By: Jeremy Trottier
With the 2021 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, the New Orleans Saints had a rather interesting one to say the least. From a potential Drew Brees successor, to a top-level edge at the pick, they made the most of what they had with seven picks. In this article, I will be going over each player the Saints drafted, and why they will help this team in the short and long run.
Round 1 Pick 28 – Payton Turner – DL – Houston
Starting off we had probably the most controversial pick in the Saints fandom, Payton Turner from Houston. The Saints arguably had bigger needs at the time, with CB, LB, and even WR. However with hindsight of all three days of the draft now, this pick looks better and better by the minute.
Turner is absolutely violent off the edge, with a pure explosion of power against offensive tackles and guards alike. He is a physical monster, at 6’5” and 270 pounds, with a 35” arm length (7’ wingspan), and 10 ¼ inch hands. He is a fantastic prototype in all the tangible traits to become a fantastic NFL lineman.
Also, he has a lot of intangibles, which people overlook. Turner scored a 35 on the Wonderlic test (a test given to determine a prospect’s ability to perform question responses quickly and effectively, on a scale of zero to forty). He also has great character as a person, which can be attested to by his first interview with Saint’s media, where he was absolutely giddy and on cloud nine from the pick. With Cam Jordan at the other DE position, who is an absolute character in the best meaning of the word, having two very smart and very team-friendly guys on the edges would be fantastic for morale.
Overall, Payton will need development on his pass rush moves, there is no doubting that. With a few weeks of camps and preseason, he should be ready for an NFL Week 1 debut, potentially even as the starter if he out works Marcus Davenport for it.
Round 2 Pick 60 – Pete Werner – LB – Ohio State University
This may be the most Sean Payton method pick I have witnessed in my time as a Saints fan, outside Marcus Davenport. An athletic, run-stopping, powerful, and hand-aware linebacker from his favorite school to draft from in OSU. At 6’3” 238 pounds, he has a very good build to be a Mike linebacker in the NFL no doubt.
With Demario Davis becoming slightly older, and not much else as a linebacker three, Pete Werner was a very good pick here. Many Saints fans were rooting for the homer in LSU linebacker Jabril Cox, however, Werner fits significantly better. With Demario Davis, Zack Baun, and Werner as their three linebackers, it is going to be an all-out rush for the quarterback, and that will be fantastic to watch.
Werner’s versatility as a linebacker cannot be overlooked or understated as well. Throughout his college career, he has played at all three linebacker positions (in a 4-3), and has been above average in cover as well, which is good news for the black and gold. Having another player who can cover outside the secondary is always nice for New Orleans.
Round 3 Pick 76 – Paulson Adebo – CB – Stanford
Filling the other massive need for New Orleans, we have Paulson Adebo. The Saints traded picks 98 and 105 to move up and get the 2020 opt-out, which in all realism was a great decision. With Marshon Lattimore at CB1 and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in the slot CB role, every Saints fan was anticipating a corner in the draft.
Paulson as I mentioned opted out in 2020 to protect himself from Covid-19, which is understandable. His draft stock fell due to this, as he only had film from 2018 and 2019 overall as a prospect. If he played in 2020 as he did the years before, there is a good chance he could have been an early-round two-player. With four interceptions in 2018 and four in 2019, his ball-hawking abilities are very far up there in this class.
One of the major points for this pick is Adebo is a flawless scheme fit for New Orleans, as he is best and extremely capable in zone coverage. This will be nice complemental piece to Marshon Lattimore and provided the Saints do not take another CB in free agency, he will be CB2 more than likely.
Round 4 Pick 133 – Ian Book – QB – Notre Dame
One of my personal favorite picks, to the chagrin of other Saints fans, is QB Ian Book from ND. There is a few reasons why this was a really good pick in my eyes, which I will cover shortly. Ian is slightly undersized as a QB, coming in at 6’0’, however there is also another Saints (now former) quarterback who was ragged on for being too short. Guess where he is heading? Canton Ohio. This is not to say that Ian is the next Drew Brees, that is way too early of a call to make. It is more just proving that his height will not matter with his play the way it is.
His best season came in 2019, which was an absolute monster of a season. His statline looked as such:
Onto why this is not a bad pick. First off, it gives the Saints some wiggle room to use Taysom Hill as a RB/FB/TE/WR/etc. as they do not have to worry about him getting injured and not having a QB2. Another thing to note is Jameis Winston is only on a one year prove it deal, which people tend to forget. If Jameis really does poorly this year, the Saints have another option behind him. If he does really well and blows up, who knows if the Saints will be able to pay him next offseason with major extensions needing to happen. (i.e. Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams, Terron Armstead, Marshon Lattimore).
Overall for a fourth-round pick, this was not a bad choice at all. Sean Payton said he had a relatively high grade on Book entering the draft, which is why he drafted him.
Round 6 Pick 206 – Landon Young – OT – Kentucky
This pick at the time seemed a little weird, as there were some good wide receivers on the board and OT is not necessarily the biggest positional need. However, Nick Easton did get cut by the Saints this offseason due to cap constraints and concussion issues. Having depth for the offensive line is always a beautiful thing, and it is why the Saints always have one of the top offensive lines in the league.
The Saints traded picks 218 and 229 (a 6th and 7th rounder) for 206 to pick up Landon Young, which in hindsight was not a bad move. A quality over quantity pick is always nice to see. At 6’6” and 310 pounds, he is another physical monster that the Saints tend to look for. He is extremely tough in the trenches and is very physical, however has to develop his hips and legs to prevent imbalance in his stance.
At the end of the day, getting a developmental and rotational offensive lineman is a nice pickup here at pick 206.
Round 7 Pick 255 – Kawaan Baker – WR – South Alabama
With the Saints last pick in the class, they finally addressed the wide receiver position, taking Kawaan Baker. This is an interesting pickup for NOLA, as he is a relatively solid pick and player, but also has a lot of developing to do. A 6’1” 210 pound inside or outside WR with raw explosiveness and burst is rather nice to work with.
Kawaan ran a 4.43 40-yard dash, which is above average, and he has very quick acceleration initially. He is able to turn small and insignificant plays into massive chunks of yards in seconds with his speed and suddenness and is pretty shifty for being over six feet tall. His main area to be developed are unfortunately his hands. While he has large hands and they are relatively soft when he does make catches, he struggles to make consistent catching a priority.
To close up, Kawaan could definitely be a 53-man roster contender for New Orleans. If he can clean up his drops and really improve his hands, you are looking at a very good draft pick for the last round, and almost last pick, of the draft.