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Why the New Orleans Saints could win it all, Part III: Tight ends

An underrated key on offense.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Bringing back a series of pieces from the past three years, we’re going to check each position group on the New Orleans Saints and discuss how they improve the Saints’ chances of making a run in 2020. On to the Saints tight ends!

To view previous parts, see below:

Part I: Offensive Line

Part II: Running Backs

Big things were expected of last year’s big free agent acquisition, Jared Cook, and he largely lived up to the expectations in 2019. Cook set career marks in touchdowns and yards per reception last year, and had one of his better totals in receiving yards despite missing two games to injury.

Outside of Cook, the tight ends were generally underwhelming, but Josh Hill’s unimpressive 226 receiving yards in 2019 were actually a career-best mark for him as well. The other Hill, Taysom Hill, was probably the second-most productive tight end the Saints utilized in 2019, contributing both as a route-runner and as a blocker on the edge. The presence of Taysom left the Saints feeling comfortable with only Cook and Josh Hill on the roster at the position.

So here’s why they’re better in 2020:

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Jared Cook and both Hills are scheduled to return for the 2020 season, but the tight end position is one of the few positions the Saints were able to address in the 2020 NFL Draft as well.

The Saints were able to snag Dayton University’s Adam Trautman with the 105th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, despite Trautman being the top-ranked tight end on CSC’s own Ross Jackson’s pre-draft board. Check out what CSC’s Andrew Bell had to say about Trautman before the pick:

Typically, I don’t put as much stock into the Senior Bowl as I do the entirety of a player’s college career, as that’s where you’ll find stability and a larger sample size. But with a player like Trautman who was playing such weak competition, his productive Senior Bowl outing was huge.

The 6-foot-6 255 pounder racked up 916 yards and 14 TDs as a senior at Dayton. He was the only NCAA tight end with double-digit touchdowns, and he ranked second among tight end in yards.

Easily the highest PFF-graded tight end, with a 94.2 overall grade, his collegiate production was never in question. But when he lit up the Senior Bowl, that opened the eyes of scouts.

If Trautman can come in and provide a younger, fresher option at tight end to compliment the 33-year-old Cook and 30-year-old Josh Hill, the Saints tight end group just got that much better. Add in what Taysom Hill can still do at the position, and you have a current Pro Bowler (Cook), a steady contributor (Josh Hill), a young potential star (Trautman), and the Swiss Army Knife all playing tight end for the Saints in 2020.

With another year of Michael Thomas and the addition of Emmanuel Sanders at wide receiver, that too can only help improve the tight end play for the Saints in 2020, whichever player that might be on any given Sunday.