Saints Rookies Who Will Make Instant Impact in 2021 Season

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 5, 2021

Saints Rookies Who Will Make Instant Impact in 2021 Season

0 of 3

    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints used their first three draft picks on defensive players for the first time since 2009.

    That draft only had four picks, but it did produce Malcolm Jenkins out of the first round, and he could share the secondary with one of the franchise's top selections in 2021.

    Cornerback Paulson Adebo has an opportunity to play into a starting role, as does linebacker Pete Warner.

    At the start of the 2021 season, they could have larger impacts on the defense than first-round pick Payton Turner because of the needs at their respective positions.

    Ian Book has the best chance to improve the offense, but he needs to see off the challenge of Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill in the quarterback competition. It seems unlikely the fourth-round pick will immediately beat out a pair of incumbents who have knowledge of the team's offensive system, though.

Paulson Adebo

1 of 3

    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    At his peak as a prospect, Adebo was a potential first-round selection. But his inactivity on the college gridiron last season forced his stock to plummet to the third round, where the Saints may have landed one of the best value picks of the draft.

    The Saints could line up Adebo opposite Marshon Lattimore, with Jenkins, Marcus Williams and C.J. Gardner-Johnson filling out the other positions across the secondary.

    Adebo's presence on the outside should help the Saints continue their strong play in the defensive backfield. They did not allow a 300-yard passing game in 2020.

    The No. 76 pick could help the Saints increase their interception totals. He had four in each of his two full seasons at Stanford. New Orleans did not have a single player eclipse three picks in 2020.

    If the Saints create more turnovers in the air, they could wreak more havoc on NFC South foes that are expected to throw the ball a ton.

    Adebo may face some growing pains against Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Robby Anderson and others, but if the player who starred at Stanford in 2018 and 2019 shows up right away, he could be the perfect fit on the outside.

Pete Werner

2 of 3

    Barry Reeger/Associated Press

    Werner enters a linebacker room in which Demario Davis is the only returning starter.

    The second-round selection should compete for a starting role off the bat after playing at a high level within the Ohio State defense for three years.

    Werner's best season came in 2018 when he had 7.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. He finished his collegiate career with a total of 185 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and four sacks.

    In 2020, Davis was the only Saints linebacker to have more than 50 tackles. He led the squad with 119 takedowns.

    If Werner can ease the tackling burden on the secondary by combining well with Davis, the Saints could be even more effective in defending the ground game than they were in 2020, when they allowed six 100-yard outings.

Payton Turner

3 of 3

    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    Turner’s selection at No. 28 was a bit perplexing when the Saints could have filled their linebacker and secondary needs in the first round.

    Instead, they opted for an edge-rusher with 9.5 career sacks three years after they used their first-round pick on a defensive end who has not panned out as much as they would have liked.

    Marcus Davenport’s job could come under pressure from Turner, who had five sacks in five games at Houston in 2020.

    The small sample size from 2020 is promising, but there should be some concerns that Turner failed to get to opposing quarterbacks on a consistent basis prior to his senior season.

    To just get the opportunity to rush NFL quarterbacks, Turner has to battle through a congested depth chart for snaps. Cameron Jordan and Davenport should be at the top, while free-agent signing Tanoh Kpassagnon will be in the running for snaps beneath them.

    Compared to the other two defensive draft picks, Turner has a more difficult path to the starting lineup, but if he impresses in camp and takes full advantage of his opportunities, he could become a solid addition to the pass rush.


    Statistics obtained from Sports Reference and Pro Football Reference.