by Hunter Dawkins

With the first major sporting event held in the country for the last six weeks due to the global pandemic outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus), the National Football League (NFL) Draft of 2020 looks to be as big as usual.  In no way will this determine when the football season or trainings begin, but this occasion will provide an opportunity to select for the future having a veteran stacked team in the New Orleans Saints.

Although the National Football Conference (NFC) South Division has added a little publicity with a few new transitions; such as Quarterbacks Tom Brady to Tampa Bay and Teddy Bridgewater to Carolina, the opponents must come through the gates of New Orleans to show their true colors.  Back to back 13-3 seasons, along with pickups of two clutch free agents in Safety Malcolm Jenkins and Wide Receiver Emmanuel Sanders put the Saints in another chance for the rode to the Super Bowl.

However, this is a veteran team, so the question looms, is this the last chance?  The 2020 NFL Draft starts on Thursday at 7pm.  According to CBS Sportsline, the league will hold a fully virtual draft that will serve as a fundraiser benefitting six charities that are battling the spread of COVID-19 and delivering relief to millions in need. 

Teams will orchestrate the draft from their homes, communicating through several virtual platforms (Zoom, Skype) in order to make their selections. Each team’s designated drafter will be logged in to the league’s Microsoft Teams private and encrypted draft channel, and will make the pick through the portal.

While the draft selection process will be different, the format remains the same. The time allotted to select picks won’t change: 10 minutes in Round 1, seven minutes in Rounds 2 and 3, and five minutes in Rounds 4 through 7. 

ESPN and NFL Network will simulcast all rounds, while ABC will have its own version of the prime-time telecast for Rounds 1-3 on Thursday and Friday. ABC will simulcast the final day of the draft with ESPN and NFL Network (Rounds 4-7). The draft telecasts will originate from ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut, studios and a majority of the analysts and reporters will contribute from at-home studios. 

As far as the picks go, the New Orleans Saints currently have 5 draft picks unless a selection of choice is made differently on the day.  The Saints are scheduled for their draft choices in round 1 (pick 24), round 3 (pick 88), round 4 (pick 130), round 5 (pick 169) and round six (pick 203).  The other round selections were spotted to other teams for trade or free agent deals.

Therefore, the projections or designated “needs” for the New Orleans Saints may seem slender, but preparing for the future usually provides an easier step to success.  Below is the listed projections and breakdowns of each.

1st Round (pick 24) – Kenneth Murray, Linebacker = University of Oklahoma

*Although the defense vastly improved over the course of a year, one spot that could use a little more attention paid is the middle linebacker.  Current middle linebackers Demario Davis and Kiko Alonso are good football players with big bodies and speed, but someone for the future of this position is always helpful (Alonso is coming off a torn ACL).  Local Patrick Queen from LSU is the sentimental pick, however he does not have the size, strength, and 4.5 speed of Murray.

3rd Round (pick 88) – Kyle Duggar, Safety = Lenoir Rhyne College

*Most of you will wonder about the young man’s school and how he could be selected among Southeastern Conference (SEC) players this high in the draft, although the kid was electric in the recent NFL combine.  Additionally, the New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton was from a small college and generally likes energetic players from these schools.  Dugger’s mobility and explosive athleticism could set him up to play for the long term.

4th Round (pick 130) – Thaddeus Moss, Tight End = Louisiana State University

*Here is the emotional favorite for Saints fans, not only because he comes from the local LSU Tigers, is the great receiver Randy Moss’ son, but because this kid has got some talent.  Granted, he did just have a medical exam revealing a bone broken and the team is still about the greatness of Jared Cook last year, but this player is a strong inline blocker who could work as Josh Hill’s understudy in 2020, mastering that element of the game before taking on a larger role as a receiving threat once Cook’s contract expires in 2021.

5th Round (pick 169) – James Morgan, Quarterback = Florida International University

*There is no doubt (unless of double serious injuries), the Saints will rely on Drew Brees and Taysom Hill for their quarterback duties.  Another smaller school prospect, though, but he has a big body, was invited to the East/West All-Star Game, and been filming his workouts for NFL teams.  Potential for a good steal for the Saints.

6th Round (pick 203) – Bravvion Roy, Defensive Tackle = Baylor University

*The Saints don’t have many spaces on their next selection, but Roy is a strong, big man that who made a lot of tackles and sacks from the Nose Guard position in a top 5 Division-I conference.  Even if drafting Roy is only based on situational plays, would be an interesting pickup for New Orleans.

The other teams projections for the first two rounds are in the pictures above.

(Reference:  CBS Sportsline, USA Today Saintswire)