The 2022 NFL Draft begins on April 28, 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 2022 NFL Draft targets. The New Orleans Saints are the subject of today’s 2022 NFL Draft profile.
This season was the first year of the post-Drew Brees era in New Orleans. Last offseason the future Hall of Fame quarterback retired after 15 years with the team. Even though the Saints were not one of the flashiest teams in the league last season, they did almost make the playoffs with a 9-8 record this past season.
After sitting behind Drew Brees last season, Jameis Winston resigned with the Saints on a one-year $5.5 million deal and won the starting quarterback job during the preseason. Winston was able to cut his turnovers down from his final few seasons in Tampa Bay but did not look like the explosive passer he was with the Buccaneers either. He was limited to only seven games last season because he tore his ACL against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Winston threw for 1,170 passing yards, 14 passing touchdowns, and three interceptions. His stats look a lot better than he played because during the first week of the season he threw for five touchdowns. Taysom Hill started nine games for New Orleans last season in Winston’s absence. Hill threw for 978 passing yards, four passing touchdowns, and five interceptions. He also rushed for 374 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns last season.
New Orleans’ offensive success was hinged on the success of Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara. He was the team’s only consistent playmaker that could be relied upon on a weekly basis. Kamara has the second-most carries of his entire career despite only playing in 13 games. He missed four games last season because of an MCL sprain. Kamara rushed for 898 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He also had 439 receiving yards and five rushing touchdowns. The team also reacquired Mark Ingram from the Houston Texans midseason. He had been with the team from 2011to 2018.
Former All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas missed the entirety of the 2021-22 season recovering from the ankle injury he suffered early in the 2020-21 season. Second-year wide receiver Marquez Callaway led the team with 698 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns last year. Following Callaway were former All-Pro kick returner Deonte Harris, running back Alvin Kamara, and Tre’Quan Smith.
This season would have been a lot worse for the Saints if not for the stellar performance of the Saints defense this past season. New Orleans’ defense was one of the most consistent units in the league last season and carried them through some close games. Pro Bowler Cameron Jordan led the team with 12.5 sacks last season. Former first-round pick Marcus Davenport has a career-high nine sacks replacing Trey Hendrickson this past season. Veteran linebacker Demario Davis led the team with 105 tackles. There was a four-way time for the team’s lead in interceptions. P.J. Williams, Marcus Lattimore, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and Paulson Adebo each had three interceptions last season.
New Orleans has not had an okay free agency thus far. They signed a few notable players but lost their two largest free agents who were two of the best players on the team. Former Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead signed a five-year $75 million deal with the Miami Dolphins. Safety Marcus Williams signed with the Baltimore Ravens for five years $70 million. A few of the free agents that New Orleans signed included former Jets safety Marcus Maye (three years $22.5 million) and former Bears quarterback Andy Dalton (one year $4 million). New Orleans was also able to retain Jameis Winston (two years $28 million), Tre’Quan Smith (two years $6 million), and P.J. Williams (one year $2.385 million).
The Saints made a major trade with the Philadelphia Eagles less than a month before the 2022 NFL Draft. New Orleans traded the 18th overall pick, a 2022 third-round pick (101st pick), a 2022 seventh-round pick (237th pick), a 2023 first-round pick, a 2024 second-round pick for the 16th overall pick, 19th overall pick, and a 2022 sixth overall pick (194th pick)
2022 NFL Picks
Baltimore will have seven picks to use in the 2022 NFL Draft
First Round (two picks): No. 16, No. 19
Second Round (one pick): No. 49
Third Round (one pick): No. 98
Fourth Round (one pick): No. 120
Fifth Round (one pick): No. 161
Sixth Round (one picks): No. 194
Seventh Round (zero picks):
Wide Receiver- The Saints desperately needed to add a wide receiver last offseason. After not addressing the position the team was exposed for having the worst receiving core in the league last season. They need to add talented pass catchers to help Jameis Winston next season.
Left Tackle- Losing Terron Armstead in free agency is a huge blow to this offensive line and the team overall. The Saints have a massive gap at left tackle that veteran James Hurst cannot fill.
Free Safety- Marcus Maye is expected to take over for the recently retired Malcolm Jenkins. This leaves a void where Marcus Williams used to line up for the Saints’ defense.
Defensive Tackle- New Orleans has not been shy about adding edge rushers early and often throughout the years in the draft. However, New Orleans should add a defensive lineman to play on the interior of their line. They lack great depth at the position now and it could be a major need next offseason when David Onyemata hits free agency.
