The NOLA Saints needed their 2021 draft class to be a hell of a lot better than their 2020 draft class. For the most part, the crew delivered, but that’s easier to do when there are seven players as opposed to just four in 2020.
NFL.com ranked every rookie class from 2021 and the Saints were squarely in the middle of the pack, sitting at No. 16. This honestly is a fair grade, as the team had their fair share of solid players but also a lot of uncertainties. Not hitting on their first-round pick didn’t help the situation either.
Speaking of first-round pick, let’s start there.
Payton Turner wasn’t who Saints fans were expecting to see come off the board for New Orleans when the team was on the clock. He wasn’t a big name entering the draft and it felt like the team was hitting the reset button on the Marcus Davenport pick from three years earlier. Turner appeared in just five games but did show potential when he was on the field.
Pete Werner was the team’s second-rounder and he was terrific. Pairing him with Demario Davis was unfair to opposing offenses and it’ll be fun to see what those two have planned for an encore in 2022.
Paulson Adebo heard his name called in round three and while he had his fair share of ups and downs, his performance was good enough that the team didn’t end up utilizing Bradley Roby much. Adebo should continue to be someone the team relies on heavily moving forward.
Here’s what Nick Shook said about the other draft picks:
"Book’s only game action came with short notice because of positive COVID-19 infections, and it ended up being a dreadful, two-interception experience. The Saints have to answer the quarterback position, and Book doesn’t appear to be the one ready to take over. Young was forced into action due to injuries and ended up suffering a foot ailment that cut his season short. He has a ways to go as an NFL tackle, but might end up in a battle for a starting job if Terron Armstead leaves in free agency. Baker played just 27 snaps in 2021, exclusively on special teams. Prentice teamed with Alex Armah to fill the fullback role and made a minimal impact."
NOLA Saints’ 2021 draft class was serviceable
As Shook mentioned in the blurb above, Book didn’t have a good day at the office in his lone glimpse of NFL action. There are a lot of reasons why that game didn’t go well for Book but unfortunately, it’s the only impression we have of him so it’ll stick with him until he’s able to prove he’s better than that performance.
Young is a long-shot to take over for Terron Armstead in the future but the team appeared to really like him this past season. As Shook noted, Young’s season was cut short due to injury but I’ll be eager to see what he can contribute in 2022.
The Saints desperately needed a wide receiver yet didn’t draft one until the final round. Kawaan Baker didn’t make the kind of game-changing performances fans were hoping for, even if they knew the chances of that happening were slim to none.
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With no quarterback, no wide receivers, and no Sean Payton, New Orleans has to make their 2022 NFL Draft class their best one in a long time if they want to stay competitive.