The New Orleans Saints took strides to improve its offense with the selection of receiver Chris Olave and offensive tackle Trevor Penning in the first 20 selections. It is hard to argue with either of those picks although the Saints did give up plenty of draft capital to secure those positions.
New Orleans passed on a quarterback and a running back. It looks like Jameis Winston will get the chance to be the No. 1 quarterback for the Saints in the second year of the pro-Drew Brees era. Top running back Alvin Kamara is dealing with legal issues as he is accused of battery. It is uncertain if he will face discipline from the NFL as a result of the arrest.
The Saints finished 28th in total offense and 19th in scoring offense during the 2021 season. It remains to be seen how the offense will look different now that longtime head coach and quarterback guru Sean Payton stepped away from the sidelines.
Many NFL picks view the Saints as a playoff team. Having traded away its first-round pick, the pressure to reach the postseason is even greater.
New Orleans has made 19 selections in the last four drafts and at some point that could catch up to the Saints. New Orleans added four offensive linemen and three linebackers as undrafted rookie free agents.
The Saints (+325) are picked to finish second in the NFC South behind Tampa Bay according to the sportsbook. Among NFC teams, the Saints are tied for eighth in the odds to win the Super Bowl,
Pick 11 Chris Olave | WR, Ohio StateBuckeyes
The Saints gave up third- and fourth-round picks to move up five spots so they could add a deep threat to go with Michael Thomas, one of the better possession receivers in the NFL lines and also a former Ohio State star.
Olave had more than 100 receiving yards in four of the last six games he played against ranked opponents. Olave averaged 15 yards per catch with 32 touchdown catches over his last three seasons.
Olave ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine while solidifying his spot as one of the top receivers in the draft.
Rookie receiver Chris Olave is exactly the player New Orleans Saints expected him to be
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) May 15, 2022
The last time New Orleans used a first-round pick came when Brandin Cooks was the 20th overall selection in 2014.
Pick 19 Trevor Penning | OT, Northern Iowa Panthers
The starting tackle Terron Armstead, now a member of the Miami Dolphins, the selection of Penning seems like a wise choice. Penning isn’t as highly touted as Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, and Charles Cross who were all top-10 picks but he was considered a sure-fire first- round draft pick.
There are questions about the level of competition with the 6-foot-7 Penning being a three-year starting left tackle at Northern Iowa, a Football Championship Subdivision program. It worked out pretty well when the Saints took a chance on Armstead out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Penning ran the 40 in 4.89 seconds at the combine. That combined with his frame and aggressive mindset made him the sixth offensive lineman to come off the board.
New Orleans gave up next year’s first-round selection as well as a second-rounder in 2024 as part of a deal that gave the Saints a second pick in the first round this year. The original thought was that the Saints were positioning themselves to take a quarterback. Instead, New Orleans added a key piece to the offensive line.
Pick 49 Alontae Taylor | DB, Tennessee Volunteers
There are questions about whether Taylor will be a cornerback or safety at the next level. Wherever he lines up, he will help the New Orleans secondary.
The 6-foot Taylor had a time of 4.36 seconds in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine. He was a four-year contributor in the Tennessee secondary who had 15 career pass breakups. Taylor had just four interceptions in four seasons but playing in the SEC has given him plenty of chances to go up against NFL-caliber receivers.
Pick 161 D’Marco Jackson | LB, Appalachian StateMountaineers
Jackson did a little bit of everything at Appalachian State in 2021 with 120 tackles, six sacks, 19 tackles for loss, an interception, five pass breakups, and 12 quarterback hurries.
He is part of a rebuilt front seven for the Saints. New Orleans used its first two picks in 2021 on defensive end Payton Turner and l linebacker Pete Werner as well as selecting linebacker Zack Baun 74th overall in 2020.
Pick 194 Jordan Jackson | DT, Air Force Falcons
The 285-pound Jackson had 29½ tackles for loss and 15½ sacks in his last three seasons at Air Force. He had seven tackles for loss in his last three games.
Jackson has the frame to play a variety of different positions on the defensive line. The Saints only used one defensive lineman in the previous three drafts so there could be a chance for Jackson to work his way into the defensive line rotation.
Grading the draft
Giving up next year’s first-round pick and a second-rounder in 2024 to select the fourth-rated offensive tackle in this year’s draft class is a pretty risky move. Dealing away picks No. 98 and 120 to make sure they get the receiver they want also is a move worth watching.
It will take a couple of years until the impact of those two trades can be quantified.
If Olave and Penning live up to their draft positions and they help the Saints return to the playoffs, all will be forgiven in the Big Easy. If the Philadelphia Eagles get to pick in the top 10 next year with the Saints’ top pick, it could be a different story. Let’s check the Super Bowl odds.