General managers should study the New Orleans Saints to see how they managed to get under the salary cap while keeping their most talented players on the roster. That is, of course, their most talented players on the roster except for recently retired quarterback Drew Brees.
The Saints need a quarterback again: Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston aren’t the long-term answer.
With eight picks in the 2021 draft, the Saints could take some swings to get their quarterback. Unless they perform a massive trade up from pick 28, none of these potential quarterbacks are going to be locks to be the franchise quarterback.
The Saints have a rapidly closing Super Bowl window. Will they be able to make the most of it with these picks?
Round 1, Pick 28: Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
Mills could be the best-kept secret of this year’s draft. A toolsy quarterback who had a very strong Pro Day, Mills may surprise people with how early he is picked.
When a team needs a quarterback, they may not be willing to wait to see if he’s still there later. Mills would be in a great position to sit behind Hill and Winston and then take the reins when he becomes ready. It’s best to get toolsy quarterbacks early and let them develop, so the Saints aren’t taking any chances here.
Round 2, Pick 60: Kelvin Joseph, CB, Kentucky
Another late riser in this draft class, Joseph is in that deep second tier of cornerback prospects in this draft. The Saints let cornerback Janoris Jenkins walk in free agency, and with Marshon Lattimore on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, the cornerback room is slowly thinning out. Extending Lattimore should be a massive priority, so acquiring good cheap cornerbacks to allow for a Lattimore extension is a necessity. Joseph is great value at pick 60 and patches an immediate need for the Saints.
Round 3, Pick 99: Pete Werner, LB, Ohio State
Werner was part of Ohio State’s impressive linebacking corps last season and is a reliable defender to plug into the Saints defense. Werner played WILL linebacker for the Buckeyes and could settle into a similar role with the Saints. Werner has good eyes and can be relied upon in coverage, so Werner could find himself in the nickel package as well.
Round 3, Pick 105: Josh Palmer, WR, Tennessee
The New Orleans Saints need to build around Michael Thomas and this passing game. Getting their quarterback, not named Drew Brees, another weapon to throw to will be key. At the back end of the third round is a great area to try and get one of these high-ceiling wide receivers. Josh Palmer is a big-bodied receiver that can play above the rim and can run strong vertical routes. He would pair nicely across from Thomas.
Round 4, Pick 134: Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburgh
With Trey Hendrickson signing with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Saints suddenly have a hole along their defensive line. With an aging Jordan Cameron on the other side of the defensive line, adding a young pass-rusher like Weaver will be important for the long-term health of the defense.
Weaver in the fourth round would be an excellent start to the third day of the draft, and would help bolster the Saints’ defense.
Round 6, Pick 219: Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
Nearly 100 picks later, the Saints add more depth to their cornerback room by taking the speedy Thomas. A little undersized, Thomas has feisty coverage skills and showed his own in the red zone at the Senior Bowl. He struggles with bigger, more physical receivers, and could be relegated to slot duties in the NFL.
Round 7, Pick 230: Alaric Jackson, T, Iowa
Measuring in at 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds at the Senior Bowl, Jackson seems to have ideal size for an NFL offensive tackle. He may also have a future on the interior of the offensive line in a swing-lineman role. Here’s what Cory Ezring (@CoryEzring) said of Jackson’s Senior Bowl performance:
Alaric Jackson of Iowa is an intriguing offensive lineman who has been discussed as a possible guard/tackle swing player … Jackson was inaccurate with his initial punches which forced him into a recovery position early in the snap. What’s more, he consistently played with a high pad level and allowed contact to his frame. Jackson also exhibited a poor anchor early in the week ... the Iowa product improved from Day 1 to Day 2 and further progressed from Day 2 to Day 3. Still, the senior’s impressive flashes were separated by stretches of underwhelming play ... Alaric Jackson is a probable draft selection come April who could develop into a reserve swing lineman.
Round 7, Pick 257: Riley Cole, LB, South Alabama
Despite drafting Werner in the third round, the Saints choose to add another linebacker late in the draft. The Saints have a tendency to draft a linebacker in all but one of their last four drafts, and with a more glaring need at linebacker this year they choose to double-dip at the position. Picking Cole will add depth to their linebacking corps and he should be able to contribute on special teams early.
The Saints leave this draft with their franchise quarterback and a bolstered defense. Where the Saints may now be thin because of their cap situation this year, they now have youth, talent and most important, cheap contracts to allow for their Super Bowl window to remain open.
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