It’s never too soon to keep tabs on what’s going on in NFL mock drafts, even if the 2023 NFL draft is far beyond the horizon. These are good exercises for evaluating team needs and scouting out which college football stars might be looking to turn pro — if nothing else, it gives fans an idea of who to watch on Saturdays in the fall. But for a team without a first-round pick in 2023 like the New Orleans Saints, there’s a different sense of anxiety to it: with their pick going to the Philadelphia Eagles after a bold pre-draft trade in 2022, just how highly-valued will that selection be?
With the pick they got from New Orleans at No. 13 overall, Touchdown Wire’s Mark Schofield has the Eagles selecting Notre Dame safety Brandon Joseph, who is expected to replace Baltimore Ravens rookie Kyle Hamilton in the Fighting Irish secondary after transferring from Northwestern. He’s in a good spot to make a name for himself and catapult up draft boards by next spring.
Let’s be clear: the issue here wouldn’t be in the Saints missing out on Joseph specifically (who knows where he’ll eventually be drafted, and New Orleans doesn’t have a need at safety after signing veterans Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu to multiyear deals). But frankly, this has to be the outcome Philadelphia is hoping for. And they’ll be in a position to help it manifest when the Saints visit them in Week 17. Knocking off the Saints to improve their standings in the playoff picture and the 2023 draft order would be big for them.
If New Orleans fails to meet expectations and posts a losing record in 2022, they’ll have an even deeper hole to dig themselves out of than most teams without the benefit of a first-round pick. That’s the gamble Mickey Loomis and Dennis Allen agreed to take when they made this trade with Philadelphia in the first place. They’re betting on themselves and the team they’ve built to make some noise, get back to the playoffs, and not worry about things like the draft order in an event 10 months away.
And that’s only going to happen if both of the Saints’ top two draft picks from 2022 can help the team right away. That’s why New Orleans traded next year’s pick, adding another selection who can help get their offense back on track this season, not a year from now. Former Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Chris Olave is in a great spot to command targets with Pro Bowlers Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry drawing coverage away from him. And while he has a lot to prove to win the Week 1 starting job, former Northern Iowa left tackle Trevor Penning should get a lot of help from his position coaches in making the leap to the NFL.
Pressure is high on all involved. The last thing the Saints want to see is for their two highly-touted rookies to struggle and for their season to end with only six or seven wins. If Eagles fans are lauding this trade this time next year, it’s going to be hard to recover.
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