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2018 NFL mock draft: The Saints get an edge player early in Sam Hubbard

The versatile Ohio State defender is a fit in New Orleans in the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Most mock drafts have had the New Orleans Saints taking a tight end. However, there’s been no consensus on which one. Many have gone with South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert. Penn State’s Mike Gesicki has also been a popular choice while South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst has gotten some momentum recently.

If the Saints don’t go after a tight end in the first round, the choice could be an edge rusher. Before last year’s draft, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said drafting a pass rusher was a “must” but the team waited until the third round before picking Trey Hendrickson. An edge player was also a popular pick for the Saints in 2016 mock drafts but the team avoided the position that year.

Maybe this year the Saints can find an edge player early. That’s what happened for John Hendrix of Canal Street Chronicles in the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft.

27. New Orleans Saints: Sam Hubbard, Edge, Ohio State

Hendrix: There were several appealing targets on the board when it came to the Saints’ choices, and ultimately the pick ended up being Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard. A poll was ran on Twitter that put Hubbard up against Dallas Goedert, Courtland Sutton, and Mike Gesicki. Forty-six percent of the vote went to him with over 1,000 fan votes in a 17-hour period.

Given the free agency New Orleans had, the glaring need for Dennis Allen’s defense is at defensive end. Aside Cameron Jordan, the Saints have second-year players Trey Hendrickson and Al-Quadin Muhammad, Alex Okafor returning from an Achilles tear after testing free agency, and a somewhat unknown with a fourth-year Hau’oli Kikaha.

Hubbard’s 6’5, 265-pound frame is appealing, and many regard him as a “safe pick.” Given the supporting cast around him, an instant contribution wouldn’t be needed. However, Hubbard shows a certain “motor” on tape that is admirable. He’s displayed versatility, which is something the Saints value, being able to play a variety of positions — rushing from either side while being able to stand up and rush or drop in coverage when needed. His technique is also desirable getting off the snap, while demonstrating a smart sense of play awareness and recognition.

The Saints have shown a certain affinity for Ohio State products, and it’s worked out for the most part. Pairing with second-year defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen should help any shortcomings for Hubbard, and it addresses what Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis have both echoed a “must” position.

Analysis: The opinions on Hubbard are varied. To some, he’s a great athlete who can line up all over the field. To others he’s a player without a truly defined role who has struggled to become a top pass rusher. I stand somewhere in the middle. With his size and athleticism, it’s easy to see why people are optimistic about Hubbard. With the right coaching, he should be able to continue to grow as a pass rusher. He plays with good effort and the position versatility can be a plus if it’s used. If you’re optimistic though, you still have to wonder how fast he’ll develop.

Dan Kadar’s top five players remaining

  • 20. Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
  • 21. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
  • 22. Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
  • 23. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
  • 24. Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

The second pick of the day in the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft comes up at 11 a.m. ET. Jeff Hartman of Behind the Steel Curtain will be here to make the pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Poll

What grade do you give the pick of Sam Hubbard by the New Orleans Saints?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    A
    (140 votes)
  • 33%
    B
    (136 votes)
  • 22%
    C
    (92 votes)
  • 5%
    D
    (23 votes)
  • 2%
    F
    (10 votes)
401 votes total Vote Now