Saints pick a blue-chip linebacker in PFF's 2021 NFL mock draft

by 24USATVJan. 12, 2021, 9 p.m. 24
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The college football bowl season is all wrapped up and many NFL teams have shifted gears into preparing for the upcoming 2021 NFL draft, though the New Orleans Saints are still alive in the hunt for Super Bowl LV. So it’ll be a while before we start to seriously look at where they can improve in this year’s draft.

Still, it’s worth noting who is being connected to the Saints around the league’s orbit. The latest 2021 mock draft comes from Pro Football Focus draft analyst Anthony Treash, who has the Saints picking Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins. Collins recently won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded to the nation’s best player on defense. Initially overlooked in recruiting circles, he’s gone on to become one of college football’s most dynamic athletes. Here’s what Treash wrote of him and what he could bring to the Saints:

“Collins did unprecedented things at the linebacker position this season for Tulsa. His 93.7 coverage grade sits well above the previous PFF record set by former UCLA Bruin and current Minnesota Viking Eric Kendricks in 2014 (92.1). “The 6-foot-4, 240-pound off-ball linebacker tallied four interceptions, three forced incompletions and nine passing stops when dropping into coverage. He was also one of the top blitzing weapons in the country. All told, Collins picked up 16 pressures on 51 rushes and was the only player at his position to record 90.0-plus grades in coverage and as a blitzer.”

Linebacker is probably going to be a position of need for New Orleans; several players are headed for free agency, and midseason trade pickup Kwon Alexander is in for a lengthy recovery from Achilles surgery (to say nothing of his big salary cap hit). If Zack Baun doesn’t make a big jump in his second season, the Saints may need another big investment.

So it’s been a popular well for the Saints to go to in recent mock drafts. Another linebacker prospect connected to them was Missouri’s Nick Bolton, a two-time All-SEC selection. While they probably won’t be able to land the draft’s top linebacker (Penn State’s Micah Parsons), New Orleans can still improve later in the first round.

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