Saints draft interesting for relatively unconventional reasons

Mock drafts have become a rite of spring for many NFL experts and fans alike heading into the league’s annual draft.

Trying to determine who a team might draft is difficult for anyone — even the so-called experts. Conventional wisdom doesn’t always play a role.

And for the New Orleans Saints, who have trended as unconventional during many recent drafts, conventional wisdom doesn’t even mean a hill of beans.

For the Saints, it’s all about analytics and the Relative Athletic Score (RAS), a factor becoming more and more popular among draft analysts and one that New Orleans football staff obviously paid attention to in this draft.

An RAS score combines drills, measurements, and weight lifting at the NFL Combine and player Pro Day workouts into a score from 0 to 10. The higher a player scores, the more elite an athlete they are considered.

Five of the Saints players drafted in recent days had RAS scores of 9.0 or better. Only fourth-round pick Ian Book, a quarterback from Notre Dame, posted a lower score at 7.38. But that was the fourth-best RAS of drafted quarterbacks that participated in drills to compute a score, and considering five quarterbacks went in the first round, that says quite a bit.

Book was a solid pick in my book. He has the talent to be at least a decent back-up in the NFL. And who knows about the future? The most interesting thing is that at 6-0, he’s almost a Drew Brees clone, even down to his playing style. Maybe even more interesting is the fact that Book has a birthmark under his left eye not unlike the birthmark under Brees’ right eye. And both were Golden Domers in college before becoming ones again as Saints.

Sometimes fate works as strong as RAS scores.

First-round Saints pick Peyton Turner had the fourth-highest RAS score among defensive ends available for this year’s draft and was the third defensive end taken. He and his seven-foot wingspan caught the attention of Saints coaches during the Senior Bowl.

Linebacker Peter Werner, this year’s annual pick for the Saints from Ohio State (another trend for the Saints in recent years) had the seventh highest RAS score of any linebacker in the 2021 draft.

Maybe my favorite Saints pick this season along with Book, Paulson Adebo, the cornerback the Saints traded up into the third round to draft, had the 11th highest RAS score among cornerbacks. He had a second-round grade by most draft expects and was considered a steal for the Saints at No. 76 overall.

Landon Young, the offensive tackle out of Kentucky drafted by the Saints in Round 6, had the ninth highest RAS score among tackles, and New Orleans’ seventh-round selection, blazing fast receiver Kawaan Baker out of South Alabama, had a RAS of 9.08.

Who knows if the Saints’ recent draft strategy will pay off? Only time will tell. But I have to admit, it was relatively interesting for me.

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