- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper switched his pick for the New Orleans Saints in his Mock Draft 3.0, giving them Auburn pass-rusher Dee Ford, a defensive end in college who projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.
Kiper is thinking like the Saints by plugging in his best available prospect at No. 27. Kiper had previously paired Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson with the Saints because of their need at that position. But the Saints will try to fill their pressing needs in free agency so they can go after the highest-rated prospect on their board in May, regardless of position.
Ford has been a fast riser among draft analysts since he impressed during Senior Bowl week in January. He’s a dynamic athlete who can rush the passer. And the 6-foot-2, 252-pounder has even shown some coverage ability on occasion.
The Saints are set with top pass-rushers Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette. And they hope veteran Victor Butler can be an asset this year as he returns from a torn ACL. But they could certainly make room for another young athlete who can rotate into the mix early and develop into a future starter.
If the Saints go strictly with need in the first round of the draft, cornerback and wide receiver might be more imperative. But the Saints will try not to get locked in if they can avoid it.