He’s six-foot-six and tips the scales at 270 pounds. As a star at the University of Houston, this New Orleans Saints rookie tallied 114 total tackles, 23.5 tackles that resulted in a loss of yardage (that includes 10.5 in 2020), and 9.5 sacks for the Cougars. He’s also from Texas, so you know he knows how to play football. Doesn’t every young man that grew up in that state? Ladies and gentlemen, Payton Turner can be thrown into the ‘stud’ category.
The Saints made Turner the 28th-overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. There’s excitement, but with every NFL franchise, there’s also worry, even if it’s minimal. You’ve heard the concerns. You may have even said them.
Don’t act like you haven’t asked the questions as a New Orleans Saints fan.
Yep, we’re all guilty of second-guessing from time to time. What if this doesn’t work? Maybe we should have taken Gregory Rousseau, Odafe Oweh, or Joe Tryon instead? Why didn’t we take a guy from a Power Five conference instead of a guy from the American Athletic Conference?
Stop! Turner will be fine, but that doesn’t mean his selection (or the selection of any other prospect) comes without the need for development. There isn’t a draft scout worth his salt that didn’t have this young man on their list of the ten best prospects available at the defensive end position. For a deeper dive, however, let’s turn to one of the best.
NFL Draft wiz breaks down the New Orleans Saints rookie.
Lance Zierlein is an analyst for NFL.com that has been breaking down draft prospects since before some of you knew what an NFL Draft was. In his prospect profile of the rookie, he compared Turner to Preston Smith and gave him a grade of 6.31, which means he’ll be a starter within his first two NFL seasons.
Zierlein sees “overwhelming size and length for a 4-3 end”, “plenty of upside”, “impressive reaction time and athleticism”, and “ridiculous agility” as a few of the rookie’s strengths. Here are a few things that he identifies as weaknesses.
"Needs to shoot hands a little bit earlier.Plays upright and with a narrow base.Balance through contact will be an issue due to a high center of gravity.Can be upended by strong angle blocks.Rush plan is underdeveloped and can stall out early at times.Needs better instincts as a counter rusher.Delayed in finding workable rush counters.Power can stall his rush.Has knee and foot injuries in his background."
Okay New Orleans Saints fans, take a deep breath.
It’s important that everyone realizes that none of this is a death sentence. Turner is still one of the best prospects in this draft regardless of position. Sure, he has things that he could do better, but so does every rookie. That’s why NFL teams hire position coaches.
Turner will be fine. That’s a promise.
Currently, the Saints have Marcus Davenport, Cameron Jordan, Carl Granderson, and Noah Spence on their roster at the defensive end position. Tanoh Kpassagnon, Christian Ringo, and Malcolm Roach will be there when they enter camp as well. Turner has a lot of guys that he can lean on and a great position coach, Ryan Nielsen to learn from.
Zierlein is right. Turner should eventually start for this Saints team. He’s proven his mettle at every level of football. There’s no reason to believe that he won’t overcome his deficiencies and do the same as a professional