FanPost

What is RAS and what does it have to do with the Saints?

There is a clear line of demarcation between the Saints pre-Jeff Ireland and post-Jeff Ireland in terms of drafting strategy and trends. This post is not a reflection of my personal beliefs or preferences for draft scouting, but rather an in depth analysis of the trends and priorities the Saints have displayed in the 6 years that Ireland has been the Director of College Scouting. Under Ireland, the Saints have placed a high priority on measurables and athletic ability, with a particular correlation to the Relative Athletic Score testing metric. RAS is a catch-all number scored 0-10 given to players for combine and pro day workout measurements that gives a rough score of their overall athletic ability compared to all players in the NFL. Further, the Saints pay attention to when they draft certain positions whether it be early or mid rounds. The correlation between RAS and Saints drafting tendencies are pretty apparent and a good sign of what we can expect going into this pivotal draft.


Show Me a Little RASpect (just a little bit)

From 2016 to 2021 the Saints have not spent a 1st round pick on a player who didn’t possess an RAS of at least 8.85 with the exception of Ryan Ramcyzk, who didn’t have an RAS score as he didn’t participate in draft workouts recovering from a hip injury (but likely would’ve scored highly). Extending beyond the 1st round, the Saints have spent 25 draft picks on players with a minimum RAS of 7.85 out of 31 total not including the 3 players they drafted who didn’t have an RAS score (Ramcyzk, Stevens, and Leonard). The only draft picks taken in the top 100 of that group who didn’t qualify were Vonn Bell (2nd round, 3.68) and Trequan Smith (3rd round, 6.86). Considering the average RAS score for most positions is around 5, the Saints draft significantly above that league average mark and have to be one of the highest RAS margin drafting teams in the NFL.


From 2016 to 2021

1st Round average RAS: 9.46

2nd Round average RAS: 7.89 (Bell really tanks this average)

3rd Round average RAS: 8.38

Top 100 average RAS: 8.58


RAS Average By Position Since 2016

QB: 7.37

RB: 8.85

WR: 8.35

TE: 8.65

OT: 9.18

IOL:7.27

ED: 8.25

DI: 9.00

LB: 8.49

CB: 8.34

S: 7.41 (Again, Bell was a terrible athlete)


This trend suggests that the Saints are only interested in taking high end athletic testing players in the 1st round, but their standards loosen somewhat when entering later rounds. And in general terms, the Saints value a high level of athleticism at every single position group. The testing itself of course isn’t the entirety of the picture, as we know that the Saints have standards they adhere to stringently regarding size. Nick Underhill has noted that the Saints essentially compare prospects to the NFL mean of height and weight of all players and desire players who match or exceed that profile at their positions. Failure to do so means automatic disqualification in their scouting process, at least for high draft picks. This is why the Saints regularly pass up on players who are undersized for their positions even if they are deemed quality prospects in several other areas (Patrick Queen and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah come to mind). The Saints are looking for prototypes and demonstrated athletic qualities married with quality game tape. So if your favorite prospect is short or measures low athletically you can bet you won’t hear the Saints call their name early.


Positions Groups Matter

Personally I separate NFL position groups into tiers. The first tier, the most important tier, is the Quarterback Tier. Pretty self explanatory, QBs get a category of their own as the force multipliers of the NFL who can drastically shift the fate of a team both positively and negatively depending on their play.


The second tier is the Premium Tier and this group includes Wide Receivers, Cornerbacks, Offensive Line, and Defensive Line. Position groups which in order to be a quality football team you must have talent at. Obviously an offensive tackle would be more important than a center, but I decided to group the entirety of the lines into this group as it’s typically overall line play that can effect games and an individual player usually cannot do that on their own (Joe Thomas was the best OT in football for a decade, but the Browns regularly had a bottom third O-line during his career).


And the last tier is the Secondary Tier, these are positions that do not need to be strong points on a roster for the team to win, but certainly do help if a team excels there. This includes Running Back, Fullback, Tight End, Off-Ball Linebacker, and Safety. These groups are typically players who are easily replaceable (RB and FB) or possess non-specialized hybrid roles and are expected to be good-not-great at a variety of things (TE, LB, and S). Then there of course is the Specialists Tier which includes Kickers, Punters, Holders, and ST Aces.


The Saints since 2016 have adopted the stance of exclusively spending 1st round picks on Premium Tier players including 2 OL, 1 CB, and 3 DL. By the 2nd round you begin to see them spending picks on Secondary tier positions (with a high tendency for Safety) but will also obviously still target Premium position groups as well. So if the Saints do not select a Quarterback in the 1st round of the draft, expect to see them take a WR, OLineman, or Dlineman (CB seems very unlikely) with that selection, and expect that player to have a very high RAS score. So who fits that bill?


