Saints will have to develop several prospects from 2021 NFL Draft | Detillier

Mike Detillier
Special to The Courier

The NFL draft is all about filling needs for your football team for the present and future.

In 2017, the New Orleans Saints hit the jackpot by landing cornerback Marshon Lattimore, right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, safety Marcus Williams, halfback Alvin Kamara, linebacker Alex Anzalone and defensive end Trey Hendrickson.

That draft changed the football world for the Saints and still does today.

The Saints brought in some solid players in the 2021 draft, but I don’t see anyone drafted that will push for a starting spot this season, only if injuries happen.

The Saints selected Houston defensive end Payton Turner with their first pick. It was a surprise selection for virtually everyone and even to Turner.

The 6-foot-5, 275-pound Turner was a good player in college, but was never a signature defensive player for Houston. He recorded 25 tackles for losses and 10 quarterback sacks playing both defensive end and defensive tackle.

Mike Detillier

What the Saints saw in Turner was a very athletic defensive lineman with versatility traits, great length and intelligence. He played hard every snap and he has learned how to use his arms and hands to fight off would-be blockers. He was never a dominant player and he has fought with injuries from his senior season of high school until his senior season at Houston.

The Saints selected Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner in the second round. He has started at both weakside and on the strongside, but the Saints will post him on the weakside early on.

He comes from a very athletic family as his dad has experience playing in the NFL and his brother was a good player at Harvard. He is instinctive and smart. He has excellent range on the field. He has improved on getting around bigger blockers and also in the coverage part of the game.

Werner will help out on special teams to start, but he has some intriguing traits to eventually turn into a starter at outside linebacker.

NFL draft grades: Bears, Jets among best team classes in 2021 while Raiders among worst

Draft picks:New Orleans Saints select Notre Dame QB Ian Book in fourth round of NFL draft

The Saints selected Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo in the third round. The 6-1, 200 pound Adebo may have the best chance of any of the draft choices to see playing time in 2021.

Adebo opted out of the 2020 season, but in the 23 college games at Stanford, he intercepted eight passes. He recorded 20 pass breakups in 2018.

Adebo has the length, foot speed and ball reaction skills you are looking for in a cornerback. Since the Saints are thin at cornerback, he really does have a chance to see significant playing time as a rookie.

But the Saints aren’t finished filling out the cornerback group as I expect them to make a run at either veteran cornerback Richard Sherman or former Packers and Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward.

The Saints selected Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book in the fourth round. Saints coach Sean Payton dropped the breadcrumbs about Book in speaking about him on the Dan Patrick Show last month.

Book is a really good athlete who can make plays on the move. He is tough and super smart. He was a 63.8% completion passer. He passed for 8,948 yards, 72 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

Book is not a real tall quarterback at 6-foot and he has been a bit of a groove passer blowing hot and cold with his passing. There are some mechanical skills to be straightened out, but if you read between the lines in hearing Payton speak about him, he thinks Book can compete for a starting spot in the future.

The Saints selected one huge young man in Kentucky offensive tackle Landon Young in the sixth round. The 6-6 ¾, 312-pound tackle was worked out by former offensive tackle Zach Strief, now the Saints assistant offensive line coach.

Young was considered one of the elite offensive line prospects as a  high school senior selecting Kentucky over Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame. He missed the 2018 season due to a torn ACL, but he was a steady and at times dominating force at left tackle as a run blocker. The key for Young will be how well he can handle the speed edge rushers in pass protection sets in the NFL.  I believe he is best suited for the right side than the left.

In the final round, the Saints selected wide receiver Kawan Baker. He was an off-the-radar player for most NFL teams until he showed up for the South Alabama’s pro day and he put on quite a show running 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash and posted a 38-inch vertical leap.

He did catch 126 passes for 1,829 yards and 16 touchdowns in college, but he was also noted for dropping some easy would-be catches. Baker is talented, but he is a developmental player and he will need to work on his route running skills and catching the ball cleaner out front with his hands and not up against his body.

The Saints have several solid prospects, but for the first time in years, they are not the team to beat in the NFC South.

The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have every one of their starters back and they are the team to beat in the NFC South and the NFC in 2021.

NFL analyst Mike Detillier is based in Raceland.