New Orleans Saints NFL Draft Picks & Grades 2022: Aggressive Trades Up for Chris Olave Land Jameis Winston a New Playmaker

The Saints are consistently one of the most compelling teams around draft time as general manager Mickey Loomis marches to the beat of his own drum and consistently finds contributing talent. Part of the Saints’ process has always been to trust their talent development staff to turn elite athletes into high-level football players, and this year was no different. This article will provide a complete draft recap for the Saints, including grades and analysis for each selection made by the team.

New Orleans Saints Draft Picks 2022

Round 1 No. 11 WR Chris Olave
Round 1 No. 19 OT Trevor Penning
Round 2 No. 49 CB Alontae Taylor
Round 5 No. 161 LB D’Marco Jackson
Round 6 No. 194 DT Jordan Jackson

Overall Draft Grade: C+

I’ll focus on the player and team fit analysis in the individual draft grades section, but I want to give a full-depth look at the trade the Saints made to get him. First, the Saints traded with the Eagles to acquire an additional first-round pick this year. They later sent additional mid-round picks to the Commanders for the right to move up from No. 16 overall to No. 11 overall. Meanwhile, the Eagles used their first-round pick to trade for A.J. Brown.

The trade turned into the Saints receiving Chris Olave, Trevor Penning, and No. 194 overall, and the Eagles receiving A.J. Brown, No. 237 overall, a 2023 first-rounder, and a 2024 second-rounder. It wouldn’t be fair to hold the Brown aspect against the Saints – they wouldn’t have been able to absorb a $25 million per year contract in their books, which is why they made the aggressive move for Olave. However, the margin for error is significant, and the Saints have bet big on Olave becoming a standout receiver.

Overall, this draft depends significantly on the trades in the Saints’ final selections. Their lack of later-round capital means they are heavily reliant on their first-round picks panning out. I have concerns about Trevor Penning, and I’m not entirely sold on Olave’s upside as a true alpha receiver, so this draft leaves me with some significant question marks, especially with the lack of high-level talent added with their remaining three picks.

New Orleans Saints Draft Grades 2022

Round: 1 Pick: 11 / Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Chris Olave is the most polished route-runner in this draft class, and he’s a true technician with a high-level football IQ. That route-running makes him an elite separator, especially downfield with his 4.39-second 40-yard dash. The big knock on Olave is his lack of ability to create after the catch – he only had one missed tackle forced last season – and it’s why I see him as more of a high-end WR2. However, Olave is a perfect fit with Michael Thomas if he can get healthy, as Thomas demands consistent attention from defenders when he’s on the field. This draft pick is pivotal to the future of the Saints’ franchise, however, as the capital given up in the trade was immense. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF) data scientist Timo Riske, the Saints lose the Olave trade 61% of the time, and it would have been much easier to get behind the Olave selection had it come at their original pick at No. 16.

Grade: B-

Round: 1 Pick: 19 / Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

I mocked Trevor Penning to the Saints several times in the pre-draft process, and it doesn’t shock me at all that they made this selection. They had a significant need at offensive tackle following Terron Armstead’s departure in free agency. The Saints are also consistently focused on Relative Athletic Score (RAS), and few players stand out like Penning in that respect with a 9.94 RAS. He landed in the 98th percentile with a 7.25-second 3-cone and the 97th percentile with a 4.89-second 40-yard dash. Those numbers are extremely impressive for anyone, nonetheless a 6’7”, 325-pound tackle. However, Penning lacks polish in pass-blocking, and he gets penalized too often – his 16 penalties drawn in 2021 will only be more of a problem against NFL competition. There are traits to love here for Penning, but he has a lot to work on, and fans expecting a seamless transition from Armstead to Penning will be disappointed.

Grade: B

Round: 2 Pick: 49 / Alontae Taylor, CB, Tennessee

This selection will go down as one of the biggest reaches of the draft, as Taylor wasn’t in my top-100 on my big board, and I saw him as a clear Day 3 prospect. Taylor is coming off a big breakout season in his senior year, in which he exploded onto the draft scene. It’s not surprising that the Saints bought into that progression as he tested with a 9.07 RAS, including a blazing 4.36-second 40-yard dash. However, for Taylor to be more than a great athlete, he needs to continue to work on his instincts, decision-making, and movement in coverage. As a four-year collegiate starter, those deficiencies are somewhat concerning. Taylor could develop into a great defensive back in the NFL, and there are traits to love. Still, this grade reflects that Taylor likely would have been available at least another round later, and there were more surefire options in the second round.

Grade: C-

Round: 5 Pick: 161 / D’Marco Jackson, LB, Appalachian State

D’Marco Jackson is an intriguing prospect with a 4.55-second 40-yard dash at the 89th percentile for the linebacker position. However, at 6’0”, 233 lbs, Jackson struggled to shed blocks against Sun Belt Conference opponents, and that will only be exacerbated in the NFL. His play recognition and instincts are also lacking, which will limit his range. Jackson racked up 27 total pressures in 2021 as he was asked to be a downhill blitzer, more than he ever had in his career. Jackson’s play speed and burst to the football will boost his special teams viability, but it’s tough to project him improving his range long-term and developing into a full-time player at linebacker.

Grade: C

Round: 6 Pick: 194 / Jordan Jackson, DT, Air Force

Well, the Saints sure do have a type. They have no qualms with drafting non-Power Five players and will always target athletic freaks above all else. Jackson fits the bill with his 9.14 RAS highlighted by a sub-5-second 40-yard dash and an impressive 7.2-second 3-cone drill. Jackson is a tweener as he lacks the lower body strength to anchor inside and the agility to rush off the edge consistently, but he plays with a high motor and does well to diagnose plays and react accordingly. The Saints have always been able to develop players like Jackson, and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they can translate his consistent motor and athletic upside into a more productive player.

Grade: C+

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. With my educational background in the sports business and a strong knowledge of the inner workings of professional and collegiate sports, I hope to tell enthralling stories about the world of sports as it unfolds around me.

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