Six names linked most to Saints’ first draft choice

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Derek Barnett #9

It seems like everyone has made their choices for the upcoming NFL draft with a mock draft of their own. Or several of them. Everyone is basically guessing, and anything can happen.

If you peruse the websites with mock drafts from the “insiders” and “experts,” the general consensus brings us six names most likely to be called when the Saints turn in their card at the 11th overall spot. Out of these bullpen names should be announced by Roger Goodell.

The Saints had just 30 sacks in 2016, and Tennessee edge rusher Derek Barnett is perhaps the most popular name you’ll hear at this spot. New Orleans will be focusing primarily on a speed rusher and cornerback with their first pick.

Barnett put up good numbers against SEC competition, actually better numbers than more heralded Myles Garrett of Texas A&M expected to go number one overall. The 6-foot-3, 258 pound Barnett had 33 career sacks in three seasons, with 13 coming this past season. He had a 31″ vertical and 9’8″ standing long jump at NFL Combine.

The first true freshman to start for the Vols on the defensive line on opening day, Barnett is very powerful, possessing strong hands, great punch and super feet. He crashes down the line, displays great effort and plays snap to whistle. He knows how to get an opposing blocker off balance with his moves. Although he would not be asked to do this often in the Saints scheme, BArnett can drop adequately into coverage.

At times Barnett tries to out think opponents and explodes towards the target only to be side-stepped. He has to develop alternate moves.

Alabama’s Reuben Foster is not an edge rusher but he is a dominant defender. The Alabama inside linebacker has had some medical issuesand has some poor tackling technique at times. Sometimes he is overly anxious to destroy ball carrier. However, Foster is a potential Pro Bowler if he developes.

With good speed to the ball, Foster (6-1, 236) is a downhill tacklerbut also drops into passing lanes well. He made some game-changing hits for the Crimson Tide among 115 tackles, 13 for loss, and five sacks in 2016.

His father Danny Foster shot his mother Inita Perry in 1995 while she was holding Reuben, who was 18 months old. Reuben was hit by one of the bullets in the back. He is a success story coming from true tragedy.

Coming out of Auburn High School, he was an All American who originally committed to Auburn and went so far as to have an “Auburn” tattoo on his arm. He eventually signed with Alabama in the 2013 class. Some scouts call him the next Patrick Willis in the NFL.

Gareon Conley (6-0, 195), a fourth-year cornerback out of Ohio State, runs a 4.44 forty with a 37″ vertical. He is a great athlete for the position with good size. He plays with balance, and sound technique. Able to mirror receivers in routes, he is not outstanding transitioning into route and doesn’t turn well to locate ball as well as hoped. A blocking receiver can control him in the running game. Conley appears better in zone coverage. A double move by good receiver could lose him. But Conley is a likely NFL starter who can continue to grow and also brings a good community presence.

Tim Williams (6-3, 256) is an Alabama outside linebacker who fits the NFL speed rusher profile. He runs a 4.68 forty with 33 1/2″ vertical. However, the Baton Rouge product’s senior year at Bama was a bit below expectations. He had 31 stops, with 16 TFLs, and nine sacks as a part-time player. During his junior season, he had 10.5 sacks and 12 TFLs.

A fast twitch athlete, Williams explodes off line and displays pass rush skills with great use of hands. He has good feet and solid dropping ability yet rarely was used in coverage.

Consistency has been problem for Williams, who can beat powerful offensive tackles, but it’s the athletic linemen that present him problems. Some are skeptical that he could be one trick pony in NFL as pass rusher only. He is not exceptional versus the run but his 555 pound squat indicates he has the strength to improve.

With right team, Williams could excel. Off the field issues including failed drugs tests could pose problems. Some say he is reminiscent of Dallas Cowboys Randy Gregory, combining talent and immaturity. The other end of spectrum could be yield another Vic Beasley or Khalil Mack.

Yet another Alabama defender, cornerback Marlon Humphrey (6-0, 197; 4.41 forty) has great athletic skills. He is very fluid in transition, recognizes quickly and is driven to be the best. He has the ability to knock a receiver off his route. Humphrey also wards off blocker and attacks the edge against the run. A good zone cover corner, he will allow receiver separation too often only to close late. Sometimes that strategy backfires, especially in the NFL.

Humphrey needs to be more disciplined in coverage. He will be challenged by NFL veteran passers. It will depend on how he responds to challenge. He forces turnovers and plays a very physical style, looking to intimidate receivers. Humphrey has proven a willing special teams contributor.

While at Hoover High, Humphrey earned the silver medal in 110 meter hurdles at the 2013 World Youth Championships on the way to earning USA Today Track All American honors. His father Bobby was a star Alabama running back before a pro career with the Broncos and Dolphins.

Vidauntae “Taco” Charlton is an impressive specimen. The 6-foot-6, 277 pound defensive end from Michigan turned a 4.92 forty with a 33″ vertical and 25 reps on bench press test. He didn’t start for Wolverines until his senior season, when he managed 38 stops, 11 TFL and 8.5 sacks. For his career, he had 91 tackles, 28 TFL and 19 sacks.

Able to play either end spot in a 4-3 front, Charlton moves well in space with the ability to make plays. He possesses good tools and at times changs the flow of the game. But he needs to sharpen technique, particularly in pass rushing. He is very raw but does have long arms and lateral movement. Many college coaches at Michigan compare him to Giants end Justin Tuck.

Charlton is not very adept versus the run, getting tangled with blockers. He guesses too much but will chase down plays. He has worked extremely hard to improve.

Originally from Pickerington, Ohio, Taco had dreams of playing for Buckeyes. They didn’t offer. He now may join several of them in the NFL’s first round. But will he be a Saint?

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

Fox Sports/ESPN/WHNO/WFAN

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even greater fashion while in Baton Rouge. Nadeau played semi-pro football for two seasons with the New Orleans Blue Knights. He has been a prominent sports figure in the New Orleans area for 29 years. Nadeau currently serves as a color…

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