When it comes to the NFL Draft, few teams are more aggressive than the New Orleans Saints.
General manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton are completely unafraid of identifying a target and using draft capital and/or players to move up the board and add him to the roster, and the 2020 draft was no different in that regard. New Orleans made four picks in the 2020 draft, and three of them were acquired in trade-ups. Those three deals were as follows:
- Sent No. 88 and 2021 third-round pick to Cleveland for No. 74 (Zack Baun) and No. 244
- Sent No. 130, 169, 203, and 244 to Minnesota for No. 105 (Adam Trautman)
- Sent 2020 sixth-round pick to Houston for No. 240 (Tommy Stevens)
Each of the three deals was likely a loser on any version of the trade value chart, but this is what the Saints do: they target specific players and do whatever it takes to get them. This year, they went out of their way to add backups at tight end (Trautman will likely play behind Jared Cook) and offensive weapon (Stevens will work behind Taysom Hill), and to acquire a versatile playmaker for their defense who can rush off the edge or drop back into coverage (Baun).
The move for Baun makes the most sense of the three because it filled an obvious need for the Saints, but it was also pretty costly as they sent out two thirds in exchange for a third and a sixth. Trading their entire Day 3 haul to move up for Trautman, who is unlikely to contribute much in what is almost assuredly Drew Brees' final season, was a strange decision, and became even more so when the Saints had to send out yet another future pick in order to get back into the draft and take Stevens, who is at best going to be the team's third quarterback behind Brees and Winston, and at worst is either a backup to Hill or off the team.
Still, the Baun selection was one of the best value picks of the draft, and adding Cesar Ruiz in the first round is likely to help solidify the offensive line if and when the Saints decide to cut ties with guard Larry Warford. Having Ruiz, Erik McCoy, and Andrus Peat locked in for the next several years will not only ensure Brees is well-protected up the middle, but help his successor as well.
Of course, with all that wheeling and dealing the Saints did, they also left a few things out.
1. The future
Trading up has a cost, and in this case, the cost was the Saints' third and sixth-round picks in 2021. The Saints do not have any picks coming in from other teams, though they are at least likely to get a third or fourth-round compensatory pick after letting Teddy Bridgewater leave for a sizable contract with the division rival Panthers.
The Saints tend to do this every year. They are willing to mortgage at least some of their future for help in the present, and they'll do it with draft capital in addition to salary cap space. They specialize in adding voidable years to player contracts in order to artificially lower cap hits, and they trade up as often as anyone in the league.
Even knowing that, however, does not change the calculus when it comes to evaluating what they did. Trading future picks still saps your future draft capital, and consolidating multiple picks into just one selection gives you fewer rolls of the dice when it comes to hitting on contributors. The Saints did both of those things last week.
2. Depth at cornerback
One area that it would have been good to see the Saints address is the cornerback position. Marshon Lattimore is a strong No. 1 corner and likely to garner an extension soon, but Janoris Jenkins was bad enough in New York that the Giants actually cut him (yes, they cut him after he used inappropriate language on Twitter, but they wouldn't have done that if he was still at the top of his game) and the depth beyond those two players is questionable. Patrick Robinson and P.J. Williams have been serviceable at times but the Saints could have used an upgrade to the No. 3 corner spot at some point in the draft.
3. Brees' successor
Perhaps the Saints view Jameis Winston as Drew Brees' eventual successor, you say. But if that's true, why did they only sign him to a one-year deal? More likely they view him as an acceptable backup for this season, but if they like what they see and want to keep him around, they'll have to pay for that privilege a year from now.
New Orleans also gave Hill $16 million guaranteed to be a hybrid quarterback/offensive weapon, then traded back into the draft for a player they are already talking about as a Hill type. If they were going to add that type of player, why spend that money on Hill? And if they were going to spend that money on Hill, why add another player in the same role?
This is likely the final year of the Drew Brees era and the Saints will head into next offseason with two quarterbacks that the team does not seem to view as full-time quarterbacks, plus a low-priced backup who will likely want to command starter money if he's going to be the starter. It's not a major worry just yet, but it could become one in time.