The New Orleans Saints have had great drafts in the past, but was this one on par with those?
Because the NFL Draft is a year-round experience, we often forget about looking back to previous drafts in favor of focusing in on the moment (the current class, rookie class, NFL, etc.). But when looking back, it’s pretty clear who have been the better-drafting teams of the last half-decade or so.
One of those teams? The New Orleans Saints, who put together one of the best draft classes of all time with their 2017 class (a group that featured Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams, Alvin Kamara, and Trey Hendrickson). Their recent classes won’t match that one (no will most classes ever) but they’ve found starters and role players along the way.
So how did the New Orleans Saints fare in the 2022 NFL Draft? From the looks of it, it went just fine on the surface. They landed their top three needs with their first three selections, moving up to get a long-needed WR2 in Chris Olave, getting a potential left tackle in Trevor Penning, and finding a corner in Alontae Taylor who has often been discussed as a candidate to move to safety in the NFL.
Taking a deeper look, you’d think that the process was solid as well, attacking needs to fill out the roster. Olave should be a instant-impact player. Taylor could even have a year one role, even with Tyrann Mathieu signing. However, just taking a position because you need it isn’t always a sound strategy. The Chargers had a similar tackle need to the Saints, but they opted for a better prospect in Zion Johnson to help the offensive line.
It might come down to how an individual views Penning, but even with the athletic upside, there’s plenty of technique to clean up. He often crosses his feet (or nearly does) in his sets, and he gives up his chest far too much, leading to giving up a ton of ground to rushers. It was evident at the Senior Bowl, as it was last fall.
The overarching question though, is was it worth getting a second first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft? Because of a wild first round of trades, people might forget the Eagles and Saints traded first rounders, giving the Saints one in this year’s draft and the Eagles another next year. The clear idea was that the Saints wanted to get two premium talents in this draft because they believe that they’re set on contending right now.
But did they? As was mentioned earlier, the needs were clear and that path was laid out. But, ultimately, the process here felt a little disjointed. Most analysts agreed that this class would be built through days two and three, and while the Saints (as they do) zigged when others zagged, it feels like that aggression won’t be rewarded. It’ll take time for Penning, and if the idea is to move Taylor to safety, that’ll take time too. All in all, (potentially) two projects early with a contending mindset feels disjointed. The New Orleans Saints are grasping on to contention, and this draft could be the one that sends things crumbling under expectations.