The anticipation surrounding the NFL Draft is always palpable. This is the time when teams strategize to secure the best young talent for the upcoming season. For the New Orleans Saints, the 2024 NFL Draft presents a crucial opportunity to bolster their roster. They want to uncover hidden gems that could potentially elevate their performance. In this article, we delve into four relatively under-the-radar players who could be game-changers for the Saints in the upcoming season.

The Saints' 2023 Season

The Saints put up a 9-8 season in 2023 that left them just shy of the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Not surprisingly, they are determined to address their shortcomings and make a push for postseason success. Despite flashes of brilliance, inconsistency plagued the team. This emphasized the need for strategic upgrades to compete at the highest level in the NFL.

The 2023 season saw the Saints endure highs and lows, ending with a commendable four-game winning streak that hinted at their potential. Wide receiver Chris Olave was a bright spot. He showcased growth, amassing 1,123 yards. Meanwhile, the team demonstrated prowess on both offense and defense, ranking favorably in points scored and allowed. It's just too bad that they were too inconsistent to decisively lock up a playoff spot.

Dennis Allen, Derek Carr, Saints on Thursday Night Football

The Saints' 2024 Draft Context

Heading into the 2024 NFL Draft, the Saints possess nine picks. These include three potential compensatory selections. However, they've relinquished their second-round pick from 2024 in a trade-up during the 2022 NFL Draft. Additionally, trades with the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars have impacted their third and fourth-round picks, respectively. Notably, the Saints gained a sixth-rounder from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for safety CJ Gardner-Johnson. However, New Orleans also traded away their seventh-rounder in previous deals. Considering everything, the Saints have a bevy of picks in 2024. We do not think they have any excuse to land at least a few potential starters (if not stars) in this year's rookie class.

Here we will look at the four sneaky good players whom the New Orleans Saints must take during the 2024 NFL Draft.

Javon Foster, OT, Missouri

The Saints are eyeing an increased emphasis on the zone run game under new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak's leadership. This calls for agile and mobile offensive linemen across the depth chart. Despite being a fifth-round pick, Missouri's Javon Foster could seamlessly fit into this scheme.

Given the uncertainties surrounding the Saints' offensive line, especially with a new position coach in 2024, investing in competition and depth is paramount. Foster's impressive zone run blocking grade in 2023, matching top-tier talent, positions him as a valuable addition. Whether as a starter or backup, Foster aligns well with Kubiak's anticipated zone run strategy. This is a no-brainer pick for the Saints as long as he's still available in the middle rounds.

Theo Johnson, TE, Penn State

Every successful offense requires a towering red zone threat. That is a role that Penn State tight end Theo Johnson can excel in. He certainly has imposing physicality at 6'6 and 257 pounds. In addition, his versatility provides depth to the Saints' tight end corps. Coupled with the expertise of Clancy Barone, one of the league's premier tight end coaches, Johnson's potential shines brightly.

Cody Schrader, RB, Missouri

Yes, selecting players from the same school in mock drafts is often avoided. Having said that, the focus on the zone run game justifies a second pick from Missouri. This is where running back Cody Schrader enters the picture. Though undersized at 5'8 and 207 pounds, he boasts remarkable field vision. This is particularly true in the zone run scheme. Leading the nation in zone rush attempts in 2023, Schrader's ability to gain yards outside tackles and break tackles demonstrates his compatibility with a wide zone offense.

ACTION SHOT of Cody Schrader of Missouri football on fire

Brennan Jackson, EDGE, Washington State

As we get into the later rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft, the Saints should target additional pass rushers to bolster their roster. Opting for players who align with their style, like Brennan Jackson, makes strategic sense. Jackson's progression as a pass rusher at Washington State and his measurements at the Senior Bowl indicate a promising fit. That's despite being slightly shorter than the Saints' prototype. It is, afterall, not the size of the dog but the size of the fight in the dog that matters.

Looking Ahead

The New Orleans Saints face pivotal decisions that could shape the trajectory of their upcoming season during the 2024 NFL Draft. With a blend of strategic foresight and a keen eye for talent, the Saints aim to fortify their roster with players who not only address immediate needs but also embody the ethos of their evolving gameplay. From Javon Foster's potential to bolster the offensive line to Theo Johnson's red zone prowess, Cody Schrader's fit for the zone run game, and Brennan Jackson's edge rushing capabilities, each prospect offers a unique contribution to the Saints' aspirations for success. As the draft unfolds, the Saints stand poised to make calculated moves that could propel them toward their ultimate goal: contention for NFL glory in the 2024 season and beyond.