WR (as ranked by my personal board)

Jameson Williams: N/A

Chris Olave: 8.69

Garrett WIlson: 7.80

Drake London: N/A

George Pickens: 9.37

John Metchie: N/A

Treylon Burks: 5.81

Khalil Shakir: 8.32

Skyy Moore: 7.59

Jahan Dotson: 6.34

Christian Watson: 9.96

David Bell: 4.03

Calvin Austin: 9.08

Velus Jones Jr.: 7.16


Of all of the receivers getting 1st round hype only Olave and Wilson could fit the Saints athletic profile and have an RAS score available. London and Williams are listed here because they did not participate in predraft workouts due to injury, but Ryan Ramcyzk is evidence that won’t stop the Saints from drafting a player highly if they have a belief that the player is exceptional athletically, which I believe London and Williams are. The rest don’t have a draft stock to suggest they are options at 16 or 19, but could become options with a trade down or in the 2nd round. I would be comfortable taking any player from Pickens down to Moore with the 49th overall pick.


OT

Charles Cross: 8.13

Evan Neal: N/A

Trevor Penning: 9.95

Bernhard Raimann: 9.87

Ikem Ekwonu: 8.51

Tyler Smith: 8.77

Abraham Lucas: 9.73

Zach Tom: 9.59

Kellen Diesch: 9.75

Nicholas Petit-Friere: 6.26


At tackle I believe the Saints will be targeting Cross, Penning, and Raimann at 16 or 19. Neal is more than likely long gone and so is Ekwonu, who I am not as high on as many others (he’s a guard in the NFL in my view). Were the Saints to miss on a tackle in the 1st I think Tyler Smith and Abraham Lucas become their priority at 49. Tom and Diesch are interesting 3rd round prospects, with Tom in particular being an intriguing swing prospect who could play OT or OG. I think Petit-Friere is not a top 100 caliber prospect and shouldn’t be in consideration till 120 at the earliest.


OG/OC

Zion Johnson: 9.75

Tyler Linderbaum: 8.84

Chris Paul: 9.45


I don’t think the Saints will target the interior O-line early in this class, but if they do Zion Johnson is likely their top option. Linderbaum is the better prospect, but they have already played the game with Cesar Ruiz of drafting a center to play guard and it hasn’t worked out. I’d rather just not go down that experimental rabbit hole again. Chris Paul could be an interesting mid-round pick I think could push Ruiz early. Plus the memes would be great.


DI

Devante Wyatt: 9.59

Demarvin Leal: 7.44

Jordan Davis: 10.0

Logan Hall: 9.40

Travis Jones: 9.40

Perrion Winfrey: N/A


Defensive Interior is a sneaky big need for this team with only Onyemata and UDFAs manning the spot. Onyemata is a good player, but has not bloomed into the elite interior rusher the Saints envisioned him to be, and they could certainly use help getting more push from there. Devante Wyatt is the only top 20 worthy player to take in my view, as a prototypical 3-tech who slides right into the D-line seamlessly and creates a truly stacked unit. Leal through Jones are 2nd round prospects in my view. Davis is extremely athletic, but he’s a nose tackle who will play 20 snaps a game. Regardless of how good he is (and his game tape is underwhelming), that just isn’t worth a 1st round pick. Wouldn’t even fathom taking him that high.


ED

Aidan Hutchinson: 9.88

Jermaine Johnson: 9.22

Kayvon Thibodeaux: 9.63

Travon Walker: 9.99

George Karlaftis: 9.21

David Ojabo: 9.40

Drake Jackson: 8.60


The Saints definitely love their Edges, but you’d be hard pressed to convince me they go with one of these players unless it is the sort of value they just cannot pass up on. They have simply already invested too much in the spot and it would just be diminishing returns at this point. If, for instance, Thibodeaux fell to 16 the Saints would be better off trading down with a team who wants him and trying to extract another premium pick out of said team. The reverse of the Davenport situation essentially. Ojabo could be a fascinating 2nd round risk to take, all that said.


QB

Kenny Pickett: 9.52

Matt Corral: N/A

Malik Willis: N/A

Matt Howell: N/A

Carson Strong: N/A

Desmond Ridder: 9.59


If you are curious about the QBs I don’t think you should be. Most did not participate in the combine and I’m not sure if the "RAS rules" still applies to QB where I think game tape is going to be weight much, much more heavily than at other positions. In basic terms, QB is going to be much more of a "feel" projection for the team than any measurable qualities. Pickett and Ridder scored well here, but Corral, Willis, and Howell are all also considered to be +athletes so I doubt there is much separation between them in the Saints minds athletically/measurably.


