With the 2023 NFL draft officially wrapped up, the New Orleans Saints like every other NFL team had the ultimate of goal of building a better roster that can push their respective team to the next level. During the first three rounds that’s exactly what the Saints went out and did. They grabbed three immediate impact players that easily can help turn the Saints from NFC South favorite to NFC favorite. For this article we will breakdown and grade the rounds 4-7 and you can take a look at our grades from rounds 1-3 here. Nick Saldiveri, Jake Haener, Jordan Howden, and A.T. Perry were all key positions the Saints needed to not only address, but simply get needed to it right during the NFL draft. With the aging roster and still somewhat open conference the perfect storm has brewed for the Saints to go all in still for the 2023 NFL season.
Round 4: Nick Saldiveri, OL, Old Dominion
Given the Saints entered this draft with both offensive guards on the last year of their current deals (still no official word on Ruiz’s 5th year option) they needed to draft an interior, and once again they solved a key need by drafting Saldiveri. Coming off a season in which Saldiveri did not allow a single sack at Old Dominion and can play any position on the offensive line this seems like a Saints pick all the way. The Saints potentially drafted one of their future starting offensive guards on the 4th round of this year's draft.
Luke H: B-
When this pick was announced, it was a little strange to me that the Saints would trade up to draft him over someone like Chandler Zavala, but once you look into it, he fits what the Saints like in offensive lineman. First, he can play all across the offensive line, and he will most likely see most of his snaps from the interior. Second, he’s big and has long arms. And third, he’s one of the most athletic linemen in this class. He played in a weak conference, so we’ll see how he can perform against NFL pass rushers, but it was a good start to replacing one if not both of Cesar Ruiz and Andrus Peat.
Nick Saldiveri was not the top lineman on the board when the Saints jumped up to draft him. He was the most diverse though, with the ability to play multiple positions across the line. The Saints love to take these kinds of players and mold them. Saldiveri is likely to move to Guard full time, but having a backup Tackle who stays in game shape is highly valuable. Trading up to the top of the fourth to get Saldiveri was a great move by the team.
Round 4: Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State
To quote Anakin Skywalker “This is where the fun begins” when the Saints traded up for Haener, I absolutely loved the pick. I fully believe the Rams were set on drafting Haener and Mickey Loomis did what he does best and went up to grab him. Now whenever you get compared to Drew Brees sure it is overblown, however I do see some of Brees’s game as far as progressions and Haener’s ability to read the field and knowing where his guys are at on the field. Knowing him and Derek Carr seemed to be in contact a lot just gives me another reason to like the pick. I suppose Haener being a lifelong Saints fan makes the story even better in a way as well.
Luke H: B+
The reason this pick got a B+ isn’t just because of the prospect, but because it showed just how great of a GM Mickey Loomis is. He knew the Rams wanted a QB, and he jumped them by one pick to take the best QB available. As soon as this pick was announced, a run on QBs started. The Saints were on the clock 18 picks later and because of the run on QBs, it forced a lot of non-QB prospects to fall into their lap in round five. Oh, and who doesn’t want the kid who grew up a Saints fan, wears number 9 because of Drew Brees and has been in touch with Derek Carr since he got to Carr’s alma mater, Fresno State?
At first, this pick looked incredibly curious. When the Saints selected Haener, there were many other quarterbacks available, so the pick looked like another reach. The Saints read the room correctly though and predicted the huge run on the mid-level quarterbacks that was about to occur. Beating the rush on these quarterbacks guaranteed that the Saints once again got their top player at the position. The run-on quarterbacks impacted the next pick as well, since multiple good players were pushed down by the run that the Saints started.
Round 5: Jordan Howden, S, Minnesota
Just when I thought the Saints couldn’t do any better in this draft, they went out and proved me wrong once again. They went out in the fifth round and found their replacement for Chauncey Gardner Johnson in Minnesota’s Jordan Howden. Howden has played all four years at Minnesota and has seen it all when it comes to experience. His ability to play in the slot and getting dirty in the run game makes him a valuable piece heading into training camp. The only issue I have is Howden might have trouble playing true deep safety, but everything else about this pick I love and he will fit right into this Saints defense.
Luke H: B-
Howden was a five-year player at Minnesota and has a ton of experience coming into the league. He played over 2,000 snaps at three different positions. Howden spent just under half of his time in the nickel which is a big position of need for the Saints. He’s a great tackler, but he’s a little undersized for the position. I think Howden has a chance to earn snaps alongside Bradley Roby in the nickel, but the reason I gave him a B- is because I would have preferred Antonio Johnson who went 13 picks later to the Jags.
That aforementioned run-on quarterbacks pushed Howden down the boards, allowing the Saints to pick him up in round 5. He likely would have went in round 4 without this run. Howden is one of these new age hybrid players who can play the slot, strong safety, or free safety. He is not afraid to play the run or cover, just as long as he is not asked to go outside the line of scrimmage too much. Finding a guy in round 5 who can immediately challenge for playing time is a big win.
Round 6: A.T. Perry, WR, Wake Forest
In all seriousness, as far as value and where a player is projected to go in the draft, Perry might be the steal of the draft for the Saints. Perry should've gone anywhere from the middle of the second round to the end of the fourth and the Saints end up trading up to grab him in the sixth round. The combination of his size and speed should only serve him better in the NFL and with the Saints mixing personnel as much as they do, Perry could earn some snaps sooner rather than later.
Luke H: A
Don’t even get me started on this kid. He’s 6’4, has a 83-inch wingspan, runs a 4.47 40-yard dash, has a 35-inch vertical and he fell to the sixth round? Even though we gave up Adam Trautman, it feels very worth it to land a player of Perry’s caliber. His two seasons as a starter, he posted a stat line of 2,389 yards, 26 TDs and an average of 15.6 YPC. You can’t find more value in the sixth round than the Saints did with Perry, and he could easily be the steal of the draft.
A.T. Perry was mocked by some around the industry to go in the second or third round. The Saints moved up into the sixth round to make sure they drafted this huge receiver out of Wake Forest. Perry will need to learn to use his length and catch more with his hands, but the Saints badly needed a guy with his size. Incredible value in round 6.
Overall Draft Class Grade
Luke H: A-
While the Saints reached for some prospects in this draft, it felt like they filled just about every position of need outside of tight end. They found a good mixture of productivity, athleticism and value with their picks. They also were never too quick to pull the trigger on a trade, but when they did, they didn’t give up any future assets outside of a 4th rounder in 2024. This is the first time since 2017 where I have been this excited about a draft, and while none of the picks were super flashy, it feels like they put together a class that can help this team get back to the winning ways we saw when Brees was here.
The Saints absolutely wrecked the draft in rounds 3-7. All of their moves were perfectly timed, and players were taken at multiple needed positions. This elevates the overall grade for the team, but the first two selections is why the overall draft is a B+. Bryan Bresee and Isiah Foskey look to be reaches right now. There are good things about both players, but there are also too many questions for two players taken within the top 40 picks to rank the overall draft better than a B.
The Saints walked away from the NFL draft as absolute winners. Bresee and Foskey look to be day 1 starters, you could argue by the end of the season Miller, Howden, and Perry could see meaningful snaps and to round it out you went out and grabbed a potential starter next year in guard Nick Saldiveri. On paper this looks like the best all-around draft the Saints have had since 2017.