Saints rise in Bleacher Report’s post-draft power rankings

The New Orleans Saints walked out of the 2023 season with little optimism for the future. Despite being on the cusp of winning the NFC South (low bar, I know) the constant letdowns throughout the year correctly outweighed New Orleans’ near-postseason berth. This perception deepened and was reaffirmed by multiple power rankings listing the Saints in the bottom half of the league to start the offseason.

We’ve now reached another checkpoint in the NFL offseason, the NFL draft. Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport took the time to project the outlook for the 32 teams after the draft. It’s the final checkpoint of the offseason. The next influx of meaningful power rankings will likely come around training camp when the pads come on. These rankings are essentially a culmination of all offseason moves. Here’s why Davenport says the Saints are the 19th-best team in the NFL:

It’s been something of a typical offseason in New Orleans. They entered it in terrible salary-cap shape, cleared some room and made a signing or two. But it was the draft where the Saints really looked to improve.

Offensive tackle Taliese Fuaga (No. 14 overall) and cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry (No. 41 overall) should make an immediate impact. Head Dennis Allen talked up Fuaga in particular while speaking to the media.

“I think I just fell in love with the personality,” Allen said. “I didn’t feel like this player was sitting in front of me trying to sell me something that he wasn’t. I felt a genuine person. And I just felt like he was a man’s man, guy’s guy, dude’s dude, however you want to call it. And I like that. And then when I take that, and put on the tape and I watch him play in the way that he plays, the physicality with which he plays, I thought it was a pretty good fit.”

Fuaga and McKinstry are talented players. But it’s hard to see this year’s Saints team as measurably better than last year’s squad that went 9-8 for the second time in three years.

Of course, the NFC South isn’t exactly a gauntlet of a division. The three teams that could realistically vie for the division title all have flaws.

The Saints aren’t the best of the three teams on paper. But they are close enough to be in the mix.

That draft generated excitement in the fan base and led to a decent rise from New Orleans in the power rankings. They’re still listed below average but not near the basement dwellers of the NFL. The Saints did have a successful draft from Round 1. Picking up Taliese Fuaga should solidify the right tackle position for years to come.

The vision for Kool-Aid McKinstry should become clearer with time, but his talent isn’t to be questioned. Some believe this was a first round talent the Saints were able to get in the second. Khristian Boyd also provides late round value at defensive tackle, another position of need.

The draft was encouraging, but it didn’t propel New Orleans into the top half of the NFL. Actually, it still keeps them third in the division. There’s work to do and look for New Orleans to start adding veterans in free agency. They need to make up ground on division rivals ahead of them like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Davenport’s 15th-ranked team).

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire