The 2021 NFL Draft is the start of the post-Drew Brees era for the New Orleans Saints, and that elevates the importance of this draft to a degree. However, it’s not as if the Saints are taking an eraser to the whole roster and starting over from scratch. This is mostly the same team that won the division last year and was a certain tight end completely soiling his britches away from playing in the NFC championship game. The Saints have talent all across the roster, but they also have holes that desperately need filling.
A first round pick is the best asset a team has to bring a talent(s) that have a high margin for error. The further down in the draft you go, the less likely a player is to be a meaningful contributor and so hitting on those early round players is key. With the 28th pick the draft the Saints don’t have a premium pick where they are as likely to get a true blue chip prospect, but that are still quite likely to be able to get someone ready to contribute to the team right away. The question is, should they spend that asset improving the defense, or restocking the offense.
If we look at the draft as purely a way to plug holes on the roster and/or to address talent deficiencies then there is no question the team should spend its first round pick on the defense. The Saints have a major hole on all 3 levels of the defense. They don’t have a reliable pass rusher, they lack anything resembling quality at linebacker outside of Demario, and there is currently no cornerback on the roster with a reasonable expectation of being able to start opposite of Marshon Lattimore (and that is assuming he’s available and not out due to his extremely poor decision making). The Saints would have legitimate quality options in the first round to fill all 3 positions with or without trading up, and if they hit on whatever position they draft it will likely raise the floor of the team.
On the flipside, if we approach the draft from more of a ‘team building’ perspective then it may be more valuable to dedicate your most effective asset to pushing the team’s strength to its best possible state and using their 4 mid-round picks to add to their depleted defense. If that is the approach then the Saints could take a wide receiver (by FAR my personal preference) a tight end (please no), or a running back to complement super star Alvin Kamara. If the Saints choose to go this route they would likely go with a wide receiver both because of the available talent in this draft as well as the lack of talent at the position on the roster.
My personal preference would be for the team to add talent to the offense for a simple reason. The offense is far closer to being a great unit than the defense is, and I would much rather make my best punch as good as it can be than bring my worst up to average with my best asset. Additionally the rules and the way the game is played today make it far more difficult to have a top-level defense than offense. I know we’re all worried about returning to the 2012-16 years of terrible defense, but the team at worst can likely sign a couple of competent vets to tread water on those units. The Saints are far away from being a dominant defense and need a lot more than just one player to get there.
However, there is a world where Jameis Winston is his best self and the Saints have a unit of Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Adam “Big Fish” Trautman, and a talented rookie receiver (say Kadarius Toney from Florida) putting enormous pressure on defenses. The final component of why I would rather go offense with the pick and add another playmaking talent to that unit is that having a reliable offense makes the defense’s job a lot easier. We don’t have some brilliant guru at Defensive Coordinator, we have a smart staff that gets their players to play hard, but we haven’t been a dominating unit schematically or otherwise....we have on offense.
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