro level.
But again as I said before, never say never when it comes to this Saints team.
Let’s just say this much: if the Saints are smart, they’ll hold off for one more year, and then take “the next quarterback of the future” in the 2018 NFL Draft; to lead the Saints into the next chapter of New Orleans Saints football — a chapter of an on-going story that will be written without the great Drew Brees as its true-life hero.
Yes, the Saints are going to have to find another QB, and they need to find one soon. Maybe they even decide to take a shot on a not-as-highly-rated QB from this class in the 2nd or 3rd Round (like the University of Miami’s Brad Kaaya, for example) and try to develop Brees’ eventual successor that way.
But they don’t have to do it in 2 weeks from today with the #11 pick, especially when they desperately NEED to fix that godawful defense of theirs from the past 3 seasons.
The 2017 NFL Draft is now just around the corner for the New Orleans Saints and their super-passionate and hard-core, devotedly loyal fan-base.
Better go get your popcorn ready.
Or if you’re as old as I am: be ready to pour yourself a stiff drink — because you just might need one…….
Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist and Lead Analyst Barry Hirstius is a 49-year old semi-retired journalist and former New Orleans area sports Editor and Columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. Additionally, he is a frequent guest on a variety of SportsTalk Radio programs that cover the Saints. Barry is also a New Orleans native that dating all the way back to his childhood in the early 1970's, grew up as a long-time New Orleans Saints fan who followed and now covers the team for a span of over 40 plus years. Most importantly, he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.......