First, it appears I failed to provide any highlights of our first two picks in my last post. Let me rectify that now:
Now, let’s look at the Saints’ final three draft picks, as well as a couple of highlights among the undrafted free agent class.
Round 6, Pick 177 – S Saquon Hampton, Rutgers
Unfortunately, I didn’t know very much about Hampton, having not scouted him myself, and having read very little about him. At the time, I didn’t see much information on him from other publications or media sources, either. After doing some digging, I’ve learned that he was effective at breaking up passes while playing free safety at Rutgers, totaling 13 passes defensed and 3 interceptions his final season. The safety position is pretty deep in New Orleans right now, so Hampton will probably have to start out carving a role on special teams. Long term, though, he could be someone the team wants to use as a backup safety behind Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell.
Round 7, Pick 231 – TE Alizé Mack, Notre Dame
Mack is an intriguing prospect, a former five-star (Scout.com) recruit who never produced huge numbers in college, but has a lot of natural receiving talent, with sure hands, a strong understanding of how to attack the ball, and great route-running. He needs improvement as a blocker, and he isn’t a great runner after the catch, but he can work on those areas, and in the meantime, his receiving ability alone is strong enough that he should push Dan Arnold for a roster spot. If Mack develops as hoped, the best-case scenario is a reliable weapon from the tight end position who can make big plays downfield. He’s not the athlete Jimmy Graham is, but he has the talent to be a positive contributor in the passing game at the NFL level.
Round 7, Pick 244 – LB Kaden Elliss, Idaho
Elliss is the son of former NFL defensive tackle Luther Elliss, and while any player taken this late in the draft– especially safeties and linebackers– can be expected to primarily be special teamers, Elliss intrigues me because of his excellent athleticism (6.63 3-cone at 238 pounds) and apparent versatility. As a sophomore he intercepted five passes; as a junior he tallied six sacks, and seven more as a senior. Elliss was deployed all over the field; he’s an effective blitzer, pass defender, and tackler. While the level of competition he played against at Idaho might have caused NFL scouts to have questions, he certainly has NFL athleticism, and if he has the skills to diagnose plays effectively and disrupt them, he’s someone who could get snaps for the defense as well as on special teams as he develops.
And two undrafted players among their class who stood out to me:
RB Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska
Ozigbo had a breakout year under first-year Nebraska head coach Scott Frost; he went from averaging 3.8 yards per carry in the previous season to 7.0 last season, toting the rock 155 times for 1082 yards and 12 TDs. He showed some receiving skills, too, catching 23 passes for 203 yards.
I’m interested in him because New Orleans’ third running back job is pretty much wide open; if Ozigbo impresses, he could earn playing time as a rookie and even take snaps from Latavius Murray down the stretch. He’s a well-rounded back with big-play ability and above-average receiving ability, and there’s a chance that’s what earns him time down the stretch, as Murray isn’t much of a receiver, and being able to put Ozigbo on the field at the same time as Alvin Kamara on third downs will allow creative usage, like splitting one of them out wide, to create mismatches.
The Saints have a long history of finding productive backs in the undrafted free agent pool, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory most notably, and identifying running back talent in general. Ozigbo could be the next guy to make a significant contribution from those humble beginnings.
WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Texas
Living in Houston, I got to see a lot of Humphrey play for Texas, and he turned into a big-time playmaker his junior year, hauling in 86 receptions for 1,176 yards and 9 TDs. He’s a big receiver, at 6’4″, 225, but his 40 time at the Combine was particularly poor, at 4.75, and that alone probably caused him to go undrafted. He’s more of a big, physical receiver who wins with strength, ball awareness, and high-pointing the catch. He has a solid chance to develop into the player the Saints were hoping Brandon Coleman would become, and even, dare I say it, shares some similarities with Marques Colston.
He’ll be competing with another undrafted free agent for that role, Emmanuel Butler from Northern Arizona, but I’m a lot less familiar with his game, not getting to see much Lumberjacks football.
Next time: TBD.