Payton Turner-DE (1st round, 28th overall)
First round draft pick Payton Turner came as a bit of a surprise to many Saints fans, as a lot of us did not expect him to be the team’s top pick. With the departure of Trey Hendrickson, and with Marcus Davenport struggling to stay on the field, it makes sense to draft a defensive end, and it’s a pretty sure thing that Turner will play quite a lot in 2021.
The Houston Cougar recorded 5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss in just five games in 2020, a vast improvement from his 2019 campaign. Turner is a big defensive end at 6’6” and 270 pounds, and is a stellar run defender who could see plenty of action on 1st and 2nd downs in rotation with Davenport.
Davenport’s fifth-year option was just picked up, so he is definitely in the Saints plans for the near future, so it is likely Turner plays his fair share of snaps but will not be an every down player in 2021.
Pete Werner-LB (2nd round, 60th overall)
After a polarizing decision with their first draft pick, the Saints used their second on what was generally considered a very good pick. Werner was a member of the 2020 All-Big Ten team, and an Ohio State defense that beat Trevor Lawrence and gave Mac Jones and Alabama all they could in the College Football Playoff.
Werner projects to compete with Zack Baun for snaps on defense in 2021. With Alex Anzalone leaving for Detroit this offseason, and Kwon Alexander being released, the Saints are in need of some linebackers to line up next to All-Pro Demario Davis. Werner should have an edge, as he is thought of as a better prospect that Baun, who struggled to see significant snaps in his rookie year. I believe both Werner and Baun will get their chance to cement themselves as the #2 linebacker on the Saints defense this season, but I believe Werner has a better chance of being the starter going into 2021.
Paulson Adebo-CB (3rd round, 76th overall)
In a pleasant surprise, the Saints traded up 22 spots from 98th to 76th in order to grab Adebo. Cornerback was arguably the Saints biggest need going into this draft, and many fans were worried when they did not select one with either of their first two picks. Thankfully the war room recognized this and somehow convinced the Broncos to trade pick #76 for picks #98 and #105 in order to draft the Stanford player.
The Saints do not have much at corner outside of Marshon Lattimore, with Patrick Robinson and C.J. Gardner-Johnson listed as the other corners ahead of Adebo. Both players are solid options, but Robinson is getting up there in age, and Gardner-Johnson is far better being moved around the field and working out of the slot than he is as an outside corner. Janoris Jenkins’s departure should lead to a competition for the starting corner spot, which will likely come down to Adebo and Robinson.
It is possible that the Saints decide to start the season with Robinson as the #2 corner, as he did have a decent season last year. Adebo however should take over this position sometime soon, as he is too good a prospect to simply ride the bench his rookie year.
Ian Book-QB (4th round, 133rd overall)
One of the most unexpected picks in the entire 2021 Draft was the Saints selection of Notre Dame Quarterback Ian Book. Drew Brees did retire in the offseason, but the Saints brought back two veteran QBs who were on the team last year to compete for the starting job in 2021. Either Jamies Winston or Taysom Hill will be the Saints starting QB come Week 1, so it was quite a surprise the Saints took a QB as early as the 4th round.
Barring an injury to either Winston or Hill, it is highly unlikely that Book will see any action in 2021. Book is a good runner out of the pocket but he is not as big or as fast as Taysom Hill, so it is hard to see him getting any carries over Hill. It is more likely that Book spends the season on the practice squad than it is for him to throw a pass this season.
Landon Young-OT (6th round, 206th overall)
Kentucky offensive lineman Landon Young could potentially be one of the better finds of the 2021 Draft for the Saints. A four-year starter at Kentucky and a former top-15 High School recruit, Young made his first All-SEC team in 2020.
The Saints offensive line is one of the better units in the entire NFL. All five starters from 2020 are slated to return as well, meaning we will most likely not see Landon Young much this year if everyone stays healthy. He has reportedly been working on his versatility however, meaning that he could be in line to fill in for any of the starting lineman if any one of them were to get banged up.
Kawaan Baker-WR (7th round, 255th overall)
The Saints finally drafted a receiver with their final pick in the 2021 Draft and South Alabama’s Kawaan Baker will definitely have a chance to see the field this year. Emmanuel Sanders’s departure leaves a hole at WR opposite Michael Thomas. Tre’Quan Smith is likely to fill that slot, but Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, and now Kawaan Baker will likely be in line for the #3 slot in the receiver group.
Baker is explosive and could have potentially slid due to a knee injury he suffered at the end of the 2020 season. He was showing no signs of said injury come draft time so the Saints could have potentially found a difference maker late in the draft. Both Callaway and especially Harris have been productive for the Saints and both players were undrafted free agents, so it would not be against the norm to see Baker get his fair share of looks in 2021.
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