The 2021 NFL Draft begins on April 29, which means that The Game Haus will be writing draft profiles for every team. Each NFL team will be evaluated heading into this year’s draft, as our staff recaps their last season, highlights their needs, and pinpoints their potential 2021 NFL Draft targets.
The New Orleans Saints are the subject of today’s 2021 NFL Draft profile.
For the fourth season in a row, the New Orleans Saints had the aspirations of reaching the Super Bowl. But the Saints failed to reach their ultimate goal again despite their loaded roster. New Orleans’ 12-4 record won them the NFC South for the fourth season in a row. They were able to win the division even though they shared a division with the (eventual Super Bowl Champion) Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
New Orleans tried to get Drew Brees to another Super Bowl. But this year Brees’ showed that he was on the decline. Despite putting up similar stats from last year, Brees just didn’t look the same. His throws didn’t have the same pizzazz that they had earlier in his career. In only 12 games Brees threw for 2,942 yards, 24 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Now that the future Hall of Famer has hung it up the Saints will have to turn to either former first overall pick Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill to lead them back to the playoffs.
After an off-year due to injury, Alvin Kamara reasserted himself as one of the league’s best offensive weapons. Kamara had career highs with 932 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. He also led all running backs in all receiving stats with 83 receptions, 756 receiving yards, and five receiving touchdowns. So as a total Kamara had 1,688 scrimmage yards and 21 total touchdowns. Kamara got to showcase how dangerous he is during Week 16 against the Minnesota Vikings. He rushed for 155 yards on 22 attempts and tied an NFL record with six touchdowns.
Kamara actually led all Saints pass-catchers in receptions and receiving yards. This was mainly due to the fact that former All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas was limited to only seven games. Emmanuel Sanders led all Saints receivers with 61 receptions and 726 receiving yards. Sanders also was tied for second on the team in receiving touchdowns with Kamara and behind Jared Cook. Both Sanders and Cook were let go by the Saints. As the depth chart stands New Orleans’ complementary pass catchers to Thomas and Kamara are Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, and Adam Trautman.
The Saints defense performed similarly to how they have over the last couple of years. Former situational pass rusher Trey Hendrickson had a breakout season along the Saints defense with 13.5 sacks which was tied for second in the league. Even though losing Drew Brees is a major change to the Saints the biggest change for the next season could be on defense after losing so many key players this offseason.
New Orleans is projected to be a borderline playoff team with their current roster. Along with Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook, the Saints lost Trey Hendrickson, Sheldon Rankins, Janoris Jenkins, Kwon Alexander, Alex Anzalone, and Malcolm Brown. The Saints brought in a couple of veterans like Nick Vannett, James Hurst, and Tanoh Kpassagnon to fill some of the voids on their roster. They also retained key role players like Ty Montgomery, Dwayne Washington, and P.J. Washington. But the biggest move New Orleans made this offseason was resigning Jameis Winston to a one-year $12 million deal. He is expected to be the teams starting quarterback next season.
2021 NFL Picks
New Orleans will have eight picks to use in the 2021 NFL Draft
First Round (one pick): No. 28
Second Round (one pick): No. 60
Third Round (two picks): No. 99, No. 106
Fourth Round (one pick): No. 134
Fifth Round (zero picks):
Sixth Round (one picks): No. 219
Seventh Round (two picks): No. 230, No. 257
Cornerback- Even though Janoris Jenkins wasn’t phenomenal for New Orleans, his leaving creates a need for an outside cornerback for New Orleans. Behind Marshon Lattimore the Saints have C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Patrick Robinson who are more slot cornerbacks and shouldn’t be covering receivers on the outside.
Linebacker- Since Kwon Alexander and Alex Anzalone have left the team in free agency the Saints need to address linebacker. 2020 third-round pick Zack Baun is expected to fill Alexander’s void. But the Saint’s have a need at outside linebacker. Even though the league is transitioning towards playing more nickel defense New Orleans still plays a lot of base defense with three linebackers on the field.
Wide Receiver- Now that Emmanuel Sanders is in Buffalo the Saints are lacking reliable depth at wide receiver. After Michael Thomas, the Saints starting receivers are Tre’Quan Smith and Marquez Callaway. Smith and Callaway shouldn’t be relied upon to have consistent roles in New Orleans offense especially since they have a question mark at quarterback.
Defensive Tackle- David Onyemata was a great find by the Saints in 2016. But the Saints have had little luck at the defensive tackle position otherwise. Sheldon Rankins was in and out of the lineup and now is a New York Jet. Also Malcolm Brown was essentially a nonfactor for New Orleans during his time with the team. The Saints need to add a defensive tackle to compete with Shy Tuttle for the starting job next to Onyemata next season.
Quarterback- Even though the Saints have Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill in place for next season New Orleans still doesn’t have a long-term answer at quarterback. Winston is on a one-year deal and Hill’s contract is not guaranteed past this season. New Orleans should explore bringing in a young quarterback who could potentially develop into their starter down the road.
Defensive End- Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport are fine starters at defensive end (even though Davenport has been a bust). Even Tanoh Kpassagnon and Carl Granderson are solid rotational pass rushers. But none of them can replicate what Trey Hendrickson was for New Orleans last season. If a pass rusher is available that New Orleans thinks has star potential they should take him and hope he develops into the player Hendrickson was in 2020-21.
2021 Draft Targets
Pick No. 28: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
In recent weeks Eric Stokes has been mentioned as one of those players who is a fringe first-round pick player who could hear his name called earlier than many expect. Stokes proved at his Pro Day that he is a freak athlete when he ran a 4.25 forty time. His tape also shows that he was a ballhawk at Georgia. In year one in New Orleans, he could be the CB3 that primarily plays on the opposite of Marshon Lattimore.
Pick No. 60: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
If Rondale Moore somehow falls to the end of the second round New Orleans should pounce on the opportunity to grab him. Moore may be only 5’7″, but he is a fantastic athlete. He verified how fast he was on film when he ran a 4.29 forty time. He also had a 42.5″ vertical and hit 24 reps on the bench press. Sean Payton would have a field day creating plays for Moore in this offense. Despite likely being a primary slot receiver Moore could be extremely dangerous if he gets drafted into the NFL by New Orleans.
Pick No. 99: Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported about a week ago that the Saints are intrigued by the idea of Kyle Trask being their long-term answer at quarterback. In the third round, Trask is a safe pick for New Orleans. His upside is that he reaches what the Saints think he could do which is be their long-term starter. His floor is that he could be a quality backup. This feels similar to when the Indianapolis Colts took Jacob Easton in the fourth round last year as a long shot to be their long-term starter, but a developmental quarterback that could be an insurance policy if both Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett left the following season (which they did).
Pick No. 97: Alim McNeill, DT, NC State
Alim McNeil feels like whoever drafts him will take him to be a solid second defensive tackle to start on their defensive line. McNeil is a safe pick at the end of the third round because at the very worst teams will get a big body in the middle who defends well against the run. He may not be able to put up the sack numbers that Sheldon Rankins put up in his prime. But he could be a solid rotational defensive tackle who could be a long-term starter down the road.