With free agency and the NFL Draft officially done, the New Orleans Saints are officially on to 2021. After years of going all-in to maximize the final years of Drew Brees, the bill finally came due. This version of the New Orleans Saints roster looks wildly different to years past, which makes this projection all the more difficult. That being said, the roster should look something like this by the time Week 1 rolls around.
New Orleans Saints Roster Projection 1.0 – New Faces Everywhere
Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Ian Book
Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill are set to battle it out for the right to replace Drew Brees. While Winston is the more conventional quarterback, Sean Payton has a very public infatuation with Hill, and he did start in place of an injured Brees last year. This battle should go all the way to the wire and be one of the most interesting storylines throughout the league.
Barring something completely unforeseen, Ian Book doesn’t stand a chance at winning the starting quarterback job in 2021. However, he is definitely worth carrying on the active roster. Book still has a long way to go, and his pedestrian arm does limit his ceiling. However, he’s great at extending the play and flashes the ability to create more yards than the scheme provides. With some seasoning on the bench, perhaps he turns into an adequate quarterback. It’s not particularly likely, but stranger things have happened.
Running Back (4)
Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington, Ty Montgomery
The best running back in football continues to head this backfield, with Latavius Murray playing a decent role in the committee. These two are going to be the primary ball carriers for New Orleans, but they won’t be the only running backs on the depth chart. Dwayne Washington and Ty Montgomery will continue to hold onto their emergency backup roles, while Montgomery will continue to return kicks.
The Saints carried five running backs (including fullback Michael Burton) throughout the majority of the 2020 season, but there are not five running backs currently on the depth chart. If the Saints add an undrafted free agent in the coming days, that player would definitely be able to push for one of the final roster spots.
Wide Receiver (6)
Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, Juwan Johnson, Deonte Harris, Kawaan Baker
The New Orleans Saints have always struggled to find an adequate starter opposite Michael Thomas, so they attack the position with volume in this roster projection. Tre’Quan Smith basically is who he is at this point in his NFL career, and that’s a solid WR3 with a clear ceiling. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but New Orleans should be aiming for better.
Marquez Callaway flashed some promise as a rookie and could grow with another year in the league. Juwan Johnson and Deonte Harris probably won’t do much of anything on offense, but all three have the opportunity to carve out roles on some part of the special teams unit. Kawaan Baker earns the final spot as a seventh-round rookie. Like the three aforementioned players, he probably won’t do too much right out of the gate, but he’s worth keeping around to see if he can surprise.
Tight end (3)
Adam Trautman, Nick Vannett, Garrett Griffin
With Jared Cook out of the picture and no established third option in the offense, the time is now for Adam Trautman to shine. The tight end didn’t do too much as a rookie, but that is not uncommon for the position. Just about every tight end prospect needs a year to figure out life in the NFL before being a regular contributor. He’s athletic and talented enough for the job and should be in store for a solid season.
Nick Vannett continues his journeyman career by joining his fourth team in seven seasons. The former third-round pick isn’t going to catch too many passes, but he can hold his own in the trenches and should make life easier for Alvin Kamara and the rushing attack. Ditto for Garrett Griffin, albeit to a more limited extent.
Offensive Line (9)
Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz, Ryan Ramczyk, James Hurst, Derrick Kelly, Landon Young, Christian Montano
Even with all the changes throughout the roster, the New Orleans Saints should have one of the better offensive lines in football. The starting line of Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz, and Ryan Ramczyk doesn’t have a weak point, and the depth is pretty strong throughout. The real wild card here is sixth-round pick Landon Young. The offensive tackle has the traits to be an NFL mainstay, but he’s incredibly raw and needs a stronger grasp of the position. With the right coaching, he could stick around New Orleans for a very long time.
Defensive Linemen (9)
Cameron Jordan, Malcolm Roach, David Onyemata, Marcus Davenport, Payton Tuner, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Christian Rago, Shy Tuttle, Noah Spence, Ryan Glasgow
Superstar edge defender Cameron Jordan will once again highlight a pretty strong defensive line, albeit one that doesn’t have the same depth as in years past. The most interesting name on this list – by far – is first-round pick Payton Turner. Not many people had Turner as a first-round pick, so he’ll face plenty of pressure to produce right out of the gate. Personally speaking, I expect him to primarily be a situational rusher with the chance to develop into a starter in 2022 or 2023.
Demario Davis, Andrew Dowell, Zack Baun, Pete Werner, Kaden Elliss, Chase Hansen
Much like the defensive line, the linebacker position is highlighted by one of the better players in the league at the position (Demario Davis) and a rookie that was slightly overdrafted relative to consensus opinion (Pete Werner). Davis should remain the face of the linebacker room, while Andrew Dowell and Zack Baun will provide solid play in their base defense. Werner will set the ceiling for this group, as the Ohio State product can already play well in coverage, but will need to improve his work in the run game in order to see the field on all three downs.
Marshon Lattimore, Paulson Adebo, Patrick Robinson, Keith Washington, Grant Haley
In the days leading up to the NFL Draft, multiple credible reporters around the league believed that the Saints were trying to trade up for a cornerback. While that ultimately never came to fruition, Paulson Adebo has a chance to be the long-awaited answer opposite Marshon Lattimore. We all know Lattimore is one of the best cornerbacks in football, but he needs an adequate counterpart. Adebo has a chance to be that guy, as some analysts projected him as a first-round talent prior to injuries and a missed season causing his draft stock to plummet.
Patrick Robinson, meanwhile, shall continue to hold down the slot while Keith Washington and Grant Haley will only see the field in emergency situations.
C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Marcus Williams, Malcolm Jenkins, P.J. Williams, J.T. Gray
If you wanted to classify C.J. Gardner Johnson as a cornerback, I certainly wouldn’t stop you. The former fourth-round pick can move all around in the secondary and has the skills just about everything during the play, and get under the skin of his opponents after the whistle blows. Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins will continue to see the field as more traditional safeties, while P.J. Williams and J.T. Gray will probably spend most of their time on special teams.
Special Teams (3)
In: Will Lutz, Blake Gillikin, Zach Wood
There isn’t too much controversy to find down here. The Saints didn’t even bother bringing in competition at any one of these spots so, barring injury, this is what the Saints final roster will look like on Week 1.
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