Saints Fill a Major Hole; Take Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga + Day Two Prospects to Watch

Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga (75) looks on as the No. 23 Oregon State Beavers face the Washington Huskies in a Pac-12 football game at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022.

Sometimes the obvious choice isn’t the wrong one. Amidst the bleak offensive line news the team has received in the past few weeks – it became inevitable that this is the direction the Saints would go.

Taliese Fuaga fits exactly the profile of the player the Saints need along their depleted offensive line. At 6’6, 324 lbs, he plays with extreme power in the run game while also being technically sound in pass protection. This pick is not going to be a franchise changer, but Fuaga’s high floor makes him a safe bet to be a very good player at the next level. He possesses good strength combined with an outstanding 9.63 RAS (Relative Athletic Score) which, combined with incredible technique as a pass protector, gives him positional versatility at both tackle and guard spots. His incredible performance versus Laiatu Latu, who the Colts took with the very next pick at 15, when the two faced each other this past season shows all of the reasons that he can certainly be an effective tackle at the next level. He also got him again in one of the many good pieces of film from The Senior Bowl this past February.

The limitations begin with his arm length and foot speed. 33 1/8” arms are less than the threshold than you’d like, and this can leave him susceptible to getting beaten by quicker EDGE rushers – something he will see a lot of in the NFL. His foot speed can sometimes come off as delayed in his pass sets and, while he moves very well in space, he can get beaten laterally at times when climbing to the next level in run fits. Despite all of this, he still finds a way to win constantly, and this can be attributed to his IQ and understanding of how to approach different situations. The game seems slow for him, and his ability to correctly read different blocking scenarios makes him position-less in some ways because there isn’t much he isn’t capable of.

All in all, this is definitely not the most exciting pick the Saints could have made. With Dallas Turner still available, I’m not sure his was the best player available for the team in this spot either. However, for how desperate the team is to find answers at offensive line in both pass protection and run blocking, this is a perfect player that will immediately improve both facets. He is also a scheme fit coming from an offense that was one of the heavier-wide zone oriented attacks nationwide.

Day Two Players to Watch

Texas Receiver Adonai Mitchell (5); CREDIT (University of Texas Athletics)

Every year after the conclusion of the first round, there are still a litany of players available that were thought to have been first round picks by many pundits. This year is no different, there are still plenty of players that would warrant either a selection at 45 or even a potential trade up. There are also others that will be worth attempting to get back into the top 100 for. Lets take a look at some potential targets that the team should be looking for on the second day of the draft.

Should be gone tier:

  • Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas
  • Kool-Aid Mckinstry, CB, Alabama
  • Jackson Powers-Johnson, IOL, Oregon
  • Johnny Newton, DL, Illinois
  • Cooper DeJean, DB, Iowa

In this tier, one names stands above the rest when addressing the Saints’s biggest fits going into this draft. If somehow they were able to land Adonai Mitchell, their draft haul already is a success, and the Fuaga pick goes from a B-B+ to an A in my book. I had him as a ‘day two option’ in my “Prospect Watch” piece a few weeks back, prefacing that there was a very small chance that he makes it through day one, but now that he has, this is a prime trade up target if he makes it past the first few picks.

The next player that makes the most sense of the five is Jer’zhan “Johnny” Newton out of Illinois. Pairing Newton with Brian Breese for the Saints would give you two dynamic pass rushers on the interior of your defensive line, which is an intriguing though. Newton is an athletic and instinctive player who fits the mold of a modern defensive lineman and would also be an intriguing trade up option.

Stay put tier:

  • Keon Coleman, WR, FSU
  • Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia
  • Chris Braswell, EDGE, Alabama
  • Braden Fiske, DL, FSU

I believe all or most of these players would be available if the choice was to stay put at 45. Keon Coleman immediately stands out because just from a flat objective look, he looks every bit the part of a receiver that would not make it through the first round ever. 6’3, 213 lbs, with a 38-inch vertical and loads of tape of him absolutely dominating at the catch point in college would suggest him being amongst the elite receivers of this class. However, a 40-time in the 4.6s and some concerns around his ability to separate at the next level dropped him out of day one – but still would be a very good fit for what the Saints need at the position.

Braswell and Fiske give you more athleticism on the defensive line, and, while McConkey isn’t ideally what the Saints would be looking for at receiver, he’s still a fantastic football player that would be a justified pick in this spot.

Trade down tier:

  • Jaden Hicks, S, Washington State
  • Malachi Corley, WR, Western Kentucky
  • Ja’Lynn Polk, WR, Washington
  • Khyree Jackson, CB, Oregon

One way of acquiring another day two selection would be a rare New Orleans Saints trade down from pick 45. I believe these four will be available past that selection, and I think it would open up an opportunity to justify a pick in the secondary at that point. Hicks and Jackson both fit the size and physical description that the Saints like in their DBs (both 6’1+). In terms of need, Hicks would be easier to see because the team is still looking for a Marcus Maye replacement and depth at box safety.

Corley and Polk are both very different players, but either would add to what the Saints need in their receiver room. Corley, better known as the “YAC King,” has been a popular name linked to New Orleans in the draft process. His ability to be dynamic after the catch and his running back-like build drew comparisons to 49ers receiver, Deebo Samuel, who their new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak worked closely with last year – and would be an intriguing fit in his new offense. Polk is a bigger and more of a jump ball receiver who was very productive alongside Rome Odunze last year at Washington. Both, again, fit the mold of what the Saints need more at receiver.

It is tough to project the deeper options that will be available to the team in rounds two and three because they don’t have a selection from pick 45 to pick 149. I expect a trade up at some point tonight, but it won’t be clear what they are looking for prior to their second round pick. With so many needs still unaddressed for the Saints, they have loads of options with a lot of good players still available after the first 32 picks.

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