It’s no secret that the New Orleans Saints need a quarterback, with only Taysom Hill and Ian Book on active contracts for 2022.
The Saints will undoubtedly be linked to players like Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jameis Winston, and Teddy Bridgewater this offseason, but there will also be talks about the Saints drafting their future franchise quarterback in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
That’s why it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Mel Kiper, Jr. have the Saints selecting a quarterback with the 18th overall pick in his recent first round mock for ESPN (Insider required):
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
The Saints won four of five games to end the season and almost snuck into the playoffs, but their offense was subpar after Jameis Winston tore his ACL in late October. If Winston goes elsewhere in free agency, Sean Payton is going to want a new quarterback to groom. Taysom Hill, who turns 32 before the start of the 2022 season, hasn’t shown enough to be considered their QB of the present nor future.
That’s why I see Pickett, who’s coming off an efficient 42-touchdown, seven-interception season, as the perfect fit for New Orleans. He took a huge leap in 2021, showing off pinpoint accuracy to every area of the field. He started 49 games in college, so he can play right away for a team that wants to compete for the playoffs. The biggest question I’ve heard from people in the NFL is one that you might laugh at: hand size. Pickett has small hands — we’ll find out the exact size at the Senior Bowl soon — and that matters to the teams doing the drafting. If he can play his home games in a dome in New Orleans, that’s a plus.
Pickett is actually the second quarterback off the board in Kiper’s ESPN mock. Liberty QB Malik Willis went seven picks earlier to the Washington Football Team. Directly behind the Saints in this mock were other draft prospects Saints fans and media have already been connecting to New Orleans: Ohio Sate WR Chris Olave went one spot later to the Philadelphia Eagles 19th overall, Ole Miss QB Matt Corral went one spot after that to the Pittsburgh Steelers 20th overall, and Alabama WR Jameson Williams went directly after that to the New England Patriots 21st overall.
If the Saints add a veteran quarterback early in free agency via trade (like Russell Wilson) or free agency (like Jameis Winston), it’s more likely the Saints grab a wide receiver like Chris Olave in the first round over a quarterback. If the Saints instead head into the 2022 NFL Draft with the quarterback position unaddressed, the Saints could do a lot worse than a player like Kenny Pickett to build around.