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Canal Street Chronicles looks to the future at QB with Kenny Pickett at No. 16

With Drew Brees retired and Jameis Winston only under contract through 2023, it’s time for the Saints to look toward the long term at quarterback.

87th Heisman Trophy Media Availability Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

The selection of Kenny Pickett, the quarterback out of Pitt, will certainly be a pick for the New Orleans Saints that makes some headlines.

A run of offensive tackles — NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu fourth overall to the Jets, Alabama’s Evan Neal fifth to the Giants, Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning ninth to the Seahawks, and Mississippi State’s Charles Cross 14th overall to the Ravens — left the Saints with a decision. No longer able to replace Pro Bowl LT Terron Armstead, who recently signed with the Miami Dolphins, do the Saints grab their top choice of wide receivers or do they add somewhere else?

Picking again in three picks, the Saints are going to be guaranteed one of the top remaining wide receivers: Alabama’s Jameson Williams or Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. The options at wide receiver gave the Saints the luxury of adding a different player elsewhere on the team while knowing they will still be able to add a high-end wide receiver with the 19th pick.

Enter Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett.

Jameis Winston is only signed through the 2023 season, so the Saints plan at quarterback for 2024 and beyond is murky at best. If Jameis struggles either this season or next, the Saints lack a first round pick next year to find a replacement. All of their eggs are currently in the Jameis Winston basket, but Winston is far from a “sure thing” in the NFL. Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett gives the Saints the chance to hedge their bet on Jameis Winston a bit and potentially find their quarterback of the future.

The Saints obsess over RAS (“Relative Athletic Score”), and typically only draft a quarterback who scores as a high athlete. Liberty QB Malik Willis has shot up numerous draft boards and might have been the preferred option at quarterback, but he skipped testing for RAS and was selected by the Carolina Panthers 6th overall anyways. Kenny Pickett has an elite RAS that the New Orleans Saints would likely find enticing.

While Sean Payton was the coach, he adopted Bill Parcell’s seven rules for a quarterback prospect:

  1. Are they a college senior?
  2. Are they a college graduate?
  3. Did they start three or more years?
  4. Did they start 30 or more games?
  5. Did they win 23 or more games?
  6. Did they throw 2 or more touchdown passes for each interception?
  7. Is their completion percentage above 60%?

Now that Dennis Allen has taken over for Sean Payton, it wouldn’t be a shock if D.A. learned from Payton in New Orleans in the same way that Payton learned from Parcells in Dallas.

Malik Willis only satisfies four of these rules. North Carolina QB Sam Howell satisfies five. Ole Miss’s Matt Corral satisfies just three.

Only two potential first-round quarterbacks satisfy all seven: Kenny Pickett and Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder. Ridder had an identical RAS to Pickett, so the options were really between Ridder and Pickett as the next potential franchise quarterback. Ridder’s draft prospects started to climb due in part to his athleticism with his legs - his arm strength and accuracy are still question marks at the NFL level.

Despite Pickett having some of the smallest hands in NFL history, he has a cannon for an arm and while he occasionally missed throws in college, his accuracy improved each year.

With a roster built around possession receivers like WR Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara, Pickett makes the most sense for New Orleans, and the Saints in this mock were happy he fell to them at the 16th pick.

Top players remaining:

  • George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
  • Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
  • Bernhard Raimann, T, Central Michigan
  • Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
  • Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State