With Sean Payton returning to the NFL and taking hold of the reins in Denver, the New Orleans Saints have found themselves back on the board in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, netting the 29th overall pick. Here are five players that could be on the board when they’re on the clock after being on the outside looking in on day one of the draft all campaign long:
Dalton Kincaid TE, Utah
You need math changers in today’s game, and Kincaid’s ability to both block and create mismatches in space is a fit in today’s NFL. This has been a popular spot to see other tight ends come off the board in Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, Georgia’s Darnell Washington, or Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave. While I wouldn’t be upset if either landed in the boot, I don’t expect Mayer to be available at No. 29, and I like how refined Kincaid is as a threat in space. He’ll not only provide a sure set of hands in the shallow areas of the offense but will force defenses to account for his presence on every single snap and is excellent after the catch.
Josh Downs WR, North Carolina
Jarvis Landry, Deonty Harty, Marquez Callaway, and Juwan Johnson are all free agents, and who knows what the plan is for Michael Thomas moving forward as it’s been three seasons littered with injuries and lack of, well, anything to hang your hat on moving into 2023. Enter Downs, an elite separator and a prospect who could come off the board on night one due to his ability to win at every level. He’s alignment versatile, an alpha in the air, and someone who could haul in 70 or more catches in his rookie campaign—similar to Chris Olave. The Saints have questions to answer at quarterback, but adding more weapons is never a bad thing and a tandem of him and Olave would provide excellent building blocks for the future.
Lukas Van Ness EDGE, Iowa
A riser in the process, I wouldn’t be shocked if Van Ness were to win Defensive Rookie of the Year this time next year. He’s an elite technician with his hands, constantly has a plan of approach on passing downs, and has the blend of speed and power to consistently threaten the pocket. The Payton Turner experiment has been a struggle thus far, and New Orleans would be wise to add juice on the edge with Cameron Jordan turning 34 years of age before the start of the 2023 season.
Andrew Vorhees IOL, USC
As good as Vorhees was for the Trojans over the course of the last six seasons, I still think his best football is down the road. A brick wall in pass pro, he allowed just three sacks combined over the last trio of campaigns and provides the nastiness you like within the lungs of your front five. In an area where the Saints need fresh bodies, Vorhees could be a foundational add for years to come.
Calijah Kancey IDL, Pitt
Buckle your seatbelts. Look, there are concerns about his size (6-foot flat) and length, but the film holds weight. Kancey is one of the most explosive defenders in the class. He’s amassed 17 sacks on 85 pressures over the last tandem of seasons as a primary 3-tech and will remain one of the most-talked-about talents all spring long before we arrive in late April. The floor is low, but the ceiling is the darn moon, and teams could very easily look back three years from now and ask themselves why they didn’t turn in his card when they had the chance.
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