New Orleans Saints: Analyzing the 2021 NFL Draft by position
Long-Term Need At The Position: Medium
The Saints have their starting edge rushers this season in Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport, but Jordan is now 31-years-old and Davenport may not be seen as the organization as a long-term piece.
With this being a very expensive position and the fact that they could use a third pass rusher anyways to replace Trey Hendrickson, there definitely is room to add an edge rusher if the opportunity presents itself, though defensive line still isn’t the valuable area they should be overly worried about.
First Round Value
- Gregory Rousseau, Miami (Rank: 25)
- Azeez Ojulari, Georgia (Rank: 26)
- Jaelan Phillips, Miami (Rank: 30)
- Kwity Paye, Michigan (Rank: 31)
Paye definitely fits the athletic mold that the Saints look for, but he’s also the least likely to be available. Of these players, I like Ojulari, who is only 20-years-old and had the best overall pass-rush production, and could slot in and develop as a pass-rush specialist.
However, Rousseau is also intriguing based on his production in his first (and only) season and versatility to line up on the inside as well, and many believe Phillips would be the best pass rusher by far if not for concussion issues.
We know the Saints aren’t exactly scared of taking risks, however.
- Jordan Smith, UAB (Rank: 84)
- Quinny Roche, Miami (Rank: 99)
- Patrick Johnson, Tulane (Rank: 103)
- Malcolm Koonce, Buffalo (Rank: 114)
- Chris Rumph II, Duke (Rank: 136)
- Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina (Rank: 139)
There is definitely some value to be had on the final day of the draft. Whether it’s for one reason or another, the amount of rotational edge rushers with some sort of limitation in this draft is high, but if the Saints commit to leveraging their strengths, then they’d feel quite strong about their investment.
Jordan Smith, in particular, was actually the most productive edge rusher in this entire class.
- Jayson Oweh, Penn State (Rank: 53)
- Joe Tryon, Washington (Rank: 169)
Athleticism is important when it comes to projecting edge rushers, but so is college production.
Oweh’s pressure numbers were much better than his zero sacks would indicate, but he still didn’t put together a complete season as a full-time player. That limited body of work is concerning when it comes to projecting him to the NFL level- he’s a developmental player more than a sure contributor.
So is Tryon, who opted out of the 2020 season, but his on-field numbers were far worse than Oweh. Unfortunately, these two players are natural fits based on the Saints’ draft tendencies with pass rushers.
This is an area where I’m worried the Saints could hurt their ability to maximize on draft capital. Now, selecting one “first-round value” player listed would allow them to add a player at a highly-paid position, but there are a lot of risky prospects in this class.
Generally, the top edge rushers show themselves in college, as the NFL does a strong job of evaluating them, so I’d prefer if they waited until the third day of the draft to add a rotational piece.