2021 NFL Draft: Who did the New Orleans Saints draft in the first round?

Fans of the New Orleans Saints have endured a difficult offseason as they have had to sit and watch coach Sean Payton and GM Micky Loomis disband the roster in a bid to get the team back under the cap.

Staple stars such as defensive end Trey Hendrickson, nose tackle Malcolm Brown, middle linebacker Alex Anzalone and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders have each departed the Bayou for fresh pastures.

In the aftermath of the exodus, the Saints squad looks thin, and there is a need for a new defensive end, cornerback, linebacker and wide receiver to help bolster the depth chart.

So, how did the New Orleans Saints get on in the first round of the NFL Draft? Let’s take a look.

2021 NFL Draft: The New Orleans Saints picked DE Payton Turner in the first round

Houston v Navy
Houston v Navy

In the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints drafted Houston defensive end Payton Turner with their 28th overall pick.

Most expected Turner to go off the board somewhere in the second round. But further evaluations saw him climb the rankings as the draft approached and coach Payton clearly saw something in him that he liked and decided to draft him as a replacement for Trey Hendrickson.

Turner is a dominant physical specimen who plays the game in an aggressive, full-throttle manner, befitting of the current Saints defense. The 28th overall pick racked up 67 pressures and 10 sacks during his four years with the Houston Cougars.

Turner missed several games in 2020 but still amassed 11 pressures and five sacks in just 103 pass-rush snaps. Such was Turner’s dominance at the line of scrimmage that PFF awarded the DE a 90.0 pass rush rating, one of the highest in college football.

Though most scouts mention that Turner has work to do on his footwork and body positioning, he’s a genuine edge defender and should improve a Saints pass rush that struggled to sack opposing quarterbacks at times in 2020.

Most fans were hoping that the team would pick a quarterback or wide receiver in the first round. But Turner’s selection is a statement of intent from coach Payton, in my opinion. Rival NFC South quarterbacks Tom Brady and Matt Ryan aren’t the most mobile and they better get their running boots on because the Saints’ pass rush won’t be messing around come autumn.

Published 01 May 2021, 06:29 IST

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