After months of speculation, hypothesis, mock draft boards, and practice arm chair general managers we finally made it to the 2021 NFL draft. The New Orleans Saints knew what their major needs were and many speculated they would be major players in acquiring a top cornerback in this draft. Early reports in the day were the Saints were making calls about moving into the Top 10 under the assumption that they may target a top guy like Jaycee Horn or a Patrick Surtain Jr.
As it would play out the Saints either couldn’t or didn’t make the big leap near the top of the board, but they potentially could still nab a top corner as talented prospects in Caleb Farley and Greg Newsome were still available in the 20s. Farley ended up being drafted at 22 by the Tennessee Titans while Newsome was taken at 26 by the Cleveland Browns. With the top 4 corners already off the board, the Saints were still left with talented players on the board and especially at positions of need. The cry on social media was for the Saints to take talented linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame who may be the most versatile defender in the draft. The Saints however, went a different route.
With the 28th pick in the 2021 draft the New Orleans Saints select Houston defensive end Payton Turner..........Wait what?
Saints draft grade: C-
While it’s far too early to grade any pick for any team in this draft, initial thoughts is that this is a head scratcher. Not only was this pick not addressing a position of need like cornerback or linebacker, but the pick itself looks like a reach, Turner came into this draft with a late second round/early 3rd round grade. The measurables are there for him. He’s a 6’6 270 pound freak with ridiculously long arms and an explosive first step. He does come with some health issues as he only played in five games last season for the Cougars.
Turner finished this past season with 5 sacks and 10 1⁄2 tackles for loss. Over his 4 year career at Houston, he started 40 games and finished with 115 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks. He earned second team ALL-AAC honors last season.
If a guy like Turner was graded where he was, why take the plunge so early to nab him? That position group is already crowded with Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, an emerging Carl Granderson who is working hard this offseason to make an impact, and a recent signing of Tanoh Kpassagnon from the Chiefs. As it stands today, the Saints have 8 defensive ends on their roster and only 4 cornerbacks. You expect your first round guys to make immediate impacts on the team and it remains to be seen if Turner will do that. What is clear is that the Saints must address some immediate needs in the next few rounds.
Talented players like the aforementioned JOK from Notre Dame or Asante Samuel Jr from Florida State remain available and the Saints need to be diligent in addressing these needs as soon as possible. The Saints have three Day 2 picks as it stands now so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Saints move up to grab a player of need.
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