Sean Payton praises Lamar Jackson, says Saints don't need 'Drew Brees clone'

Sean Payton added a little fuel to the idea of the New Orleans Saints drafting Lamar Jackson with the 27th pick in this year’s draft Tuesday when he heaped praise on the former Heisman Trophy winner’s leadership skills and personality.

“I like him. I like him. He’s athletic. He’s got a magic smile to him. He’s a leader,” Payton said. “With Lamar, you feel it in the room and you can tell he can lead. ... He’s a special guy. You just have to be around him, interview him, and you can see why he was successful.”

To be fair, Payton was only asked specifically about Jackson during his media session at the NFL meetings in Orlando. So he might have been equally kind to other QB prospects like Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen (he did mention the “three or four guys at the top of the draft”).

But Payton did stress the point that the Saints wouldn’t rule out an athletic dual-threat quarterback like Jackson just because they have run a different style of offense with Drew Brees over the past 12 years.

“There’s not gonna be another Drew Brees clone that we draft. ... One of our jobs is to look closely at what that player does best,” said Payton, who said it would be the same with current Saints backups Taysom Hill and Tom Savage. “If he’s your quarterback, you start looking closely at what he did well at Louisville. ... They’re different athletes, all of ‘em.”

Jackson (6-foot-2, 216 pounds) threw for 7,203 yards with 57 passing TDs and 19 interceptions over the past two seasons at Louisville, while running for 3,172 yards and 39 rushing TDs. He has dynamic arm strength, though his completion percentage was below 60 in each of the past two years.

Jackson seems to be a polarizing draft possibility for the Saints, based on feedback I’ve seen on social media after Payton’s comments and after ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay recently mocked him to the Saints at No. 27.

And I agree that it would be tough for the Saints to use that pick on a quarterback this year, since they have no second-round pick and still have some glaring needs at edge rusher, tight end and receiver.

The Saints certainly won’t reach for a quarterback in that spot out of desperation. They can wait at least one more year -- and Payton is very high on Hill’s potential, in particular.

However, if Payton is sold on Jackson or any other quarterback at that No. 27 spot as the potential future of his offense, then the value is tremendous at that stage of the draft. And the idea of a rare talent like Jackson being paired with a top offensive mind like Payton would certainly be enticing.