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John DeShazier's New Orleans Saints Mailbag

Posted Mar 8, 2018

Saints senior writer answers your questions

Long time, no bag.

But we’re back, and ready to take a run at answering a few of your New Orleans Saints questions. Thanks for the submissions, and keep ‘em coming for future mailbags. As Hammer would say, let’s get it started…

Q: @Nicelook_Chuck: What are the top three positions heavily needed this upcoming draft for the Saints? Who are we looking at with No. 27?

A: That’s actually a tricky question, because it could (and likely will) shift. As of today – and admitting that, unfortunately, nobody invites me into the deep consultation meetings – I’d say the Saints’ top three would be defensive end, offensive lineman and cornerback. True, receiver and tight end seem to be priorities, too, and a hard argument can be made for a quarterback and linebacker. But based on how the team finished last season, and from what we’ve seen so far this offseason, those would be my choices. Here’s the caveat: Today’s priority can change based on tomorrow’s free agent acquisition. If the Saints can fill a gap in free agency, it’s one less area that will need to be addressed in the draft. For example, adding Larry Warford as a free agent last year meant that the Saints didn’t need to look for a guard in the draft. As for who the Saints are looking at with their first-round pick…c’mon, Chuck. If I knew, and I told ya, I’d have to shut you up – maybe permanently but, at least, until after the draft.

Q: @LSUpatton: Are the Saints pursuing Jimmy Graham?

Q: @motsiff_justin: What are the chances we see Jimmy Graham back in NOLA?

A: Got a two-for-one here, so I’ll hit both at once. Graham hasn’t been bashful about expressing his interest in a possible return, and the Saints are more than willing to entertain the idea. The bridge may have been singed a bit, but it wasn’t burned. The fact is that though the Saints have remained one of the NFL’s top offenses since trading Graham to Seattle in 2015 – and center Max Unger, a crucial part of that trade, is a huge reason that the Saints have remained potent offensively, finishing second, first and second in total offense the last three seasons – last year’s struggles on third down (37.6 percent) and in the red zone (58.2 percent, down from 66.2 in ’16) highlighted the absence of a reliable, athletic target like Graham. On the flip side, by far, Graham had his most productive NFL seasons with the Saints. In his last four years in New Orleans, he never caught less than 85 passes and had 10 or more touchdowns three times; in three years with the Seahawks, he never caught more than 65 passes and totaled 18 touchdowns. The questions are how much game does Graham have left, and how much money does he want? The Saints would be derelict to not kick the tires and check it out. If he’s healthy and the price is right, come on down.

Q: @cgcarroll25: With safety Kurt Coleman signed, do you think the Saints will show any interest in Tyrann Mathieu?

A: Interest? Sure. Again, the Saints would be derelict to not explore every viable possibility to improve the team. But I think Mathieu is looking for a huge payday, and the Saints have Coleman and a couple of young safeties (Marcus Williams, Vonn Bell) that they really, really like. It probably isn’t an economic match.

Q: @EL_Know: Do you think the Saints should draft quarterback Lamar Jackson if he is available when we come up to pick?

Q: @ColeisSmiley: What are we looking for in the draft and at what point should we get a quality quarterback behind Drew Brees?

A: Another two-for-one. There’s a possibility – perhaps, a strong possibility – that the Saints already believe they have their guy, in Taysom Hill. Let’s not ignore that possibility. We already know that Hill is an athletic wonder (he jumped off the film on his special team reps) and he’s had a season to get a feel for the offense (limited reps, of course, but you hope he has taken advantage of being able to watch film with Brees). Now, if the Saints aren’t sold on Hill, then there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t draft a quarterback. Coach Sean Payton said the position was a strong one in the draft, so it sounds like he might have his eye on someone. Jackson, who probably would benefit from a couple years as an understudy, could be that someone. He’s an intriguing prospect who possibly could work his way into the playbook in certain situations until he’s ready to take over. But if Hill truly is the guy – and Payton said he’ll have a chance to earn the No. 2 spot – then quarterback might not be a priority spot for the first round unless the prospect simply is too good a value.