New Orleans Saints: antonio richardson

ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both chose an offensive tackle for the New Orleans Saints in their latest mock drafts. Kiper stuck Insider with Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson, whom he also had in his first mock draft last month. McShay went with Insider Virginia’s Morgan Moses.

I found it interesting that both Kiper and McShay specifically identified the left tackle position as a top need. The Saints are obviously high on the potential of last year's third-round draft pick, Terron Armstead, who was impressive in the playoffs after taking over the left tackle job late in the season.

However, the Saints could obviously stockpile some more talent at the position, in general. Starting right tackle Zach Strief and backup Charles Brown could both leave in free agency. That would make Armstead the most experienced player at the position -- with just four career starts under his belt.

Kiper mentioned that Richardson could also fit at right tackle when I asked him if he thought Armstead could be the long-term answer for the Saints at left tackle:

“Could be. He certainly could be," Kiper said of Armstead. "And you obviously look at the right tackle position as well. So it’s not just one tackle spot you have to be concerned with. Armstead’s a guy who showed remarkable potential and long-term ability coming out of a small college program. So yeah, I think he could be.

"And certainly if you look at the Saints, you think about the secondary and cornerback, could use an outside linebacker as well opposite [Junior] Galette. Dee Ford from Auburn could certainly be in that discussion; he had a big Senior Bowl week. Antonio Richardson, the offensive tackle from Tennessee, a left tackle, could be an ideal right tackle and a great fit at the right tackle position; he could also be in the mix.”

I don’t think the Saints will reach for an offensive tackle solely out of need. But I certainly think they will pounce on one if he is the highest-rated prospect on their board.

Richardson (6-foot-6, 327 pounds) and Moses (6-6, 332) are both among the bigger tackle prospects in this year’s class, and both are described as athletic for their size. Kiper describes Richardson as more of a developmental prospect who was inconsistent in college -- but he believes his high ceiling will impress scouts during pre-draft workouts. McShay said Moses appeared to be more comfortable last year at left tackle after beginning his career as a right tackle.

Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Saints

January, 15, 2014
Mel Kiper Jr. Insider has the New Orleans Saints selecting massive Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio “Tiny” Richardson with the 27th pick in his first mock draft. And the pick certainly makes a lot of sense -- especially if the Saints are unable to re-sign veteran right tackle Zach Strief in free agency.

Richardson was a two-year starter at left tackle for the Vols before leaving school early. But with his size (6-foot-6, 327 pounds) and strength, Richardson could certainly project as a right tackle in the NFL. He's also battle-tested, having faced some of the top pass-rushers in the country in the SEC (including two battles against South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney). Reportedly, Richardson held his own against Clowney in 2012 before struggling in the rematch last season.

The offensive line will rank among the Saints' top needs in the draft this year, whether or not they re-sign pending free agents Strief and center Brian de la Puente. I think the Saints will stick with rookie Terron Armstead as their left tackle for the future after his strong finish to this past season. But they need to start developing some young talent at every other position across the line.

However, I don't see the Saints locking themselves into any one specific need this far down in the draft order. Other strong possibilities could include cornerback, outside linebacker and receiver, among others.