The New Orleans Saints got a noticeable boost in defense from the three P’s this season (Payton, Paulson, and Pete), but their 2021 draft haul doesn’t carry a whole lot of upside.
Leave it to Sean Payton to pick all defenders in the first three rounds of the 2021 Draft.
Those three picks proved useful when NOLA got hit by injuries and COVID-19 related absences in the defense, but the rookies have all got a long way to go (and grow).
Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox graded every NFL team’s 2021 draft class factoring in injuries, supporting talent, and coaching.
The Saints barely got a passing grade of B-:
"Werner and Adebo look to be future mainstays of the New Orleans defense. Book deserves time to develop, though, and Turner needs an opportunity to get healthy. There’s promise in this class, and the Saints may have already uncovered stars in Werner and Adebo."
When looking at the league’s defensive starlets in Micah Parsons or Patrick Surtain, the Saints’ rookies pale in comparison. Yet given the steep learning curve for most NFL positions, NOLA can and should be proud of what their early round draft picks accomplished.
New Orleans Saints 2021 draft class glimmers faintly but doesn’t shine
Paulson Adebo started in all 17 games, allowing an opposing passer rating of 91.7, and mostly thrived alongside Marshon Lattimore in the backfield. Adebo put together an impressive highlight reel by the end of the season, including this one-handed interception from Week 18.
Pete Werner also got much-needed experience playing alongside Demario Davis. In 15 games, Werner recorded 62 combined tackles and allowed an opposeing passer rating of 84.5 in coverage.
Payton Turner’s season is asterisked with the fact that he missed most of 2021 due to a shoulder issue and only played in five games. His 12 tackles and single sack mark a good start, but it’s difficult to evaluate Turner’s rookie performance based on such a limited sample size.
NOLA’s later round picks will most likely serve rotational roles or find new teams next season: Ian Book started one game and did the best he could, but Sean Payton doesn’t seem enthused about his talents under center. Given the Saints’ quarterback dumpster fire in 2021, the fact that Book featured in just one game doesn’t bode well for his playing time next season.
Offensive tackle Landon Young plugged in when he was needed, and Kawaan Baker only played special teams snaps.
The future glimmers bright for many Saints rookies, but only time will tell whether New Orleans will be their permanent or temporary home.