Scouting the South, New Orleans Saints  -

Scouting the South, New Orleans Saints 

Next up in the ‘Scouting the South’ series is the New Orleans Saints. How will their draft potentially impact the Buccaneers twice a year? Here is a breakdown.

The Saints’ draft selections:

  • WR Chris Olave (11)
  • OT Trevor Penning (19)
  • CB Alontae Taylor (49)
  • LB D’Marco Jackson (161)
  • DT Jordan Jackson (194)

The NFL’s last ranked passing offense in 2021 needed a reboot and the organization addressed their needs with wide receiver Chris Olave and a left tackle to protect Jameis Winston in Trevor Penning. The team is counting on both being offensive catalysts. Prior to the Draft, the Saints traded away draft capital to acquire an additional pick in the first round, continuing their standard salary cap philosophy and management. With athletic footwork, a nasty demeanor and power at contact, New Orleans snagged Penning, who will replace their longtime starter Terron Armstead. Penning will undergo a learning and developmental period when the season starts, however, the Bucs will likely pick on the left side of the Saints’ formation as an ‘introductory welcome to the NFL.’

Olave, the club’s first overall pick, concluded his Buckeyes’ career as the team’s all-time leader in touchdown catches (35). He will step into the New Orleans’ offense as the WR2 opposite Michael Thomas. He possesses elite route acceleration, allowing him to win early in routes off his release package. Olave stretches the field vertically with downfield speed and the Bucs’ secondary will need to force him into contested catch situations and contain him downfield, using a two-high shell and Cover 4 on the back end to keep everything in front (making Olave settle for intermediate routes).

The Saints jumped into the top 50 for Alontae Taylor, a fast and physical player coming off a breakout campaign with the Volunteers last season. However, consistency and change-of direction ability are projected concerns. Both Jackson selections were aimed to add speed at both the D-Line and linebacker position spots. Like every team, the Saints will target the Bucs’ reverse aging QB wonder and strive to harass him in the pocket. Tom Brady’s quick release and a stout offensive line paired with tight ends picking up blitzers, will be the key to success.

Comments: The Saints do things a little bit differently than the other 31 teams, particularly around the salary cap. They always find a way to get under the cap — eventually. And it’s interesting to see that the organization seems to think it is a real contender this season, as it went all in to add another first-round pick in this draft. New Orleans gave up its first-round pick in 2023 and a second-rounder in 2024 (among other things) in a trade with the Eagles that saw them gain the No. 19 pick. That gave it some ammo in Round 1 to move up if it wanted to.

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Comments: The Saints traded away future capital before the draft started to secure another first-round pick this year, using a similar credit card philosophy they’ve followed in their salary cap management over the years. They moved up to secure the services of the speedy yet smooth Olave. Penning is a fair value to play left tackle in the absence of longtime starter Terron Armstead. They jumped the board a bit picking Taylor in the top 50, though he does have the size and athleticism to play at the next level.

Comments: They moved up in the first round to land receiver Chris Olave, a good player with speed that was needed. Penning will be a good player, and keep an eye on fifth-round linebacker D’Marco Jackson. He can run.

Comments: Now, it’s certainly possible Olave will turn into a star and that Penning will develop into a solid starter. But the Saints are putting an awful lot of draft capital eggs into that particular basket. And if neither of those things happen, it could set them back dramatically.

Comments: After trading to get a second first-round pick this season, the Saints jumped up just a little more to make sure they got their guy. The fit here is seamless, with Chris Olave stepping into the vertical-threat role in New Orleans’ offense as the WR2 opposite Michael Thomas. Olave recorded 12 touchdowns on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield over the last two seasons at Ohio State, fourth in the FBS. It’s just a lot easier to get behind the value here at one of the Saints’ original pick selections rather than by executing a trade that they lose 61% of the time, per PFF data scientist Timo Riske.

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