The New Orleans Saints landed a steal at #74 overall in this year’s NFL Draft by selecting Wisconsin LB Zack Baun. After passing on LSU’s Patrick Queen in day one, the Saints were able to move up to get their guy. The vision for Baun has been made clear by the New Orleans coaching staff and it brings both excitement for some and concern for others. Other than Zack Baun himself, here are three winners and three loser from his selection.
Winner: The New Orleans Saints
Again, the Saints were able to move up to get Baun at 74, well below where he was originally expected to be selected. But it was not the easiest route. Coach Sean Payton mentioned in his press conference following the first day of the draft that linebacker was still very much a need they hoped to address in the draft, but that he expected many of the top remaining players at the position to be gone early. Fortunately for New Orleans, that was not the case.
Payton said the team spent nearly an hour trying to trade up to select Baun, but deals kept falling through. Luckily, Baun continued to topple down the board. The first linebacker of day two was Willie Gay, Jr. at pick 63. 11 selections later, their guy was still on the board and now at a cheaper price. Had the Saints moved up into the second-round, it could have cost them much more capital than a 2021 third-rounder they expect to recoup in the form of a compensatory pick.
Not only did New Orleans get their guy, they did not have to pay the premium they expected either. All in the meanwhile filling a need with one of the top five players at this position in the third-round.
Loser: Kiko Alonso
The ripple effect is not all positive from the Baun addition. Kiko Alonso was acquired via trade by the Saints ahead of the 2018 season, but unfortunately dealt with a couple of injuries including a late ACL tear in the playoffs. With the timing of that injury, it is currently unclear whether or not Alonso will be ready as the season begins.
That is good news for Baun, but not-so-good news for Alonso who could end up losing his starting position to the rookie. With A.J. Klein having departed, the SAM position would have been ready for Alonso upon his return. Now, it feels more likely that the position will be filled and Alonso will either have to compete for it when he is back, or default back to his depth role.
Winner: Wisconsin OLB Coach Bobby April III
Coach April took to Twitter to congratulate Baun and let the Who Dat Nation what they were getting in the former Badger. April has strong ties to the state of Louisiana. His dad, Bobby April, Jr., was born in New Orleans and coached for the New Orleans Saints from 1996 to 1999 as their special teams coach.
April III may be in Wisconsin now, but he attended the University of Louisiana-Lafayette for college and has coached there as well as with Tulane and Nicholls State. He went on to have a five-year coaching career in the NFL before heading to Madison in 2018.
Now, April III gets to watch a player he worked with very closely play on Sundays in the black and gold. Has to be a pretty good feeling for the self-proclaimed “Bayou Badger”.
Loser: Kaden Elliss
With the A.J. Klein departure and unknown Kiko Alonso return timetable, Elliss could have been in line to compete for a more prominent role either at the vacated SAM position or as a more immediate backup in his second year. The Saints (and many of us Who Dats) love Elliss and want to see him out on the field as a contributor. But with the addition of Baun, that adds another candidate that could stand in the way of meaningful playing time for the Idaho product.
Elliss has been attacking his rehab very seriously and does hope to be back in time to compete in camp, which seems likely considering the timing of his injury. It just gets a little more complicated with Baun in the mix as a top-talent primed to leap to the front of the depth chart.
Winner: Saints Linebacker Coach Michael Hodges
In Hodges first year at linebacker coach in New Orleans he will have at his disposal a litany of athletic linebackers. Demario Davis, Alex Anzalone, Kiko Alonso, Kaden Elliss, and even a UDFA from last season Chase Hansen all pack a ton of athleticism at the position. Now, Hodges gets the great pleasure of adding another young, agile piece in Zack Baun.
It does not end there, though. Hodges also gets the good fortune of coming into a situation with high football makeup and high field IQ guys as well. Not to mention he gets a coach on the field in Demario Davis who helps to set the tone that everyone else in the linebacker room will whistle to. Hodges get to take advantage of all of that in a pretty nice setup for a first-time position coach.
Loser: Todd Gurley
Not only did he become a Falcon this year, but he also has to deal with one of the league’s best run defenses over the last few years twice a season. And that defense just added this guy to that top-of-the-line run game.
Any more winners or losers you would like to add? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @RossJacksonNOLA.