New Orleans Saints: jarvis landry

The good news for the New Orleans Saints: The wide receiver and cornerback positions appear to be the two deepest in Round 1 of this year's NFL draft.

The bad news: Half of the league seems to be in the market for those same positions.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said that by the time he gets down to teams like New Orleans at No. 27, the Carolina Panthers at No. 28 and the San Francisco 49ers at No. 30 in his mock drafts, those positions have already thinned out.

“It's funny, because those are the two deepest positions, I think, in the draft. But I keep getting there, and it's amazing how quickly the receivers and corners are going,” McShay said.

That was especially the case when McShay and fellow ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. paired together for a mock draft on Thursday night Insider. They selected a whopping nine receivers and four cornerbacks among their first 28 picks.

The receivers: Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr.,

Brandin Cooks, Jordan Matthews, Marqise Lee, Bruce Ellington, Cody Latimer (to the Saints) and Davante Adams.

The corners: Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert, Kyle Fuller and Jason Verrett.

Obviously the draft could play out much differently. But it's clear that if the Saints covet a specific player or two at those top need positions, they might have to trade up to secure them.

It might be worth it for the Saints to move up to get one of the dynamic receiver/kick returners such as Beckham, Cooks or Lee.

But the argument against doing so is that analysts and personnel people universally agree that this is one of the deepest drafts for receiver talent in years.

McShay said he believes the strength of the wide receiver class will actually be the third round and even the fourth. As of late last week, he had 21 receivers with fourth-round grades or better. And he said at least four or five others could be graded that highly by other teams.

“So if you don't get a receiver in the first, you're probably not expecting to get a guy who's gonna come in and be an immediate starter (later in the draft),” McShay said. “But I think there's a number of guys in the second, third and fourth that could come in and make an immediate contribution.”

As of late last week, McShay had first-round grades on Watkins, Evans, Beckham, Cooks, Lee, Latimer and Kelvin Benjamin. Then he projected Adams, Jarvis Landry and Matthews as solid second-rounders.

Then he continued his list with Ellington, Paul Richardson, Martavis Bryant, Brandon Coleman, Allen Robinson, Robert Herron, Donte Moncrief, Kevin Norwood, Jalen Saunders, Josh Huff and Mike Davis.

McShay's brief reviews of the 6-foot, 205-pound Landry and the 6-2, 221-pound Moncrief were particularly interesting -- especially to New Orleans-area readers since they're from neighboring schools LSU and Ole Miss, respectively:

“Jarvis Landry, I'd have a first-round grade on him if he could run. His times are so poor. But he's a great slot receiver, tough-guy football player,” McShay said.

He later added, “Donte Moncrief did not play all that well this past year. But if you're a metrics guy, he's the first pick of the draft. One of the most impressive workout freaks that you've ever seen at the wide receiver position.”

Beckham, Landry meet with Saints

April, 10, 2014
BATON ROUGE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints' trip to LSU’s pro day didn’t end with the on-field workouts Wednesday. LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said he was planning to have dinner with Saints officials on Wednesday night. And Beckham’s father told The Advocate that fellow LSU receiver Jarvis Landry was also scheduled to dine with the Saints.

It’s possible that Saints officials spent extra time with other LSU prospects, as well. As usual, the Saints’ entire coaching staff and front office was out in full force at the Tigers’ pro day, just an hour up the road in Baton Rouge.

But Beckham and Landry must be particularly intriguing prospects for the Saints. A case could be made that the receiver position should rank No. 1 on New Orleans’ wish list now that Marques Colston is the only veteran left on the current roster.

The Saints could use a dynamic athlete to help stretch the field immediately. And they’ll eventually need a replacement for Colston, too.

Beckham would be the most tantalizing option – a speedy athlete who could also serve as a dynamic punt returner. Plus, he was raised in New Orleans and said it’s a “surreal feeling” to even think about getting to play in his hometown.

However, most analysts project that he won’t be around when the Saints pick at No. 27. And Beckham’s impressive performance in pass-catching drills Wednesday only strengthened his case.

Landry also strengthened his draft stock on Wednesday by running the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds (according to LSU). That was a marked and much-needed improvement over his surprisingly slow time of 4.77 seconds at the NFL scouting combine in February.

