The countdown is on for one of my most exciting times of the year — the NFL Draft.
And as a certified black-and-gold bleeding Who Dat, this year’s draft seems much more crucial than years past following the retirement of Drew Brees, the Saints’ savior who guided the team to their first and only trip to the Big Dance and its only Super Bowl win.
So, you might think I’m looking hard at quarterbacks for the Saints’ first-round selection — right now slated to be the 28th overall — during Thursday night’s opening round of the draft.
If so, you’re probably thinking wrong.
Financial losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic significantly shrank the NFL salary cap, forcing the team to cut some players I seriously doubt they wanted to let go. The Saints lost some big-time talent simply because they were caught up in the numbers game.
And that leaves head coach Sean Payton and Co. with some pretty significant voids that need to be filled.
While I would love to get excited about the Saints bringing in a rookie star to bring their next long-term quarterback, I believe the cost of moving up in the draft would be much too costly to do so. Doing so would prevent the team from filling some crucial holes it needs to fill if it even hopes to remain a potential NFL contender next season.
And yes, I think that even without Brees, the Saints have an opportunity to remain a contender in the NFL. But they must play their cards correctly. And part of that is believing in Sean Payton. I know I do.
Payton said in the midst of last season and during the ongoing offseason that he believes Brees’ replacement is already in the building. And as I said, I believe in Payton. And while I might be in the minority of Who Dat fans, I agree.
Just take a look at Payton’s history and you might see why.
Payton guided Kerry Collins as the Giants’ quarterback coach to a Super Bowl. And yes, that’s the same Kerry Collins who struggled in his lone season as the Saints’ starter before moving on to the Giants. Collins had a 49.2 completion percentage with the Saints, and a 61.5 completion percentage in his best season as a Giant and a 57.6 completion percentage during his Super Bowl season.
Then Payton as the Cowboys’ assistant head coach looked to his alma mater of Eastern Illinois and found Tony Romo, who he turned in an above average quarterback for Dallas.
Not even closed to finished, Payton then took over as head coach for the dismal Saints, took a chance on Brees and turned him from from an above average quarterback coming off a potentially career-ending injury into one of the best to ever play behind center in the NFL.
In 2019, Payton and the Saints won five straight games with Teddy Bridgewater as quarterback after Brees was injured.
And then last season, after Brees was injured again, Payton coached Taysom Hill to a 3-1 record as a starter with Jameis Winston sitting on the bench, playing a little mop-up duty along the way.
Payton has proven he’s a “Quarterback Whisperer,” and with Hill and Winston returning the Saints to duke it out for the starting role as Brees’ replacement, I believe Payton and the Saints are in a good place. If Payton can’t turn either Taysom or Jameis into a elite quarterback, I don’t think anyone can. In fact, I love the idea of Winston and Hill being on the field at the same time. Let a defensive coordinator try to figure out what will be coming at them then.
Winston has shown that he has hopefully matured and is ready to become more of the game of game manager the Saints will need to be successful. If so, give him and Taysom 1/3 of snaps each per game behind center, and the other 1/3 together on the field at the same time.
So I think the Saints should concentrate on other positions like cornerback, linebacker, defensive line and possibly wide receiver this draft. There are some other holes that could use filling, like tight end, safety and even offensive line.
You know Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and Co. will work their usual salary cap magic and add some needed veterans to fill some of those holes, so if the Saints get a chance to pick up a young quarterback in the mid to late rounds, I’d have no problem with it. If names like Kyle Trask, Kellen Mond or Davis Wilson fall to the third round, I’d be OK with it. Jamie Newman or Sam Ehlinger or two others they could slide further back and be solid potential pick-ups. And the Saints will need a decent third quarterback simply based on Hill’s style of play.
But I’m really looking forward to Payton and Saints rolling with “Taymeis” next season, so I’d rather see them focus on other positions in the draft.