My name is Adam West and I am one of the cohosts of the #SaintsTwitter Podcast. It has been ages since I have written anything football or NFL related. The last time I wrote something was for DraftMecca back in the day rattling on about how Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro would be a great pick for the Saints (I was wrong). That is the amazing thing about the draft - whether it is scouts who have watched numerous players over the year or if it is just a person watching YouTube cutups of prospects. It is all just a huge guessing game as the science always boils to humans picking humans. That makes the draft exciting and one of the best live reality events to watch in real time. Much has changed since I authored an article about Jace Amaro particularly with the New Orleans Saints but a lot of things have remained the same.
The New Orleans Saints enter the 2022 NFL Draft with ample draft picks and must hit on the prospects they select if the team is going to remain successful. The Saints set the foundation for their future with their outstanding 2017 draft yet even though they selected elite players from that draft, only 3 players from that draft remain on the team (Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, and Alvin Kamara). Since the 2017 draft, there have been some bright draft picks (Erik McCoy and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson) but it has been a mixed bag for the team especially the dreaded 2020 draft class. The Saints are trusting Jeff Ireland can strike gold again and replenish the team with talented young players to have the Saints contending in the NFC which appears to have seen its pinnacle as a conference in the NFL.
This leads me to this exercise - an idea that came together last year with the help of my biggest supporter who happens to be a statistical expert. Everyone loves to mock prospects to teams and be able to guess who the pick will be but what if there was a way to do this based on historical evidence that a team has given to the public since 2006? The Saints are a unique team and one of the few teams that this exercise can apply to. Since 2006, the Saints have had the same general manager at the helm in Mickey Loomis and until this offseason had the same head coach in Sean Payton. With that type of history, trends and athletic profiles are developed over time in how the Saints attempt to draft and find talent.
What this exercise does is take the specific positional groups that the Saints have drafted since 2006 and create an athletic average for that position and using that data match incoming rookies that the Saints have historically drafted. For example, every DE that the team has drafted from Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport, Trey Hendrickson and so on have numbers they posted at the Combine when they were prospects. Those numbers (height, weight, 40-time, shuttle, 3-cone, broad jump, vertical and bench press) for each former prospect are averaged creating the athletic profile the Saints have drafted per position and then matched to prospects that meet those athletic averages.
It is not an exact science for a multitude of reasons. One reason is it hard to distinguish if these numbers are specific just to what the Saints’ look for athletically or could it be more of a general NFL average; however, we can only go by what the Saints have drafted historically from 2006. These averages do not include any UDFAs that the Saints have hit on in the past so the likes of Pierre Thomas and Lance Moore is not included in the averages, only drafted payers. There has also been two different men leading the draft rooms in this tenure – formerly Ryan Pace and since 2015 Jeff Ireland. This exercise does not do an average from the Pace drafts and the Ireland drafts separately but puts them all together. And the most important reason especially this year is – Sean Payton. Since 2006, the Saints have been run by Coach Payton and now Dennis Allen is at the helm. While the team obviously may keep most of the things that have worked in the past the same way, there is the chance and probability that Coach Allen puts a tweak on the measurables that he wants in certain positions that was not the case when Sean Payton was the head coach.
This is a fun exercise and one I am proud of. I enjoy doing it because I love the NFL draft and the intrigue of it all. In this doing last year, the list correctly predicted that LB Pete Werner hit every measurable that the Saints had drafted historically at the linebacker position. Keep in mind – there are some limitations to this exercise. There are some prospects who do not do every drill and may have metrics missing. Most injured players do not have any data whatsoever so they will not match simply due to that (e.g. Jameson Williams).
Things of note when looking at these players: ALL METRICS is a caliper match which means these prospects’ measurables match to historically Saints’ draft measurables within certain ranges consisting of height, weight, 40-time, vertical, bench, broad jump, 3-cone, and shuttle. LIMITED METRICS consists of height, weight, 40-time, vertical and broad jump ONLY.
COMPATIBLE 2021 PROSPECTS
Note: All metrics = Height, Weight, 40-yd, Vertical, Bench Reps, Broad Jump, 3 Cone, Shuttle
Limited metrics = Height, Weight, 40-yd, Vertical, Broad Jump
Caliper matched with following calipers:
Bench Reps: 10
Broad Jump: 15
3 Cone: 0.3
Commentary: The 2022 EDGE/DE class is deep with talent – the Saints’ addressed DE in the first round last year by drafting Payton Turner from Houston. There could be DE talent in the later rounds that the Saints find too good to pass up especially with the athletic profiles of these prospects.
Commentary: The Saints have attempted to address the DT position via free agency in signing Kentavius Street and Jaleel Johnson and one would think that DT is not on their radar in the draft. There are a few that meet what the Saints’ have drafted since 2006. NOTE: Jordan Davis who tore up the Combine does not match any of the profiles due to his 40-time being an outlier compared to the athletic profile average.
Commentary: Even after signing Marcus Maye, the departures of Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins retiring still is a big hole for the Saints’ secondary. The NFL seems like they are content with overthinking Kyle Hamilton from Notre Dame and he has a slight chance of falling into the Saints’ lap. Lewis Cine, one of my favorite safeties in this draft, also meets the athletic profile.
Commentary: Adam Trautman regressed last season and showed that he may be better suited in the TE2 role in the Saints’ offense. This TE class has solid talent throughout the draft and #SaintsTwitter Podcast favorite, Greg Dulcich (UCLA), meets all the TE metrics.
Reggie Roberson, Jr.
Kevin Austin, Jr.
Johnny Johnson, III
Commentary: The most pivotal position for the Saints heading into the 2022 NFL Draft is wide receiver. The Saints currently have one of the bottom 3 WR rooms in the NFL even if Michael Thomas can return to form. It has been a position that has been neglected for years in the draft and a position that the Saints must invest into with the upcoming draft. There are many prospects that hit on the athletic profile at the WR position in this draft and the biggest surprise is Treylon Burks of Arkansas hitting on the limited metrics for the Saints. Burks is polarizing prospect especially due to his athletic testing numbers yet he meets the criteria for New Orleans based on history. Mock draft favorites Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson also match up with limited metrics for the Saints as well.
Commentary: Running back is the most underrated need on the Saints. Alvin Kamara even without legal issues operates better in tandem and the likes of Mark Ingram and Tony Jones Jr are not moving the needle offensively at all. There is a plethora of RBs that the Saints can draft in the later rounds to add more juice at the RB position.
Commentary: The Saints FINALLY drafted a good linebacker last year in Pete Werner from Ohio State. The Saints could bring back Kwon Alexander (and should) but Demario Davis is not getting younger. LB is not a position that the Saints may draft early but there is talent throughout the draft in various rounds.
Commentary: The Saints has a great secondary in Marshon Lattimore, Paulson Adebo and Ceedy Duce. However, if Dennis Allen were to move Ceedy to SS (to address the hole at safety) there could be a hole at the CB spot. The team did bring back Bradley Roby which provides them flexibility but corners/secondary players have been Jeff Ireland’s wheelhouse. The likes of Stingley, McDuffie or Daxton Hill should not surprise you at all with their measurables aligning.
Commentary: The Saints have two huge holes on the offensive line – at left tackle and right guard. Personally, I am of the belief that James Hurst could be serviceable at LT; however, that is not the same sense the Saints are putting out. Ruiz is a far worse starter on the line but the Saints are in luck as there are numerous OL that meet their athletic profile since 2006. It should be also noted that a player like Charles Cross does not make it onto the list due to his outlier of a ridiculous 40-time. His other metrics does hit per the Saints' draft history.