New Orleans Saints: odell beckham jr.

METAIRIE, La. -- Thanks for all of your New Orleans Saints questions on Twitter this week. Send 'em my way any time @MikeTriplett.

This week's mailbag was loaded with good questions, so I broke it into two parts. Check out Part 1, which focused heavily on money matters.

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.
After parting ways with Darren Sproles and Lance Moore this offseason, the New Orleans Saints no longer have any experienced punt returners on the roster.

Third-year running back Travaris Cadet has shown some ability as a kickoff returner over the past two years, and the Saints may try him out in the punt-return job, as well. Or they might make a kick returner a priority in the draft.

New Orleans could certainly use some more juice in their return game after being middle-of-the-road in that area in recent years, even when Sproles was around.

The Saints could go one of two routes in the draft. They could target a top wide receiver that is capable of playing a dual role, or they could snag one of the top pure returners in the middle or later rounds.

If they choose the first route, three receivers could potentially fit the bill in Round 1: LSU's Odell Beckham Jr., USC's Marqise Lee and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks. All three of those prospects would be worthy of the Saints' pick at No. 27 based on their receiving ability alone, since a big-play receiver ranks among New Orleans' top needs.

Of those three, only Beckham was a standout punt returner in college, averaging more than nine yards per return over his final two seasons, with two touchdown returns in 2012. Cooks was a part-time punt returner last year, while Lee was more of a kickoff return specialist with two career kickoff returns for touchdowns.

Later in the draft, ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said there are two players that stand out above all others as the best return men in this year's class -- Kent State's Dri Archer and Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas.

"Those are the two guys who jump out. Tremendous versatility," Kiper said. "I also think John Brown is an underrated guy, a sleeper type out of Pittsburgh State. Returned punts, kicks, did a great job, also caught the ball very well, was explosive."

All three of those dual runner/receiver types could also serve as some fun new toys for Saints coach Sean Payton to work with on offense now that Sproles is gone.

Thomas (5-foot-9, 174 pounds) is the most well-known of the bunch, having starred as an all-purpose threat for the Ducks for three years. Thomas scored 18 touchdowns in both 2011 and 2012 (including at least one rushing TD, receiving TD, kickoff return TD and punt return TD during his sophomore year). He battled an ankle injury last year and finished with only 11 total touchdowns.

Thomas ran a surprisingly "slow" 40-yard dash time of 4.50 seconds at the NFL scouting combine but bounced back with a reported time of 4.39 at Oregon's pro day.

Archer, meanwhile, dropped jaws with his time of 4.26 seconds at the combine -- one of the fastest in history. The 5-foot-8, 173-pounder was mostly a kickoff returner in college but could potentially do both in the pros. Like Thomas, he had his best year in 2012 with 23 total touchdowns before an ankle injury limited him to 11 total touchdowns as a senior.

Brown (5-foot-10, 179) had three punt return touchdowns and two kickoff return touchdowns in his career, while also serving as one of Division II's top wide receivers. He caught 61 passes for 1,198 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. He ran the 40 in 4.34 seconds at the combine.

Kiper's Mock 3.0: Saints

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
Free agency hasn't helped much when it comes to narrowing down the New Orleans Saints' draft-day targets. It's probably a safe bet now that they won't draft a safety in Round 1, since they're set with last year's first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro and blockbuster free-agent signing Jairus Byrd. But a number of positions could still be in play at No. 27 for a New Orleans team that always likes to select the highest-rated player on its board, regardless of position.

The Saints will still likely address one or two of their most pressing needs in free agency so they can think more long-term with their draft picks.

For now, though, I still see cornerback as the Saints' biggest need overall, so TCU's Jason Verrett and Ohio State's Bradley Roby could make a lot of sense. And the Saints definitely need some new, young dynamic playmakers on offense after parting ways with running back Darren Sproles and receiver Lance Moore. So speedy receivers such as LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks could be very attractive.

But the Saints won't reach for those spots if they have a higher grade on someone such as Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Auburn pass-rusher Dee Ford or Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses (especially if they don't re-sign veteran free agent Zach Strief).

Check out ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's Mock Draft 3.0 Insider to see where he thinks the Saints might go with that No. 27 pick.

A receiver for Saints in Round 1?

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
The highly-touted wide receiver class lived up the hype this weekend at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. With so many prospects expected to be worthy of first-round grades this year, I could absolutely see the Saints taking a receiver in Round 1 of this year's draft.

As I write every year, I don't think the Saints will lock themselves into any one positional need in the draft -- especially not all the way down at pick No. 27. But I do think the receiver position will rank among their top draft priorities. I think they could use more of a dynamic speed element in the short term. And they'll need to restock the position in the future with longtime veterans like Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Robert Meachem getting older.

That's why I think the draft makes even more sense than free agency for the Saints when it comes to the receiver position.

Even before the combine workouts began, many analysts were talking about this being a deep draft class for wide receiver talent. Then the buzz only grew louder once the prospects went through their drills -- as you can read here in these breakdowns from ESPN's NFL Insider John Clayton and's Jets reporter Rich Cmini.

LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. and Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews were two prospects, in particular, who reportedly strengthened their case to be drafted in Round 1 with impressive 40-yard dash times, among other drills. If they're too impressive, they might wind up being taken even before the Saints get a crack at them. Nevertheless, the overall depth at a need position is a good thing.

Beckham is a particularly intriguing prospect in New Orleans since he brings that dynamic speed element -- and because Saints fans are so familiar with his work from just down the road in Baton Rouge. Beckham ran the 40 in 4.43 seconds.

LSU's other top receiver prospect Jarvis Landry didn't fare as well this weekend after reportedly pulling a hamstring. The Times-Picayune's Jim Kleinpeter broke down their performances.