New Orleans Saints fill hole at EDGE with Payton Turner at No. 28

Payton Turner, New Orleans Saints, 2021 NFL Draft (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Payton Turner, New Orleans Saints, 2021 NFL Draft (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Despite trade talks surrounding the New Orleans Saints in the buildup to the first round, the team stays put at the 28th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and selects Houston defensive end Payton Turner.

Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen turned out a stellar Saints defense in their 2020 campaign; they ranked 2nd overall in defensive DVOA, and registered a quarterback pressure on 26.3% of their defensive snaps (which ranked 6th in the league last season.) Why, then, did the Saints opt to strengthen their defense? The answer lies with one of the Saints’ key off-season losses.

Breakout edge defender Trey Hendrickson, who recorded 13.5 sacks in 15 starts this past season, became one of the New Orleans Saints’ many cap casualties this off season. His departure left a hole on the edge of the Saints’ defensive line — With this pick, the Saints hope to fill that hole.

So, what does the newest member of the Saints’ defense offer the unit?

The first thing that jumps off the page are his measurements: standing at 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, Turner has an excellent pass-rushing frame. He also showed versatility across the line at Houston; though he primarily lined up as a defensive end this past season, his experience as an interior defensive lineman in his sophomore season means he has the length and experience to kick inside for the occasional snap, offering flexibility for an already-stacked front seven. He’s comfortable in a traditional 4-3 defensive scheme, meaning he’s an ideal scheme fit for Dennis Allen’s unit.

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His production for the Cougars in his senior season was impressive; in just five games, Turner registered 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.

Payton Turner is a prospect that didn’t receive much hype in the lead up to the 2021 NFL Draft, but his mix of athleticism, size and scheme fit should make him and his running mate, Cameron Jordan, an effective pass-rush duo.