The Saints have a great offense, centered around a Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees and exciting young wideout Michael Thomas. Willie Snead and Ted Ginn round out a dangerous receiving corps, and a solid offensive line provides Brees the protection he needs to get the ball to his playmakers. However, the Saints lack a true game changer at the running back position- Mark Ingram is a solid player, but not a spectacular one, and he has significant tread on his tires at 27 years of age. Second year runner Daniel Lasco has shown flashes of potential, but he doesn’t fit the mold of a lead running back. Veteran journeyman Travaris Cadet is still a free agent, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be returning to the Big Easy. With a shallow free agency pool of running backs already depleted (unless New Orleans decides to make a run at Adrian Peterson), the best way for the Saints to address this need is through the draft. Though New Orleans will most likely concentrate on improving their league-worst pass defense, especially in the earlier rounds, the Saints will certainly consider adding another weapon to the offense come draft day. Here are a few prospects they could target.
Alvin Kamara– Tennessee- 5’10, 214 lbs
Kamara is an explosive back that made the most of his limited carries in college, with 23 touchdowns in only 284 carries. He has prototypical size and speed for an NFL back, and can create yards after contact. He’s also had experience in the slot, making the most of his soft hands and his knack for getting open. Concerns about his vision and ability to hit the hole persist, but his instincts should improve as he logs more time at the running back position.
Joe Mixon– Oklahoma- 6’1, 226 lbs
Mixon has fallen down the draft board rankings due to his off-field domestic violence issues, but he is still an intriguing prospect in his own right. Like Kamara, he boasts a unique blend of size and speed that allows him to get around the edge and burst through would-be tacklers. Mixon can break out both a lethal stiffarm and a dazzling array of jukes, another distinctive talent that will serve him well at the next level. He’s a weapon in the passing game too, with great hands and an explosiveness that helps him create separation. Mixon could easily fall into the third or fourth round because of his track record, and could prove to be a steal for New Orleans.
Marlon Mack– South Florida- 5’11, 213 lbs
Perhaps the most agile back in this year’s draft class not named Christian McCaffrey, Mack is a scat back with big play potential. He’s got shifty feet and can make his cuts seamlessly and gracefully, often leaving a defender spinning in his wake. He’s got a great first step and elite explosiveness as well. Though he may not have the size or strength to throw off linebackers at the next level, I think that Mack’s power running ability is undervalued. He would be a great complement to the Saints’ offense, and could immediately contribute as both a receiver and runner.
De’Angelo Henderson- Coastal Carolina- 5’7, 208 lbs
Henderson is a small-school sleeper prospect that will inevitably be drafted in the later rounds due to his size. However, he’s more than willing to drop his pad level and challenge the defense head-on. He’s fast enough to turn the corner and turn on the turbo, leaving defenders in the dust. He’s got great feet too, and can bust out any number of jukes at any time. His stock will take a hit from playing at a smaller school against inferior defenses, but he could be a late round success story.
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