Mel Kiper grades Saints draft a B-minus, criticizes ‘a few significant reaches’
The 2023 NFL draft has drawn to a close, which means it’s time for analysts like ESPN’s Mel Kiper to issue report cards. Now, draft grades are ultimately worthless, sure, but it’s a useful exercise for recapping the draft class and getting an idea of what’s expected for each player on their new team.
And Kiper likes a lot of what the New Orleans Saints were able to do, though he criticized them for what he sees as reaching on some prospects he didn’t rate as highly as others. And he still hasn’t gotten over the decision to trade this year’s first-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022, which, to be fair, was nearly a catastrophic mistake. Kiper’s takeaways in grading the 2023 Saints draft class a B-minus:
This was an interesting draft for the Saints, who originally traded away their first-rounder last April then added one as a result of former coach Sean Payton getting hired by the Broncos. The Saints ended up picking 19 spots after their original selection. If they had their own pick at No. 10, they could have made the move up one spot to get Jalen Carter, like the Eagles did, and fill their biggest hole.
New Orleans instead landed my third-ranked DT Bryan Bresee (29), who isn’t as good against the run as Carter but does have some pass-rush upside. After his freshman season in 2020, I thought Bresee was a future top-five pick, but he missed all of 2021 with an ACL injury. If he can put everything together, he could be worth it, because teams covet interior pass-rushers.
I thought the Saints reached a bit for edge rusher Isaiah Foskey (40) on Day 2, and I would have preferred running back Devon Achane over Kendre Miller (71). Nick Saldiveri (103) played mostly right tackle in college, but he likely will move inside to guard for New Orleans. Quarterback Jake Haener (127) landed in a fun spot; his closest comp in size and mechanics is Drew Brees. Now, if the 6-foot passer becomes as good as Brees, I’ll be regrading this draft as an A+, but I see his ceiling as a really solid backup behind Derek Carr or a low-end starter. A.T. Perry (195), a 6-foot-3 wideout, had 26 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
Achane did have a lot of supporters among Saints fans, but there’s no way the team was going to draft him as a 188-pound running back with mediocre athletic testing results (outside of his 4.3-time in the 40-yard dash, which you would expect of someone in his weight class). He just doesn’t fit their established standards for the position. He’ll be a good pro especially in the high-octane Miami Dolphins offense, but Achane wasn’t a fit for the Saints.
Foskey was weirdly underrated throughout the entire draft class despite being just as athletic and more productive as players picked ahead of him, and as Kiper admitted he’s a great fit in the Saints defensive rotation. But so much of this draft hinges on Bresee staying healthy and available. His injuries were unrelated in college so it’s not like he has chronic health problems, but availability is the best ability, and he’s got to show the Saints can count on him. We’ll circle back in a few years and see whether Kiper was on the mark this time.
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