The New Orleans Saints need a lot of things in this upcoming draft. They need to work on defense, and offense, both of which had major problems at points during the season. But, with where they pick, they can’t always go to the biggest need right away.
Their biggest need in my opinion is a competent quarterback that could turn into something special. But, they can get one of those later in the draft.
At pick 40, there are too many good defensive players available to pass up. In fact, there is one that could really boost the Saints’ run defense in 2023.
Mazi Smith, the interior defender from Michigan, could be that guy, and he could be available at pick 40. The Saints needed to stop the run on way too many occasions this last season, and they just couldn’t get the job done.
Interior defensive lineman is their biggest need after the quarterback, and there are a few that will be available when it’s the Saints’ turn to pick. But, not many who can get to the passer and stop the run.
Smith is the 45th-ranked player in the draft and the fifth-best interior defender in the draft, according to Pro Football Focus. But, of the guys ranked above him, he has the second-best run grade at 81.3 behind Jalen Carter, the second-ranked prospect in the entire draft, who has a 90-run defense grade.
When playing the run, the 6’3″, 337-pounder shuts down lanes and plugs gaps in the run game. His 11.6% run-stop rate is one of the highest in the draft, per PFF.
The Saints could have a steal too, especially considering he wins pass rush reps. Does that mean he gets sacks? No, but he does get pressures and hurries. He had a pass-rush win rate of 11.4%, which is very good for someone that played almost 400 pass-rush snaps.
Smith is a guy that you could develop into a really, really good player. He has the potential to be one of the better defensive tackles in the league when it comes to his all-around skillset and gives off Dre’Mont Jones vibes.
The Saints should pounce on him at pick 40 if he is available.
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