Landry’s showing could help strengthen his case to be a second-round draft choice.
The New Orleans Saints are packing in a lot of draft research this week at one of their top positions of need -- wide receiver.

On Tuesday, USC’s Marqise Lee was at the Saints’ practice facility for a pre-draft visit. On Wednesday, the Saints will travel an hour up the road to Baton Rouge for LSU’s pro day, where they’ll get a closer look at Tigers receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, among others.

The Saints always bring their full contingent of coaches and scouts to LSU’s pro day because of the proximity and their close relationship with the school. But they might be even more interested this year than most because of the receiver duo.

[+] EnlargeLSU
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesLSU's Jarvis Landry ran the 40-yard dash in 4.77 seconds at the NFL combine in February. He'll try to improve on that time at LSU's pro day.
Buzz around Beckham: Beckham would seem to be an ideal fit for the Saints, since he could add a much-needed explosive element to both their offense and their punt return game. The only problem is that Beckham probably won’t last to New Orleans’ first-round pick at No. 27.

Beckham (5-foot-11, 198 pounds) cemented his status as a first-round pick -- and possibly even a top-20 pick -- with an impressive performance in February at the NFL scouting combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds.

Chances are, Beckham will stand on most of his workout numbers there and simply use the afternoon at LSU’s campus as a meet-and-greet session.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Beckham has a lot going for him. In addition to being an “explosive talent” who causes problems for defenses because of his ability to accelerate, Kiper Jr. said everything from Beckham’s “hands, his character, his attitude, his approach is outstanding.”

Beckham caught 59 passes for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns last season, setting the LSU single-season record with 2,222 all-purpose yards.

Lee under the radar? While the buzz seems to be growing with Beckham, it has seemed to fade around Lee ever since his sensational sophomore season of 2012.

That year, Lee was a first-team All-American and the winner of the Biletnikoff award as the nation’s top receiver. He caught an astounding 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns two years ago, while also serving as an explosive kickoff returner.

However, the 5-11, 192-pounder had a quiet junior season in 2013, in part because of a nagging left knee injury that sidelined him for three games. Lee caught just 57 passes for 791 yards and four touchdowns last season, and struggled at times with dropped passes.

Then Lee posted a decent but not-so-dynamic time of 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine, which seemed to move him a few spots down in everyone’s mock drafts.

The Saints would probably love it if Lee fell to them at No. 27 -- though that still seems like a long shot based on what Lee has proven he can do on the field. He has drawn comparisons to the New York Giants’ Victor Cruz.

“Lee is the kind of receiver you draft with slight questions on ceiling but a high degree of certainty regarding immediate impact,” Kiper Jr. wrote.

Another receiver expected to be drafted in the mid-to-late first round is Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, another dynamic speedster who projects as more of a slot receiver because of his size (5-10, 189).

And Florida State’s bigger, more physical receiver Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 240) is projected by many analysts as a first-round possibility.

If the Saints don’t land a receiver in Round 1, however, LSU’s Landry could be an attractive option at the end of Round 2.

Big day for Landry: Landry (6-0, 205) was the first receiver Kiper Jr. mentioned when asked about second-round possibilities on a recent conference call.

Landry hurt his stock when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.77 seconds at the combine. But he showed a good combination of speed and physical toughness in college and was actually more productive than Beckham last season, with a team-high 77 catches for 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Landry will certainly use today’s showcase as a chance to run a faster 40-yard dash and try and raise his stock heading into next month’s draft. ESPN analyst and former general manager Bill Polian said during the combine that it would be important for Landry to do so.

“It’d be hard for me to believe that’s his real time, having seen him play,” Polian told The Advocate at the time. “That aside, it’s only important if he doesn’t come back and do a lot better at his pro day.”

Mettenberger on display: The biggest buzz from LSU’s pro day will likely be generated by quarterback Zach Mettenberger. The 6-5, 224-pounder will show off his big arm in front of scouts and coaches for the first time since his January surgery to repair a torn ACL.

Mettenberger isn’t completely recovered yet, but he hopes to impress teams with how well he’s progressing. And he could help boost his chances of becoming a second-round draft pick. Stay tuned for reports from his workout Wednesday.