After losing in controversial fashion in the 2018 NFC championship, the New Orleans Saints entered last year with Super Bowl expectations. The Saints matched their 13-3 record in 2019, overcoming a Drew Brees thumb injury that knocked the quarterback out for five weeks during the regular season. But despite posting back-to-back seasons with 12 or more wins for the first time in franchise history, the Saints lost 26-20 in the Wild Card round of the playoffs to the Vikings.
In the 2019 NFL draft, the Saints made just five selections. They added center Erik McCoy in the second round and selected safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in the fourth round. In the sixth round, New Orleans selected safety Saquan Hampton and it picked tight end Alize Mack and linebacker Kaden Elliss in the seventh round.
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According to the MMQB's NFC South team needs, New Orleans doesn't have any glaring holes. But they should look to draft high-level developmental projects that could turn into stars. Adding depth to their offensive and defensive lines could also be a route they choose to take.
A full list of New Orleans' picks will be updated below as the draft progresses. You can also follow the Saints News Network's live blog.
Round 1, Pick 24 (No. 24 overall): Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan
Andy Benoit's analysis: The Saints do not have any glaring needs on offense or defense. Even though this is likely Drew Brees’s last season, and so one might think they’d be drafting for this year, the Saints are still set up for success down the road. Head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis are keeping the big picture in perspective.The two questions with Ruiz: When will he play? And where will he play? As far as the when: Right guard Larry Warford is in the final year of his contract and the team could actually save $7.75 million in cap space by cutting him now. That, however, would mean $5 million in dead money on the books, plus Warford is only 29 and is still playing at a high level. It’s entirely possible Ruiz could develop from the bench in Year One.The where question is even more interesting. Left guard Andrus Peat was just signed to a big second contract and seems entrenched at that position, which means Ruiz will either play right guard or center. Ruiz says he is more comfortable at center but that’s where 2019 second-rounder Erik McCoy plays, and he’s coming off a solid rookie season. Grade: C+
Round 3, No. 74 overall: Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Andy Benoit's analysis: Baun will likely play up on or near the line of scrimmage in New Orleans’s base defense. It’s a 4-3 scheme but the duties won’t be wildly different from what he did in Wisconsin’s 3-4. But really the intrigue here is in passing situations. Baun showed some pass rushing juice as a Badger, and the Saints like to play with two linebackers on all passing downs (even if they’re in dime defense, where they’ll go with just three D-linemen), and they often send one them after the quarterback. Grade: B
Round 3, No. 105 overall: Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton
Andy Benoit's analysis: Trautman might not see much playing time this season, but with the final year of starting tight end Jared Cook's contract voidable after this season, an opportunity could be on the horizon. Grade: B
Round 7, No. 240 overall: Tommy Stevens, QB, Mississippi State