Saints rookies share initial jersey numbers; ranking them from first to worst

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John Sigler
·5 min read
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The New Orleans Saints selected six rookies in the 2021 NFL draft, and the new additions have already chosen their initial jersey numbers. I’ve couched that for a good reason; some of these numbers are likely to change between now and Week 1’s kickoff as veteran players are released or traded, or simply choose to change jersey numbers now that the NFL has relaxed the rules on who can wear which digits (Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, for example, has set his eyes on No. 1). Last year, Zack Baun tried three different numbers during the summer until settling at No. 53.

But which Saints draft picks have made the best choices? After, all everyone knows that the number you wear is the greatest predictor of NFL success. Totally. For sure. Here’s my quick ranking of each rookie’s first choice:

DT Payton Turner, No. 98

https://twitter.com/UHCougarFB/status/1388122585410555905 Good pick here by the first rounder. It's a strong look and, while not as dynamic as something in the 50's, it will look great on a big rookie who figures to move inside and rush against guards and centers from time to time. On a somber note, this really puts a stamp on the end of the Sheldon Rankins era. Here's hoping he finds his shimmy again with the Jets (except for their game with the Saints, of course).

RT Landon Young, No. 67

The sixth rounder made a great choice, putting up the not-too-hefty six-seven combo (coincidentally, Young is listed as 6-foot-7 on the team website). Like Turner, he could have gone with a trendier pick in the 50's, but this is a strong, understated, lunchpail-and-hardhat choice. And he gets to continue wearing his college number, which has to feel great. This number wasn't used by the Saints during the 2020 season, but former Saints right guard Larry Warford took it to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2017 to 2019. That's as good an omen as any.

WR Kawaan Baker, No. 14

Not a bad choice. I'll admit that I'm a sucker for receivers wearing numbers in the 80's (especially rookies) as part of an old-school "earn your stripes" mindset, because numbers in the teens are so coveted. But it's still a good look so I can't hate on it. Baker wore No. 15 in college, which is owned by Trevor Siemian for now, so this makes sense as an alternative. Tommylee Lewis rejoined the Saints late in the 2020 season and found that his old No. 11 had been taken by Deonte Harris, an All-Pro return man who wasn't coming off of it any time soon. So Lewis wore No. 14 instead for a few weeks.

QB Ian Book, No. 16

Come on man, Joe Montana's number? I get it because it's a Notre Dame quarterback-gone-pro rite of passage, but you can't put that kind of target on your back. Even Taysom Hill knew better than to chase Steve Young's No. 8 as another BYU prospect. This number was worn by veteran wideout Maurice Harris last year, though Harris was cut before training camp and it was picked up by Bennie Fowler until his season ended on injured reserve. It was also used by fan-favorite receiver Lance Moore in the earlier days of the Sean Payton era.

CB Paulson Adebo, No. 29

Ugh, man. Adebo went with the heftiest number a defensive back could choose outside the 30's. You have to hope that he's planning to change later on, though his college jersey (No. 11) is currently taken. Maybe he could switch to No. 22 if Gardner-Johnson gets his wish and makes a bold move to No. 1.

LB Pete Werner, No. 20

Look, I was in favor of the expanded jersey number rules, but this makes me think it was a mistake. Yes, Werner wore No. 20 at Ohio State. And sure, it's a better choice than No. 40, which may have been his choice under the old rules. But this is a number for a lockdown defensive back -- if anyone should be wearing it, it's Marcus Williams, who starred in No. 20 at Utah before putting together a very good NFL career. It's a travesty. Maybe someone close to Werner can talk him into moving to something in the 50's once the roster thins out.

Bonus Round: Undrafted free agent jersey numbers

So the Saints updated their online roster with the initial jersey picks for undrafted rookies, and good for them. Here's my bonus lightning round power rankings:

  1. DT Josiah Bronson, No. 91

  2. P Nolan Cooney, No. 5

  3. LB Shaq Smith, No. 58

  4. TE Dylan Soehner, No. 89

  5. S Trill Williams, No. 33

  6. OL Mike Brown, No. 68

  7. S Eric Burrell, No. 32

  8. RB Stevie Scott III, No. 34

  9. CB Lawrence Woods, No. 35

  10. OL Alex Hoffman, No. 79

  11. CB Bryce Thompson, No. 31

Props to Bronson for taking on Trey Hendrickson's No. 91, and to Soehner for continuing Josh Hill's legacy with no. 89. Hopefully Smith taking No. 58 doesn't fully shut the door on a Kwon Alexander reunion once he's recovered from Achilles surgery. Cooney made a great pick and he'll need the good energy a single-digit jersey brings in his titanic training camp battle. Williams is redeemed for choosing something in the 30's by going with Jabari Greer's old No. 33, but Thompson is punished for invoking Jairus Byrd. How has No. 31 not been banned for defensive backs?

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