The New Orleans Saints are at a crossroads in their franchise. With the seemingly inevitable retirement of Drew Brees looming and some key pieces looking free agency in the eye at the new league year, the Saints are looking to carve out a new identity. There’s no better place to find that identity than in the NFL Draft, which will begin on Thursday, April 29.
Without free agency, it’s hard to tell where the biggest needs on the Saints lie. However, there are some positions that could definitely use some love. We’ve already discussed two players on offense in the Who Dat Herald, our free e-newsletter (and if you haven’t signed up, you should here!). So now, here are two players the Saints can target on defense in the 2021 NFL Draft who would not only fit on the Saints, but also in the city of New Orleans.
1.) Patrick Jones II — EDGE, Pitt
Although Gregory Rousseau is the highest-touted edge rusher in this draft, Patrick Jones II from Pitt has the benefit of some sustained success. His sack totals have gone up in the past three years, and he already has NFL size. If Trey Hendrickson ends up walking in free agency, Jones would be a good player for Ryan Nielsen to develop.
The other wild card, of course, is Marcus Davenport. Davenport has shown plenty of flashes as an edge player for the Saints, but he still doesn’t look like an every-down player. Jones would alleviate that pressure, but Davenport would still be able to get his reps in a big season. I’m not ready to punt on Davenport yet — but there should still be a rotation in the defensive line.
2.) Nick Bolton — LB, Missouri
Demario Davis has been covering up obvious flaws in the linebacking corps of the Saints for three years now. It’s time to get the man some help. The draft pick of Zack Baun last year doesn’t seem like it’s going to yield any superstar results, and even so, his role would likely be in a pass rushing capacity. Enter Nick Bolton, a linebacker from Missouri with a nose from the ball.
This would be invaluable for the Saints. Bolton can get to the quarterback on the blitz, he’s been around the 100 mark for total tackles the past two seasons, and he’s had 8.5 and 8 tackles for loss in the past two seasons. The Saints could use that kind of pressure to mask some of the flaws on the second level, and Bolton has the talent to be the guy to do it. There’s a glut of linebacker talent in this draft, so Bolton could well be there at 28 too. All things told, he could go a long way towards helping Davis anchor the Saints defense.
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