Running Back- Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are veteran backs that are at or past their peaks as playmakers. In a deep running back class, New Orleans should consider adding another running back to their rotation to keep the former Pro Bowlers fresh during games.
Quarterback- Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton are solid quarterbacks who should be trusted to start games for the Saints next season but they need a long-term answer. If the Saints really like a quarterback and have an opportunity to take him they should not hesitate to find the long-term replacement for Drew Brees.
Linebacker- The Saints lack a deep group of linebackers. After drafting Pete Werner in the second round this past year they should consider adding another linebacker to their linebacker core that could potentially replace the 33-year-old Demario Davis
2022 Draft Targets
Pick No. 16: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross is considered a top-10 player in this year’s draft class by many scouts in the media. However, there is a belief around the league that Cross could fall in the 2022 NFL Draft because many scouts in the league are concerned about his run blocking ability and transition to the NFL.
If Charles begins to fall past the top-10 New Orleans should do everything in its power to secure his services. Outside of the top-2 tackles in this class, Cross is ready to play right away and should play well during his rookie season.
Teams have been interested in seeing Cross play right tackle, but he should lineup on the left side at the next level. He could step right into the void left by Terron Armstead on this line and would be the fourth first-round pick invested along this offensive line.
Pick No. 19: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
New Orleans must take a wide receiver early in this year’s draft. Many felt like they should have taken a player like Elijah Moore over defensive end Payton Turner in the first round last year. Now that Michael Thomas’ long-term future is uncertain the team needs to add another playmaker to this offense.
Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave is considered the safest wide receiver prospect in this draft. The worst Olave would be at the next level is a solid second receiver that could stretch the field. But he showed during his time at college that he could take over a game and be the focal point of an offense.
The Saints should consider creating a duo of former Ohio State Buckeyes in Michael Thomas and Chris Olave. He would be a great compliment to Thomas who does his best work in the middle of the field. Olave would be the deep threat that Jameis Winston could trust airing the ball out down the field as he did in Tampa Bay.
Pick No. 49: Jalen Pitre, CB/S, Baylor
Most of the talk around New Orleans is that they need to add a tackle and wide receiver early in the draft. However, on Day 2 the Saints should consider replacing Marcus Williams who signed with the Ravens in free agency. Current listed starting free safeties P.J. Williams and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson primarily are nickel backs or third safeties for the Saints’ defense.
Over the past few weeks, former Baylor defensive back Jalen Pitre has been a popular prospect to go early on the second day in the draft. Pitre is a versatile defensive back that could line up at safety or cornerback at the next level. This past season Pitre lined up at the Star position on defense which is a safety/linebacker hybrid. Even though he likely won’t be lining up at linebacker a lot at the next level, he is capable of playing in the box, dropping back into coverage, and playing man-to-man on pass catchers. Being an athletic defensive back who had success at the college level and versatility to play multiple positions should lock Pitre into going within the top-50 selections.
Pitre won’t likely be the player Marcus Williams was for New Orleans’ defense right away. However, he would be a great addition to the deep and versatile group of defensive backs that the Saints have on their defense. He should be able to carve out a major role for this defense right away and could be a long-term piece of this defense that could be the difference between the Saints winning in a given week.
Pick No. 98: Neil Farrell Jr., DT, LSU
This defensive tackle class isn’t extremely deep, but there are a couple of talented players who should be able to have nice careers as quality starters or rotational players. This could mean that some players with Day 3 grades could work their way late into Day 2 because of the lack of depth at the position and the need for teams to build a rotation of players at the position. One of those players includes LSU defensive tackle Neil Farrell Jr.
Farrell Jr. is a massive defensive lineman who will line up at nose tackle at the next level. Similar to 2020 fourth-round pick and former LSU Tiger Tyler Shelvin, Farrell Jr. doesn’t have a high ceiling due to his lack of the ability to rush the passer. However, he has the size and strength to be a solid run defender at the next level.
It could be wise for the SaHe likely won’t be a starter for New Orleans despite being taken in the third round. Farrell would likely rotate with Shy Tuttle, Kentavius Street, and Albert Huggins next season. He would see his most playing time during running situations early on in his career. If he can show the ability to take up space and open pass-rushing lanes for New Orleans’ plethora of pass rushers he could earn more playing time over time with the Saints.