S

Kyle Hamilton: 9.33

Lewis Cine: 9.92

Jaquan Brisker: 9.14

Daxton Hill: 9.07

Jalen Pitre: 8.47


TE

Trey McBride: 8.2

Jelani Wood: 10.0

Greg Dulcich: 8.25

Cade Otten: N/A

Jalen Wyrdermeyer: 1.00


RB

Breece Hall: 9.96

Kenneth Walker: 9.26

James Cook: 8.78

Brian Robinson: 6.62


Things get more expansive when considering possible 2nd and 3rd round picks including the Secondary Tier group of players. Of all these players only Hamilton I think definitively will not be available come the 16th pick, and most of these players will still be around for the 2nd round as well. This draft features especially a high amount of safety talent that fits what the Saints want measurably, so I could see them targeting that position in the 2nd round. And then in the 3rd round possibly look at a TE or RB given Kamara’s upcoming suspension and declining play (with only old Ingram as another viable option). But bear in mind these are also the rounds where the Saints RAS rules can drift away so it is truly a crapshoot to an extent what the Saints might do with these picks. Lewis Cine is a name Saints fans need to pay attention to at 19. He is the prototype free safety the Saints like very similar in the mold of Marcus Williams and [name redacted]. Not saying it’s likely, but a dark horse for sure.


LB

Devin Lloyd: 9.59

Nakobe Dean: N/A


CB

Tariq Woolen: 9.70

Trent McDuffie: 9.49

Derek Stingley: 8.98

Coby Bryant: 5.59

Roger McCreary: 5.48

Ahmad Gardner: N/A


For those curious about LB and CB. I watched 0 video on these players because I just think there’s no way the Saints even consider taking them.


Mock Draft

R1 P16: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

R1 P19: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

R2 P49: Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State

R3 P98: James Cook, RB, Georgia

R4: P120: Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State

R5: P161: Smoke Monday, S, Auburn (purely for the memes)

R6: P194: Probably A Special Teamer, Ace, Who Cares University


The Saints miss out on Safety but bring in a bushel of offensive talent to reload that side of the ball similar to how a few years ago the Panthers selected exclusively defensive players for an entire draft. They add higher end athletes that were productive in college as well, suggesting they have the ability to contribute right away while also having some future upside to look forward to. I think this draft in effect fixes the Saints offense and they go from being a bottom of the pack unit to at least middle of the pack.


Trevor Penning: Reminds me a lot of Taylor Lewan (6-7 309, 10.0 RAS vs. 6-7 326, 9.95 RAS) with the primary difference being Lewan played at a major FBS school in Michigan while Penning played at a lower level. But their mauling styles of play, violent hands, and ability to get to the 2nd level of the defense quickly are very reminiscent. Like Lewan, Penning has been knocked in the draft process for a lack of polish in pass protection but has all of the requisite athletic tendencies to suggest that also like Lewan, he can become a above average pass protector at the NFL level. There will be struggles early in his career against particularly twitchy Edges, but I believe that over time he will adapt and make that a strength of his game. Unlike Cross, I think Penning probably needs to start his career on the right side, meaning Ramzyk could then be moved over to the left, but after some seasoning I also think Penning can hold down the left side of a NFL line.


Chris Olave: I like to think of Chris Olave as like a taller, faster Lance Moore. A silky smooth route runner and smart receiver who already knows how to read a defensive coverage and adjust his route accordingly to exploit windows. Impressive body control and field awareness at all times. You might as well call him the Chain Mover cause that’s all he’d be doing with this team. But, that comes with the added bonus that Olave can beat you over the top as well if you don’t respect his speed. He has flexibility to play the X, Y, or Z and the thing I like most about Olave is that his game will perfectly compliment Michael Thomas in a way no other WR has since CantGuardMike has been in NOLA.


Trey McBride: This was the biggest need-based pick I chose during this mock and it was difficult to make a choice between McBride and a safety at this point. I would not be angry if the Saints chose to try to trade back up into the 2nd round if one of these safeties started to fall because I like many of them. I believe McBride is a top 30 player in the class, even though the majority of big boards will put him somewhere around the 50s or even 60s. A natural affinity for running routes, catching balls, a respectable blocker, and was exceedingly productive in his final year of college. He is the one TE in this class I can see coming in and being a 40 to 50 catch guy year one. Everyone else is a wait and see proposition. The caveat here is that McBride is not as tall (6-3.5) as the players the Saints typically like at TE. I wouldn’t like it, but I could see the Saints reaching on a player like Woods in this spot due to his supreme size/athleticism combination.


James Cook: Underutilized player at Georgia who doesn’t have a lot of tread on the tires, but flashes a lot of ability to suggest he can be a quality three down back at the NFL level and contribute running, blocking, and receiving.


Khalil Shakir: I think he can be a productive bigger body slot specialist who wins with solid route running and strong hands. Essentially a player I think pushes Tre’Quan Smith for his role in the offense.

Smoke Monday: I can’t lie, ain’t even watched the guy. But the name is fun.

This FanPost was written by a reader and member of Canal Street Chronicles. It does not necessarily reflect the views of CSC and its staff or editors.