By Thomas Willoughby

The NFL Draft is over, and we cannot head into the three-month abyss that is the offseason without looking at what all 262 selections mean for each franchise. Whilst too early to judge just how successful a draft class each team’s was, we can look at how rookies fit within schemes, where they stand on depth charts, and who we can expect to make an impact in 2022. We continue our team by team series with the New Orleans Saints:

Draft Haul

111Chris OlaveWROhio State
119Trevor PenningOTNorthern Iowa
249Alontae TaylorCBTennessee
5161D’Marco JacksonLBAppalachian State
6194Jordan JacksonDEAir Force

Day One

Credit: Kirby Lee (USA TODAY Sports)

The New Orleans Saints went into the 2022 NFL draft in a weird place. They were competitive for a lot of the 2021 season, ending the year with a win from a playoff berth. Having lost long-time head coach, Sean Payton, however, you really did wonder whether they would use this season to kick off a long over-due cap purge of their salary cap. With that in mind, they really could have gone anywhere in the first round, with many, ourselves on The Touchdown Review show included, pondering whether their trade with the Philadelphia Eagles would open the door for a potential trade-up for a quarterback. They did, indeed, trade up. Not many would have expected that move to be for Chris Olave, however.

Let it be known that the Saints really did make the most of very little in 2021. Michael Thomas was out all season, Alvin Kamara managed 13 of 17 games all season, and they lost Jameis Winston to a season-ending injury early on. Despite that, they managed a 9-8 record, which is more impressive than it lets on. With Chris Olave, they’re getting an excellent weapon to give their 2022 starter a much-needed injection of talent, as well as someone who can grow alongside a younger QB if they don’t believe Winston can be the man long-term. Olave’s size and speed means he’s someone you can line up outside and in the slot, giving the Saints another x-factor to an offense seemingly built of x-factors. Assume that Michael Thomas returns in 2022, and you’ve got a VERY potent WR1/2 combo.

With their second first-round Saints opted to go to their bread and butter. An offensive lineman is never an exciting selection, but that really is where Mickey Loomis has made his money in recent years. Having seen Terron Armstead walk in free agency, the Saints needed to find his replacement. In Trevor Penning, they might just have that. Penning feels like a little more of a project than the guys taken early in the round, but he has an upside that could bring him to that perceived level with the right amount of growth. You can see a scenario where he struggles early in his NFL career. But, make no mistake, he’s in the perfect place to hit his ceiling.

Day Two

Credit: Brianna Paciorka (USA TODAY NETWORK)

Owing to the litany of pre-draft moves the Saints made, they went into day two with just the one pick in their pocket. In the second round of the draft, they cashed in that pick on Alontae Taylor, cornerback from Tennessee. Let’s be real, the Saints aren’t exactly slim at the cornerback position, or the secondary in general. Having exchanged a third-round draft pick for Bradley Roby last season, you’d be forgiven for expecting that position group to be filled. Especially with Marshon Lattimore headlining a group that also enjoys the talents of Paulson Adebo. On the surface, it doesn’t make much sense. In reality, it’s a very typical Saints move.

This feels like an “upside” pick. With Alontae Taylor you have someone who is fluid, with really good speed and acceleration. He’s certainly got the athletic make-up of a player capable of hanging at the NFL level. There are some issues with his ha nds that hold him back, however, and that overly-aggressive style of play could see him burned. That is, unless, he knocks that part of his game out of him. Playing in that position group, without the expectation to be starting right away, should be exactly what he needs to become a good NFL-level cornerback. WIth Roby under contract for two more seasons, keep a close eye on Taylor’s development. Here’s the natural replacement.

Day Three

With just the two picks on day three, and a future to build for, the Saints couldn’t really afford to take too many fliers. No picks in round 4 led to their round 5 selection of D’Marco Jackson, linebacker from Appalachian State. So much for not taking too many fliers.

Jackson is an interesting pick. He’s certainly got the physical attributes you look for in a modern NFL linebacker. He’s quick, he’s solid against the run, and he’s a very reliable tackler. There are plenty of things to like about Jackson, and that upside no-doubt contributed to the Saints’ willingness to take a swing on him. The question marks come with his coverage ability, as well as his overall size. A lot of scouts, including our all-conquering Si Carroll, note that he feels like more of a weakside linebacker, despite his traits. That lack of a defined role could see him become a special teams specialist. Don’t get me wrong, special teams is important. Could that affect his ability to grow as a defender? Don’t be surprised if he’s limited to an “in relief” role at best.

