- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Projecting a team’s second-round pick is probably a futile effort. The further we get in the NFL draft, the more likely teams such as the New Orleans Saints are to target the highest-rated player on their board, regardless of position or immediate needs.
But I’ll go ahead and take a stab here and predict the Saints’ highest-rated player at pick No. 58 will also fill one of their most glaring needs -- USC center Marcus Martin.
Some analysts projected Martin as a possible first-round pick, but I could see him slipping since the draft board is still stacked with talent. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said he still has 18 players remaining that he felt could have potentially gone in Round 1.
Both Martin and Colorado State center Weston Richburg could be worthy of a second-round pick. The Saints won’t be desperate to fill that spot, since they’re high on second-year pro Tim Lelito’s potential and could still add veteran Jonathan Goodwin for competition. However, they’re likely to add some young depth at the center/guard spots somewhere in this draft.
Some other thoughts on possible Round 2 targets for the Saints, ranked in order of likelihood:
Cornerbacks: This ranks as the Saints’ other top need. They’d probably love to see big corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste continue to fall, though he could be one of the top players off the board tonight. Other Round 2 possibilities include Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner, Utah’s Keith McGill, Lindenwood’s Pierre Desir and Rice’s Phillip Gaines.
Pass-rushers: Another area where the Saints could find some good value with a lot of intriguing players still left on the board, including Missouri’s Kony Ealy, Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy and Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu.
Offensive linemen: Even if they don’t go for a true center, the Saints could use some young depth across the board here. And there are still several guys left who were projected as possible first-rounders, including UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, Nevada tackle/guard Joel Bitonio, Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and Virginia tackle Morgan Moses.
Tight ends: I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Saints grab a tight end this early -- and NO, I don’t think it would mean they’re worried about Jimmy Graham’s future. But backup tight end Benjamin Watson is getting older, and the Saints like to have three or four on the roster in their versatile offense. So guys such as Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro would be intriguing options if they fall.
Linebackers: The Saints could consider a couple linebackers who aren’t pass-rush specialists, like Wisconsin’s Chris Borland and Arizona State’s Carl Bradford. This is an area where they need to develop some young talent behind vets like Parys Haralson and David Hawthorne.
Receivers: The Saints certainly don’t need another one in Round 2 after trading up for receiver Brandin Cooks in Round 1. But, man, there’s still a ton of talented receivers on the board who will make for good value picks across the league tonight. From Marqise Lee to Cody Latimer to Jordan Matthews to Jarvis Landry to Bruce Ellington to Davante Adams to Allen Robinson to Donte Moncrief to Martavis Bryant to runner/receiver Dri Archer, the list goes on and on.
Defensive linemen: I don’t rank this as a top need for the Saints since they’re loaded with talented starters and young backups alike. However, several of the highest-rated players left on the board are interior defensive linemen -- Louis Nix III, Stephon Tuitt, Ra’Shede Hageman, Timmy Jernigan, Scott Crichton. So there’s value to be had.
Safeties: It’s not a top need for the Saints, and it’s not a position where the top talent seems to be falling after four safeties went off the board in Round 1. Never say never, though, since defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is creative enough to make room for talented players.
Running backs: They’ll finally start to go off the board tonight, but I can’t imagine the Saints will be in the mix. They’re already so deep at the position and since they added a change-of-pace weapon in Cooks that will help them fill the void left by Darren Sproles.
Quarterbacks: It will be one of the most interesting position groups to monitor tonight as QB-needy teams sort through the second tier of prospects. But it would be a shock to see the Saints use a pick this high on a quarterback, especially after they traded away their third-rounder.
For more on what’s available tonight, check out this content from ESPN’s draft analysts (which requires Insider access):