METAIRIE, La. — The 2022 NFL Draft is being held Thursday thru Saturday and every New Orleans Saints’ draft pick will be analyzed here.
The event is being held on the Las Vegas strip in the area adjacent to Caesars Forum two years after it was initially scheduled. The 2020 draft was turned into a virtual event because of COVID-19.
Here’s a pick-by-pick look at how each New Orleans player has selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 11 overall: Chris OlaveWR, Ohio State
My take: Obviously, I have to love this pick after screaming from the rooftops about New Orleans’ wide receiver need over the past two months, right? Unfortunately, the Saints had to make two trades over the past month to get up to the 11th pick. But they didn’t give up too much in Thursday night’s trade (sending picks No. 98 and No. 120 to the Washington Commanders to move up five spots). This was the Saints’ most glaring need after they finished 32nd in the NFL in passing offense last season, and the offense should look significantly better once QB James Winston and WR michael thomas return from major injuries as well.
Always trading up: Did it surprise anyone that the Saints were the first team to trade up in this year’s draft? They have now moved up a staggering 24 times in the past 16 drafts (including twice over the past month). And they haven’t traded down since 2007. Perhaps Olave won’t be worth the amount of capital New Orleans gave up to acquire him. But considering the run of wide receivers that took place in the middle of Round 1, it’s hard to argue the Saints should have sat back and waited. And the trades were proof of what they have insisted all offseason: They don’t plan to go into rebuilding mode under new coach Dennis Allen.
Always drafting Buckeyes: The Saints have now drafted nine players from Ohio State since general manager Mickey Loomis took over in 2003, including four first rounders – Olave, LB Peter Werner (2021), C.B. Marshon Lattimore (2017), Thomas (2016), S Von Bell (2016), DB Malcolm Jenkins (2009), RB Antonio Pittman (2007), DE Will Smith (2004) and LB Cie Grant (2003).
Round 1, No. 19 overall: Trevor PenningOT, Northern Iowa
My take: Apparently the Saints were to make as many mock drafts right as they possibly could Thursday after being widely projected to take a wide receiver and offensive tackle – filling perhaps their two most glaring needs. And nobody should be happier than quarterback James Winston. Instead of shopping for his replacement, they supported him by adding Penning and Olave. Obviously, the Saints should still expect a significant drop-off at left tackle after losing perennial Pro Bowler Terron Armstead in free agency. But Penning should help fill the void.
Another “big” investment: One thing that hasn’t changed with the Saints’ switch from head coach Sean Payton to Allen is the continued investment in the offensive line. Since 2015, they have now taken offensive linemen Andrew Peat, Ryan Ramczyk, Cesar Ruiz and Penning in Round 1. And center Erik McCoy was their first overall pick when they drafted him in Round 2 in 2019. Injuries decimated their offensive line in 2021, which was a big reason why they missed the playoffs for the first time in five years at 9-8. But if this unit can stay healthy, and Penning and Ruiz can show development, it should re-emerge as one of the team’s top strengths.
Something old, something new: After the Saints drafted the 17th player from Ohio State in franchise history earlier Thursday night, Penning became the first player they ever drafted from Northern Iowa. He was also the first UNI player ever selected in Round 1 of the draft. But the 6-foot-7, 325-pounder went from being lightly recruited out of high school to turning heads in the pre-draft process, and he also was able to show his physicality and a nasty streak.
What’s next: The Saints traded away both their third- and fourth-round picks to move up for Olave in Round 1. So they currently have only three picks remaining (No. 49 in Round 2, No. 161 in Round 5 and No. 194 in Round 6). The safety position is arguably their top remaining need, though they could still potentially address that in free agency after hosting veteran Tyrann Mathieu earlier this offseason. Defensive line and cornerback are also needed if they want to finally give Allen a player for his side of the ball.