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Saints get high-upside project in cornerback Paulson Adebo

The Saints traded up to land the CB, but he’s not the Day 1 starter some fans wanted

NCAA Football: Washington at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the draft, the New Orleans Saints had two major pressing needs. Linebacker and cornerback. They addressed those needs on Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft by landing Pete Werner and Paulson Adebo. The latter is a cornerback from Stanford.

Adebo is a prototypical CB build, standing at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. At Stanford, he was predominately a left outside corner, making him a strong complement to Marshon Lattimore, who generally mans the right side of the field. Adebo has said he prefers man coverage, which could be what drew the Saints to him.

The Saints traded up for Adebo after Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II were taken in the first 11 picks.

At Stanford, Adebo played a lot of off coverage to varying results. It wasn’t uncommon to see him playing 8-10 yards off of the wide receiver, leaving him susceptible to curls and underneath switches. Stanford played a lot of drop coverage, and it’s clear that Adebo has a good grasp of when to pass off a receiver.

Keep in mind also that Adebo opted out of the 2020 season, leaving a lot of his tape dated. With that being said, here’s a look at the good, the bad and ugly for Paulson Adebo.

The Good

When Stanford played man coverage, Adebo’s smarts really come into play. He’s good at staying on a receiver’s back hip, and his timing to make plays is impeccable. Indeed, just look at his numbers. Adebo had eight interceptions and 27 passes broken up in just two seasons at Stanford. He’s confident following receivers out of their breaks, and he’s willing to play physical.

Adebo’s build also makes him very trainable. This isn’t the 220-pound Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Adebo has good relative size and speed, and with Marcus Williams helping over the top, Adebo will be able to take the risks in coverage that allowed him to make a name for himself at Stanford.

The Bad

Because of Stanford’s scheme, it’s difficult to tell how effective will be in Dennis Allen’s variants of zone coverage. The Saints have thrived off of multiple looks the past few seasons, which can be complicated for incoming players to learn. Stanford often had Adebo playing off of receivers when he’s looked better locking them up at the line.

When Adebo gave up completions, they were often curls or switches. If that continues, it could be exploitable in the Saints’ zone variants. No one wants to see the Saints go back to soft zones that got them picked apart in the mid-2010s. Adebo will need a bit of time to fit in on this Saints defense, so the reality is the CB No. 2 spot is wide open.

The Ugly

This isn’t so much ugly as it has the potential to be ugly. With Adebo missing a full season, the Saints don’t necessarily know what they’re getting out of him. If there’s one thing we know about NFL teams, it’s that they tend to be risk-averse, which makes this pick all the more interesting.

Adebo will undoubtedly have some growing pains at the NFL level. He was susceptible to pass interference calls at Stanford, so don’t expect the Saints secondary to have those go away. However, if he can avoid those calls on third downs, the Saints can live with the risk.

All things told, Adebo is a good, physical corner with great hands and good ability in man coverage. While we won’t know what the Saints have in him until at least the preseason, there are a lot of reasons to be enthusiastic about the pick.

With that being said, look for the Saints to shore up the cornerback position in free agency. Adebo doesn’t really have the makings of a Day 1 starter, but he certainly has the potential to become a strong piece for a Saints defense that desperately needs to figure out its situation opposite Lattimore for the foreseeable future.

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