Saints prediction: Trade up or take Verrett

I've made two predictions for the New Orleans Saints so far during the pre-draft process. And now that Round 1 is finally upon us, I'm sticking with both of them.

My official guess is that New Orleans will trade up for a dynamic receiver -- either Oregon State's Brandin Cooks or USC's Marqise Lee.

If the Saints stay put at No. 27, I'm sticking with TCU cornerback Jason Verrett as their most likely pick.

I had New Orleans moving up to No. 19 for Cooks in our ESPN NFL Nation mock draft this week. And I see the real-life Saints following suit.

The argument against such a trade is that they could wait until the middle rounds of the draft and still come away with a talented receiver since this year's class is so deep at the position. But I think the three receivers who will go in that 10-to-23 range (Beckham, Cooks and Lee) are special enough that New Orleans will consider making an aggressive move.

Cooks (5-foot-10, 189 pounds) could help fill the voids left by both Darren Sproles and Lance Moore. He's a speedy slot receiver who caught a whopping 128 passes for 1,730 yards last year.

And I'm just as high on Lee (6-0, 192), who was an absolute monster as a sophomore in 2012 before having a slightly-down year in 2013. I think he'll go higher in this draft than most are projecting.

Either player could add a needed big-play dimension to the Saints offense. And he could develop into an eventual replacement for veteran starter Marques Colston.

As for Verrett, I think he could be a great fit in the Saints defense even though he is undersized for a cornerback at 5-10, 189 pounds. Although he doesn't exactly fit the mold of the big corners that are all the rage in the NFL these days, he's a physical and feisty cornerback who could still be a big asset in press coverage in run support.

Verrett is also blazing fast. His versatility would fit well in Rob Ryan's multiple defense, which usually features five or more defensive backs on the field at once.

Once again, I didn't produce a full mock draft of my own this year. Instead, I ranked the 26 players most likely to be gone before the Saints are on the clock:

1-10 (in no specific order):

OLB Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack

WR Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans

OT Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan

QB Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles

TE Eric Ebron


DT Aaron Donald

G/OT Zack Martin

ILB C.J. Mosley

OLB Anthony Barr

CB Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert

WR Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks

S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor


CB Kyle Fuller

WR Marqise Lee

LB Ryan Shazier

QB Teddy Bridgewater

DT Louis Nix III

OT Cyrus Kouandjio