Without a doubt, one of the most glaring holes for the New Orleans Saints defense is the linebackers group. Veteran Demario Davis leads the unit as one of the best in the league but has little help around him in large part due to the Saints front office. After all, the Saints drafting of linebackers has been quite poor for the last decade. That being said if the Saints defense has any chance of improving this year they will need assistance from the linebackers group.
New Orleans Saints Woes at Drafting Linebackers
The New Orleans Saints have gotten their best linebackers during the Sean Payton era through free agency. Davis and Jonathan Vilma were signed, not drafted by the Saints. This past season, the Saints looked to have a great duo after acquiring Kwon Alexander from the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately, Alexander suffered an Achilles injury towards the end of the season and remains unsigned today. New Orleans also lost Alex Anzalone to free agency, depleting an already shallow unit.
Linebacker Draft Missteps
According to Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus, the New Orleans Saints have spent 14.2% of their draft capital on linebackers since 2011. This accounts for the highest position of investment for the Saints. Safety and Cornerback are the next two highest at 12.6% and 12.5%. Even with investing all this capital into one position, they have had little to show for it on the field.
This statistic alone might sound worse than it is. There are seven rounds in the NFL draft. It is much harder to find talent towards the end of the draft than the beginning. Looking at the top few rounds should give a better view into Saints draft woes at linebacker.
Since 2011, the Saints have spent eight picks in the top five rounds on linebackers. Except none of these players turned out to be consistent performers for the Saints. In fairness to Zack Baun, he has only been with the team a year after being drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Aside from Baun, the Saints have failed with the picks of Stephone Anthony, Hau’oli Kikaha, Khairi Fortt, and Martez Wilson, among others.
Saints Drafting Linebackers
Like in many drafts over the past decade, the Saints go into the 2021 NFL Draft needing reinforcements at the linebacker position once again. With four picks in the first three rounds of the draft, the Saints can potentially invest in a starting linebacker. The Saints will have options in every round, as this year’s linebacker class is rather strong.
In the late first round, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame) has been mocked to the Saints on more than one occasion. For the second round, Nick Bolton (Missouri) or Jabril Cox (LSU) could be within range. With two picks in the late third round, the Saints can potentially target Dylan Moses (Alabama), Baron Browning (Ohio State), and Pete Werner (Ohio State). With plenty of options, the Saints need to address the slim linebacker unit soon.
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