Even without Sean Payton calling plays, are the Saints still looking to make a run to the playoffs in 2022? Or are they committed to a rebuild, their first in nearly two decades?
Those were the questions that Saints fans were asking themselves on Monday when their team made a deal with the Eagles involving eight draft picks. In return for the #18 pick and a third rounder in 2022, a 2023 first, and a 2024 second round pick, New Orleans received the #16 and #19 overall picks from Philly, as well as a sixth rounder.
In terms of draft value, it’s a puzzling move for New Orleans, who are sacrificing crucial future draft capital to go all-in on this year’s draft class. While little is known about what the Saints ultimately plan to do with their two first-round picks, we can infer a few things based on the front office’s actions and the team’s current needs.
Who Will The Saints Draft?
The Saints Want Playmakers
To me, this is the simplest and most logical explanation. With an array of talented wide receivers expected to fall within the 10-20 range of the first round (Chris Olave, Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams), New Orleans now has enough draft capital to snag one of the draft’s better wideouts. Would they be willing to give up a mid-round selection in order to ensure they pick their favorite receiver? It’s possible, but there are enough holes on the roster to exercise caution against another big trade.
Could the Saints double-dip on wide receivers? It feels very unlikely, as the team still has Michael Thomas on the roster, but let’s say Thomas’ injury rehab is going poorly or his relationship with the team has deteriorated. If anyone were to know, it would be New Orleans’ front office. Saints starting quarterback Jameis Winston put up gaudy passing numbers in Tampa Bay when throwing to two stars on the outside, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Might New Orleans do something similar on offense?
The Saints Want An Offensive Lineman
The assumption that New Orleans wants at least one wide receiver in Round 1 feels all but certain. An early run on that position could damper their plans, but as of now it’s safe to assume they want to add a pass catcher. However, the offensive line is also in need of assistance after left tackle Terron Armstead signed with the Dolphins in free agency. With the ability to take a “safer” pick elsewhere in the first round, might New Orleans gamble on the untapped potential of a Trevor Penning or Bernhard Raimann? Or, like the previous scenario, would they be willing to trade up for one of the draft’s three best tackles (Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, Charles Cross)?
The Saints Want a Quarterback
This would be a surprise, but it’s also not crazy if the Saints aren’t sold on Winston. With Payton’s man-crush Taysom Hill likely shifting more towards a tight end role in 2022, the current QB room in New Orleans is Winston, veteran Andy Dalton, and last year’s fourth-round pick, Ian Book. None of those options should inspire a ton of confidence (although Winston was solid before suffering an injury last season). Since it involved giving up their only first round pick in the deep quarterback draft of 2023, the trade with the Eagles signals that the Saints front office is either fine with their quarterbacks for the near future or trying to grab one this season. If they opt to trade up, it isn’t crazy to think that the Giants, with the fifth pick in the draft, could be tempted to move back for the #16 and #19 selections. This would almost certainly give the Saints their pick of the class of QBs. Should they stay put, quality options like Desmond Ridder, Matt Corral, and maybe even Kenny Pickett might be available in the middle of the first. Regardless, the minute the draft ends, we’ll know a lot more about how the Saints see their signal callers.