There's been some time to reflect on the New Orleans Saints draft class for 2021, and it's time to think a little bit more about these picks.
Payton Turner, DE, Houston - 1st Round, 28th Overall
The first thing that stands out about Turner is his attitude. He has some dominant traits to his game, and that prototype the Saints look for is evident. This is where maybe the thought process should be challenged a bit. What if Turner ends up being the Trey Hendrickson replacement instead of Carl Granderson? We've seen the workout videos and it looks promising for him.
We've also heard a lot about the Cam Jordan comparisons, so what if he ends up being the replacement? With all respect to Jordan, New Orleans is invested in him through 2024, and his cap hits are going to incur a lot of dead money ($21.4 million) if they did something with him next offseason. However, that figure is a little easier to digest in 2023 ($13.2 million).
Having a ton of pass rushers isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does make you wonder what it all will look like with Marcus Davenport and Tanoh Kpassagnon added to the mix with the aforementioned edge guys. Maybe you kick Turner inside some, but he's really someone we'll have to keep a close eye on during camp and preseason.
Pete Werner, LB, Ohio State - 2nd Round, 60th Overall
The Ohio State pipeline works again for the Saints, and on the surface, they didn't take a player who is going to jump out at you and get you super excited. However, he puts in some major work for the Buckeyes and is very intelligent. The tackling is good, and he'll start out at weakside linebacker for New Orleans, but offers a lot of versatility to his game.
The main concern is this: Did the Saints draft another Alex Anzalone or Zack Baun? The pressure is on for someone to pair alongside Demario Davis, and while there are some good elements to his game, this is going to be someone who goes under the microscope. The National Championship game against Alabama was a very tough outing for him. Ask yourself, is Werner someone you want guarding against Christian McCaffrey? This doesn't exactly or shouldn't rule out bringing back Kwon Alexander, by any means.
Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford - 3rd Round, 76th Overall
Fans were begging and pleading for a cornerback, and New Orleans may have found a good one. Adebo is one you can get excited about, possessing good ball skills and physicality off the line of scrimmage. Sean Payton said that he was going to start off on the left side, and building off of his strong traits with secondary coach Kris Richard can really make Adebo a starter on opening day. One would believe that drafting Adebo doesn't take adding a veteran cornerback in the next few weeks off of the table. It might not be Richard Sherman coming in, but more along the lines of Bashaud Breeland, Casey Hayward, or Dre Kirkpatrick.
Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame - 4th Round, 133rd Overall
If it's worth anything, Drew Brees had a lot of great things to say about Ian Book.
“I’m sure he’s got high expectations for the NFL,” Brees said of Book. “I think his skill set sure carries over. He’s an athletic guy who can run and make plays with his legs. Obviously, he throws the ball very well so I think he’s got a bright future.”
“I think the first thing you see is just his heart, toughness, and competitive drive. You said it – winningest quarterback in Notre Dame history – and there’s a nice list of QBs that have come through Notre Dame so that’s saying a lot.”
The 'undersized' talk is what you'll hear about him, and he's truly someone that will need a bit of development. He could very well end up being the No. 3 option for the Saints over Trevor Siemian. The best thing to say here is that more information is needed, and any talk of this being the future for New Orleans is premature. Be sure to read up on him on Irish Breakdown, SI's Notre Dame site.
Landon Young, OT, Kentucky - 6th Round, 206th Overall
There's times you watch Young and just see the opposing rusher get stopped dead in his tracks, and he also has some good vision getting to the next level on blocking. You look at him and see a 'meat and potatoes guy, or as Sean Payton so eloquently puts it, 'mass and ass'. He'll start working out as a right tackle for the Saints, but look for Young to get some work in at guard. That's an area where the Saints need the depth more, as James Hurst should remain the top Jumbo offensive lineman option and primary backup to Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk.
Kawaan Baker, WR, South Alabama - 7th Round, 255th Overall
The craziest thing on Baker was the fact that he played with 12 different quarterbacks from 2017-2020, and four of them were from last season. Baker wasn't just a wide receiver, but also a running back for the Jaguars. He would be one to keep an eye on, as he looks to do a little of everything New Orleans needs. None of the 11 undrafted players the Saints brought in were a wide receiver, by the way. This says a little bit about the confidence in the position group, and Baker certainly has a lot of upside and good odds to crack the 53-man roster.