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Mel Kiper gives Saints C+ grade for 2020 draft class

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“Who the hell is Mel Kiper” anyway?

NFL Pro Bowl Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has released his draft grades for all 32 teams (Insider required). For the New Orleans Saints, Kiper gives the Saints a solid C+:

New Orleans Saints: C+

Top needs: CB, LB, WR, Edge, QB

The Saints treat drafts differently than every other team. Not worse, just differently. They’re totally fine trading future picks to move up to get the guy they want. They did it for Alvin Kamara a few years ago, dealing a 2018 second-round pick to get into the third round in 2017. They did it in 2018, too, trading a 2019 first-rounder to get pass-rusher Marcus Davenport in the top half of Round 1. And they entered this draft with only five picks, tied for fewest in the league, because of other trades. How did they fare? Well, they ended up with only four total picks because of more maneuvering.

I’m high on center Cesar Ruiz (24), whom I ranked as the clear top interior offensive lineman in this class, and he has some experience at guard. He could end up there with last year’s second-round pick, Erik McCoy, playing so well at center as a rookie. One thing that bothers shorter quarterbacks like Drew Brees is interior pressure, and New Orleans is trying to shore that up as it goes all-in for 2020. I have other needs higher for the Saints — particularly wide receiver — but I do like Ruiz.

The Saints used trades for their other three picks, including adding next year’s third-rounder, to move up to get outside linebacker Zack Baun (74) and tight end Adam Trautman (105). Baun is an interesting fit in Dennis Allen’s defense; is he a defensive end or a versatile linebacker? I thought he’d be great as an OLB in a 3-4. Either way, it’s good value for Baun, who is my No. 31 overall player. The 6-foot-5 Trautman, my second-ranked tight end, caught 70 passes last season and is really just a jumbo wide receiver at this point, but that could be useful in Sean Payton’s offense.

It appears the Saints will try to use quarterback Tommy Stevens (240) in some sort of Taysom Hill role, but he is my 18th-ranked quarterback. I’ll believe he gets on the field when I see it. New Orleans tried for quality over quantity here, but it’s tough for a class with four picks to break into the B range.

His overall criticism is fair, as the Saints clearly opted for quality as opposed to chasing quantity in the 2020 NFL Draft. This makes sense consider the Saints have a deep roster that’s built for a championship run and multiple 7th-round picks would be struggling to find a spot on this roster. Instead, the Saints decided to package those lower round picks into draft capital earlier in the draft for players they believe have a better shot at producing in 2020.

Around the NFC South, the Atlanta Falcons were given the worst draft grade of a C due to a perceived reach on their first round pick A.J. Terrell, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers both earned B’s.

And let’s not forget that Kiper also gave the 2017 Saints draft class a B grade, despite the class producing both the 2017 Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year.

He’s admitted he was wrong about the Saints in the past, hopefully 2020 is another such instance.