The NFL regular season is drawing to a close, and the 2022 mock draft industrial complex is beginning to ramp up. According to the latest projection from Luke Easterling over at Draft Wire, the New Orleans Saints are in a good position to add a game-changing wide receiver in the first round: Arkansas standout Treylon Burks. Easterling wrote of the match:
“Even if Michael Thomas returns to the player he once was, the Saints will still need a big-play receiver to pair with him who can stretch the field. Burks is a big, athletic pass-catcher who plays with a punishing style, both at the line of scrimmage and after the catch, drawing worthy comparisons to A.J. Brown.”
That’s definitely a fun idea. Burks went to the Saints at No. 15 overall in this mock draft; other first-round receivers included Alabama’s Jameson Williams (to the Cleveland Browns at No. 13) and Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson (at No. 23) and Chris Olave (at No. 27), with USC’s Drake London and Purdue’s David Bell also landing inside the top 30 picks. So the Saints could be in a good spot to take their pick of the litter.
But this was a three-round mock draft. New Orleans was without their third rounder (having packaged it in a trade for veteran cornerback Bradley Roby) but they did pick again at No. 46 overall. And they went with Nevada quarterback prospect Carson Strong.
To channel Parks and Rec’s anchorman Perd Hapley, that’s certainly a draft pick spent on a quarterback prospect. Second-round passers have a poor track record: since Sean Payton’s first draft in 2006, just three of the 20 passers picked in this range have started more than one or two seasons for their teams. And those three all went at picks Nos. 35 (Andy Dalton) or 36 (Derek Carr and Colin Kaepernick), making them fringe first-round talents.
The Saints picking Strong at No. 46 would fall more in line with recent head-scratchers like Christian Hackenberg (51) or DeShone Kizer (52), or maybe older draft busts such as Kellen Clemmons (49), Jimmy Clausen (48), and Pat White (44). Prospects billed as high-upside backups like Jalen Hurts (53) and Jimmy Garoppolo (62) have become the exception, not the rule.
But maybe Strong could be different. He’s graded out as a good, not great college passer who has shown he can avoid mistakes and keep an offense running on schedule. In the right situation with the right supporting cast, there’s reason to think he could flourish. I’m just leery of drafting any quarterback after the first round given how steep the talent drop-off can be at that position.
It wasn’t reflected in this mock draft, but the Saints will be receiving a compensatory third round draft pick after personnel executive Terry Fontenot was hired as Atlanta Falcons general manager last season. New Orleans is also projected to receive more comp picks in rounds four (for defensive end Trey Hendrickson) and six (defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins), but we won’t know for sure where those slot in until the full draft order is announced in March.