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NFL Draft

New Orleans Saints 2021 NFL Draft Class Breakdown

  • The Draft Network
  • May 5, 2021
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The Saints are in a peculiar position. Drew Brees has retired and the roster isn’t as deep as previous seasons, so setting expectations for 2021 is challenging. The key for New Orleans moving forward is hitting on draft picks to assist with the salary cap gymnastics that happen every offseason for the Saints and to replenish the roster with meaningful contributions for low-cost players on rookie deals. 

Let’s take a look back at the Saints’ 2021 NFL Draft class:

Round 1: Payton Turner, EDGE, Houston

Turner wasn’t widely viewed as a first-round prospect but he was a favorite fallback option on day two if a team missed out on a top edge defender in the first round. The Saints got ahead of the curve and made him their top pick in the class. Turner is a long, athletic, physical, and powerful defensive end that demonstrated steady growth throughout his college career. He is lauded for his football character and plays the game with an unrelenting motor. With the departure of Trey Hendrickson in free agency and Marcus Davenport’s inability to be healthy and provide a consistent impact, Turner provides a much-need option for the Saints’ edge rush. 

Round 2: Pete Werner, LB, Ohio State

Demario Davis has been the heart and soul of the Saints’ defense and Zack Baun is a promising option to play alongside him, but the Saints’ linebacker corps was otherwise unproven, so making a high investment in additional talent to bring into the mix made a lot of sense. Werner was one of my favorite linebackers in the class and he checks a lot of boxes. A 35-game starter at Ohio State, Werner has terrific size, athleticism, physicality, processing skills, and functional strength. A balanced defender, Werner is a stud against the run and in coverage. There’s so much to like about Werner as a football player and I can see him claiming a role early in his career for the Saints defense. 

Round 3: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford 

Cornerback was another area of concern for the Saints entering the draft where Patrick Robinson was the scheduled starter opposite of Marshon Lattimore. Landing Adebo in the third round, even if it required a trade-up, is terrific value in my view given the Saints passed on a corner with their first two picks and the run on corners that was underway in the draft at the time of the selection. Adebo was exceptional in 2018 for Stanford but his 2019 campaign got off to a shaky start. There has been too much emphasis placed on that disappointing stretch of games and not enough on the significantly larger sample size before and after for Adebo where he looked like a future NFL starter. With Adebo opting out of the 2020 season and missing the final three games in 2019 due to injury, he didn’t exactly strike while the iron was hot when it came to entering the draft. With that said, Adebo has the size, athleticism, ball skills, and physicality to develop into a productive starter for New Orleans. 

Round 4: Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame 

Sean Payton is a Bill Parcells disciple so it comes as no surprise that Ian Book checks all the boxes when it comes to Parcells’ rules for drafting a quarterback. Book had a reasonably productive career at Notre Dame, but his projection to the NFL fails to bring excitement. While he’s a decent athlete, Book lacks size, arm talent, and consistency with processing. Book struggles to stay on schedule because he’s inconsistent and reading the leverage of the defense and where he needs to go with the football. In addition, his accuracy is a major question mark. If there’s a spot that can get the most out of Book, it’s in New Orleans under Payton, but I have doubt that Book can become more than a low-level backup. This was a reach. 

Round 6: Landon Young, OT, Kentucky 

The Saints’ starting offensive line is outstanding and one of the best units in the NFL. With that said, it’s fair to have concerns about the depth and Young was a wise investment to provide more options. A three-year starter at Kentucky, Young was a first-team All-SEC selection in 2020 and served as a team captain. The best part of Young’s game is his ability to run block and he also provides good size, athleticism, and sufficient length. He does have some technical issues with his base and hand technique in addition to balance, but there are enough positives in his game to believe he has a chance to provide the Saints with a quality reserve in time. 

Round 7: Kawaan Baker, WR, South Alabama 

A three-year starter in the slot for South Alabama, Baker finished his career as the program’s all-time leader in receiving yards (1,829) and receiving touchdowns (16). His production increased each year and he brings sound ball skills to the table. Baker has good size and a sufficient athletic profile. With that said, Baker is more of a linear athlete that lacks elusive qualities to make him more dynamic and limits his deceptiveness as a route-runner. Baker may have a tough time sticking at the next level so his best course forward is to prove he can win down the field and become a special teams ace. 

How Did The Saints Do? 

I love what general manager Mickey Loomis accomplished with his first three picks. The Turner pick was a surprise, but he has every trait needed to become a solid starter in the NFL. Werner is a consistent football player that checks a lot of boxes and Adebo was a bit of a forgotten man in this class but there’s a lot to like in terms of what he brings to the table. I didn’t love the Saints’ last three selections but I understand how they can compete for depth roles in areas where New Orleans needs help. The Saints assembled a sound class for a team that is in transition.

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