Saints fill need at offensive tackle, add depth at cornerback and QB during NFL draft

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — The New Orleans Saints filled a pressing need with their first-round pick in the NFL draft.

Then they traded up in the second round to get a player they targeted at a position of relative strength.

In selecting Oregon State offensive tackle Taliese Fuaga No, 14 overall, coach Dennis Allen felt the Saints took a logical approach.

“There’s really not any sense screwing around,” he said. “You’ve got the guy you like. It’s a position of need. Let’s don’t overthink this. Let’s take the player.”

Fuaga played right tackle at Oregon State, but with New Orleans having potential openings at both tackle spots, he said he would be comfortable on either side. Trevor Penning, the second of two 2022 first-round picks, lost his starting role at left tackle early last season. His replacement, Andrus Peat, is an unsigned free agent. Starting right tackle Ryan Ramczyk had offseason surgery to address a chronic knee issue and faces an uncertain future.

Fuaga was the fourth of seven offensive tackles picked in the first round in a draft heavy on highly rated tackles.

“It was fortunate for us,” Allen said. “It’s not too often that the depth of the draft at the position of need marry up, but this happened to be a year that it married up for us.”

New Orleans moved up four spots to grab Alabama cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry, trading the No. 45, 168 and 190 picks to Green Bay for the 41st pick. McKinstry earned first-team All-America honors as a senior.

“You can never have enough good corners in this league,” Allen said. “It’s a valuable position. We’ve had to have our third and fourth corner play a ton of snaps the last couple of years.”

New Orleans added five players on the final day, beginning with South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler in the fifth round at No. 150. Projected as the potential No. 1 overall pick at the start of his sophomore year at Oklahoma in 2021, he lost his job to Caleb Williams and transferred to South Carolina, where he started the past two years.

He was the first quarterback taken since the run of six in the first 12 picks on Thursday night.

“This is a guy who has been through a lot of adversity, faced a lot of criticism and come out on the other side,” Allen said. “He’s got a skill set we want to work with, just from an arm talent standpoint and the ability to make all the throws.”

The others Saints selections were Pittsburgh wide receiver Bub Means (fifth round, No. 170), Texas linebacker Jaylan Ford (fifth round, No. 175), Northern Iowa defensive tackle Khristian Boyd (sixth round, No. 199) and Eastern Kentucky offensive tackle Josiah Ezirim (seventh round, No. 239).ROOM FOR LATTIMORE?

Allen said taking McKinstry did not mean the Saints planned to move on from cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who has been the subject of trade speculation because of his hefty contract.

Other cornerbacks on the roster include Paulson Adebo, a third-round pick in 2021 who had 76 tackles and four interceptions last year, and Alontae Taylor, a 2022 second-rounder who had 75 tackles and two picks.

Lattimore, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, has missed as many games (17) as he played in the past two years due to injury.

“Marshon’s been valuable,” Allen said. “We’re looking forward to him being a part of our team.”SABAN EFFECT

Having played under recently retired coach Nick Saban, who won six national championships with the Crimson Tide, was a factor in McKinstry’s favor.

“I know that he’s been coached really hard,” Allen said. “And I know that he’s been around a lot of good football and a lot of smart football, and you value those things. It adds some weight to what you’re getting.”SAME PIPELINE

The Saints’ affinity for Senior Bowl MVP quarterbacks continued with the selection of Rattler.

Rattler followed 2023 MVP Jake Haener of Fresno State, the Saints’ fourth-round pick last year, and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, the 2021 MVP who signed with the Saints as a free agent earlier this month. All of them will compete to back up Derek Carr along with free-agent acquisition Nathan Peterman.TRADING UP

The move to take McKinstry was business as usual for the Saints, who have traded up in the draft 27 times since 2008. They have not traded down since 2007.

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