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Saints mailbag: Expectations for Josh Hill?

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@MikeTriplett: I wrote about this a little bit on Friday as well, but I know it will become a big fantasy football topic heading into the season now that the Saints have to replace tight end Jimmy Graham in their offense.

For now, I'm preaching caution when it comes to expectations for third-year tight end Josh Hill. Yes, the former undrafted free agent caught five touchdown passes last year - but he caught only 14 passes all season as the No. 3 tight end behind Benjamin Watson. And he wasn't especially used as a red-zone target.

Coach Sean Payton speaks very highly of Hill. But one of the things he loves about him is his versatility as an athletic tight end who is also a core special-teams player (and even a fullback on occasions). Payton's quote on Hill after last season was, "When you get a tight end that potentially is going to be your special-teams player of the year, that's a good thing. It's not the norm. ... He's exactly what we're looking for, because each week you know exactly what you're gonna get. He's talented, he can run, he's young. But he's consistent, and those are the things that allow you to win."

So Hill's role should increase, and he could indeed be fantasy-relevant. But don't expect him to fill the "Jimmy Graham role" in this offense. I'll take the under on 10 touchdowns.


@MikeTriplett: My best projection is about $2.7 million if New Orleans keeps all of its current picks, based on estimates provided by overthecap.com for each draft slot - but I can't say that for certain.

Remember, only the top 51 salary-cap costs for each team are counted, so the Saints won't have to add all nine draft picks onto their books. I figure the Saints' top five draft picks will rank among their top 51 cap costs - and those five will replace five minimum-salary players who are already counting.

As of Friday, the Saints were about $1.75 million under the cap before they re-signed backup offensive tackle Bryce Harris (who shouldn't add too much since he'll also be replacing a minimum-salary player). But the Saints will have to carve out a little extra space before they sign their draft picks.


@MikeTriplett: That's the beauty of having more early picks (and the "beauty" of having so many needs): The Saints don't have to force themselves to reach to fill any specific need at any point.

I think pass-rusher is a must with at least one of the Saints' top picks. I also think they should land a guard at some point in the first three rounds, if not with the 13th pick. Then I'd rank inside linebacker, cornerback and wide receiver in the next tier of possibilities.

And as I mentioned in my video outlook this past week, there's even the wild-card scenario that the Saints would consider a quarterback to develop behind Drew Brees - maybe even a trade up for Marcus Mariota. I don't think that's likely - or that it was the secret end game behind all of these offseason moves. But the Saints are now poised to consider several possibilities.


@MikeTriplett: Poor Khiry Robinson. A year ago, it looked like the former undrafted running back might be on the verge of a breakout season, with the chance to take over as New Orleans' No. 1 back in 2015 if Mark Ingram left via free agency.

Instead, Robinson is now third on the depth chart after New Orleans invested heavily in Ingram and C.J. Spiller this offseason.

I still think the Saints are high on Robinson's potential. He should get some occasional touches as a change-of-pace back. And with the way injuries pile up at running back, there could be times when he's needed in more of a featured role.

The best-case scenario would be something like the way Mike Bell was used in 2009, but that was more of an equal time-share with Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush. I think this will be more of an Ingram No. 1/Robinson No. 2 situation.