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Grading the New Orleans Saints 2022 NFL Draft results

Jason Burgos

The New Orleans Saints fell short of the NFL Playoffs and finished second in the NFC South in 2021, however, there were still positive in their 9-8 season. Yet, they entered the NFL Draft for the first time since 2005 without their legendary former head coach Sean Payton as one of the key decision-makers after he retired earlier this year.

Just like their season, there were pros and cons for the Saints going into the 2022 edition of the annual draft. While they had two selections in the first 20 picks, the team only had five picks overall and just three in the first two rounds after making a few recent trades — including in the opening round this year. Meaning they had the opportunity to add difference-makers, but their chances were limited.

While some wondered if the New Orleans Saints may look to the future and take a quarterback in the first round due to a lack of confidence in the long-term prospects of returning QB Jameis Winston. However, the team instead looked to fill more immediate needs in the first round by drafting Ohio State speedster Chris Olave with the eleventh overall pick. Then Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning at 19, to hopefully replace perennial Pro Bowler Terron Armstead after he took his talents to Miami in free agency.

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Both picks were strong selections and the right way to go for the team heading into 2022 with new coach Dennis Allen. Let’s take a look at the Saints’ five selections in the 2022 NFL Draft and grade their impact on the team’s immediate future.

Saints address needs with Chris Olave and Trevor Penning

new orleans saints
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints will get back top wide receiver Michael Thomas after an ankle injury cost him much of 2020, and all of the 2021 seasons. In 2022 he will be paired with a very talented player in Chris Olave. The 21-year-old was the B-side to teammate Garrett Wilson but he has the potential to be a major talent in the NFL. Last season for the Buckeyes he had 65 catches for 936 yards and an impressive 13 touchdowns. A Thomas-Olave combo could make life much easier in the NFC South for Winston next season.

It seems the goal of the Saints in the first round was to give Winston a better chance to succeed. Despite a killer loss in Armstead, the team did the best they could in trying to fill that hole with Penning. Of course, they are massive shoes to fill but if the O-line can be healthier this season than it was in 2021, the veterans on the line could make Penning’s development easier andbeome a solid group of protectors for Winston.

In the second round with the 49th pick, the Saints took Tennessee defensive back Alontae Taylor. A player ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper nicknamed “Mr. Versatility.” The 6-foot, 199-pound former wide receiver could play safety or cornerback, has the potential to contribute as a nickelback early in his career, and be a talented part of the special teams unit as a gunner.

While the selection of Taylor won’t blow fans away, he is a solid addition on top of nice adds in Olave and Penning.

Grades for rounds 1 and 2: B

New Orleans Saints improve special teams in late rounds

new orleans saints
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the 156th selection, the Saints went defense again with Appalachain State linebacker D’Marco Jackson. The Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year had 120 tackles, six sacks, and six passes defended in 2021. Showing his talent as a well-rounded LB behind the defensive line. Demario Davis and Pete Werner are blocking him in the depth chart, but in his rookie season, he could be a serious benefit to the special teams unit.

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With their lone pick in the sixth round, the organization took another Jackson in Air Force defensive tackle Jordan Jackson. The 6-5, 294-pounder had a career-high 7.5 sacks in 2021 and could be a part of the team’s defensive line interior rotation in 2022.

Neither Jackson’s project to be starters, however, few players from the fifth round and on are until they surprise experts and excel where evaluators thought they wouldn’t. Nevertheless, both will add depth and can contribute to the special teams in year one.

Grades for rounds 5 and 6: C