“Speed and grit. That’s what D’Marco Jackson brought to the football field for App State the last four years, and he’s won a hell of a lot of admirers because of it - myself included. Jackson might be a tad undersized for NFL tastes to play inside - but nobody has told him that, and i’m pretty sure ball carriers respect his physicality and aggression when he introduces himself at the point of contact. There is a little bit of a contradictory feel to Jackson’s eval, in that he has the speed to operate as a WILL linebacker (where his size is less of an issue), but his tackle range is much more suited on the interior where his presence is harder to avoid. Jackson comes with considerable special teams pedigree that will allow him to make an instant impact at the next level, whilst a coaching staff decides how he can contribute on defense.”
Mock Draft
Simon Carroll
Head Of NFL Draft Content

The Saints final pick of the 2022 draft was Jordan Jackson, defensive end from Air Force. Much like the Saints’ selections from the second day onwards, Jackson is a bit of an upside selection. He’s not overly imposing, and plays quick small. He’s not overly impressive as a pass rusher, either, consistently looking overmatched against outside tackles. He’s tenacious, though, and has excellent closing speed. There’s a player in there, albeit probably not one capable to starting long term. I’m willing to forgive looking at a long-term backup player in the sixth round, mind.

One To Watch: Alontae Taylor

The “one to watch” section is a weird one, because I always read it as “hidden gem”. In reality, Olave is the one to watch from this haul, because you’re gonna get to watch him almost every down from week one. As someone who can grow into a role, however, I’m taking the second-round corner.

I alluded to it early in the piece, but the Saints are pretty broke. They need young, cheap talent, and Taylor is indeed both of those things. There are going to be some hard times on the horizon for New Orleans if they can’t build a new foundation to see them through said times. As I mentioned, Bradley Roby has two seasons remaining on his contract. He’s also 30 years old, and is an easy cap casualty when money gets tight. Lattimore, Taylor, and Paulson feels like a really solid CB1/2/3 down the line. Dare I say, the Saints secondary feels like its in a really good place.

UDFA Tracker

Dai’Jean DixonWRNicholls
Sage DoxtaterOTNebraska State
Joel DublankoLBCincinnati
DaMarcus FieldsCBTexas Tech
Vincent GrayCBMichigan
Lewis KiddGMontana State
Jack KoernerSIowa
Lucas KrullTEPittsburgh
Smoke MondaySAuburn
Isaiah PryorLBOhio State
John Parker RomoKVirginia Tech
Derek SchweigerOTIowa State
Nephi SewellLBUtah State
Rashid ShaheedWRWeber State
Abram SmithRBBaylor
Daniel WhelanPUC Davis
Eric WilsonGPenn State

Par for the course from me, here, I’m afraid. Certainly not the man to ask for draft takes, left alone undrafted free agent takes. Huge fan of the name sweepstakes, however, and you simply cannot ignore Smoke Monday in that regard. Sage Doxtater certainly runs him close, however. A strong showing from the Saints, in that regard.

A word on Daniel Whelan, as well, who hails from Wicklow, Ireland. An Irishman hasn’t played in the NFL for over 40 years, and he is one player I’ll be trying my best to keep tabs on. I can already see the look of pure confusion that’ll slap itself across my Irish Grandad’s face when I tell him one of the lads has made the NFL.

Credit: Kara Hoffman (Getty Images)


The Saints draft class is a bit of an odd one, for me. On the one hand, securing Olave and Penning early on inject the Saints with some potentially top-end talent to build their offense of the next 5 years and beyond around. On the other, the selections from the second round onwards feel like swings. If they hit, then absolutely great for them. There just feels like there’s a lot that needs to go right for the 3 non-1st round selections to truly make a dent.

The lack of picks certainly didn’t help them, of course. The impression that this unbiased observer gets, however, is that the Saints are trying to escape the impending bad time for as long as possible. Good luck, gentlemen.

Thomas Willoughby