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The New Orleans Saints stayed true to prototype and bolstered their trenches by selecting the Houston defensive end Payton Turner with the 28th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Initially unpopular (and unpredicted) among Saints fans, the 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds prospect is exactly the type of player New Orleans has a history of selecting in the first round.
The decision to select Turner is also highly indicative of a hesitance to stray from prototype in a year lacking in film and proper measurables. Moreover, the team’s first selection in every draft since 2015 has either been a defensive or offensive lineman; this year proved no different. Notably, Turner’s Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.74 reinforces a notion detailed by NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill: football intelligence is paramount. The Saints are drawn to prospects with RAS scores of 9.00 or higher.
Another compelling trend to analyze as we turn to Round 2 is the team’s propensity to select players out of the Big Ten and SEC conferences. Out of the 28 players drafted by the Saints since 2016, 14 of these players came from these conferences. Let’s see if an analysis of these trends helps shape the predictions for the team’s selections in Round 2 of the draft.
CB Tyson Campbell, Georgia: SEC East
Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Weight: 193 pounds
RAS Score: 7.53
Tyson Campbell likely isn’t the best player available, but cornerback is undoubtedly a position the team is looking to address in Rounds 2-3. Campbell has been linked to the Saints in recent mocks, but his low RAS score and developmental trajectory make this a shaky Day 2 pick – and definitely not a trade-up candidate.
LB Jabril Cox, LB, LSU: SEC West
(AP Photo/John Raoux)
Weight: 232 pounds
RAS Score: 9.73
LSU’s Jabril Cox both offers greater size than Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and a higher RAS score; he also fits the trend out the SEC conference. Notably, Missouri’s Nick Bolton had an incredibly low RAS score of 4.62, and it’s low enough to knock him off my Day 2 board.
WR Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU: SEC West
Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Weight: 205 pounds
RAS Score: 9.77
If Saints fans want a wide receiver, highly intelligent and prototypal Marshall out of LSU is a player worth trading up for early in this round. He’s easily the best receiver in terms of checking nearly every box.
WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss: SEC West
Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Weight: 178 pounds
RAS Score: 8.68
While Purdue’s Rondale Moore has a 9.33 RAS score that draws attention, so does his 5-foot-7 stature. Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore better fits the mold.
OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
Weight: 317 pounds
RAS Score: 9.74
Turning to non-Big Ten/SEC prospects, it would be imprudent to ignore the trend of New Orleans selecting players in the trenches; particularly in alternating sides of the ball. Jenkins was a first-round graded player and is absolutely someone to keep an eye on in Round 2.
OT Samuel Cosmi, Texas
Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Weight: 314 pounds
RAS Score: 9.99
Same sentiment as above, except nearly a perfect RAS score at a similar size. All depends on how the team graded their board. This further applies to Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey (perfect 10.00 RAS) and Wisconsin-Whitewater’s guard/center Quinn Meinerz (9.98 RAS).
CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
(AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Weight: 205 pounds
RAS Score: 9.69
Melifonwu is my sleeper pick for New Orleans. He’s the most intelligent prospect at corner that fits the mold, is much more prototypal in size, and possesses the necessary (and rare) physical traits to be an NFL starter.