The draft, which had been scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, was successfully completed virtually from the homes of coaches, general managers and other front-office staff because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here's a pick-by-pick look at how each player the Saints have selected will fit.
Cesar Ruiz's NFL draft profile
See why former Michigan lineman Cesar Ruiz has solidified himself as one of the top centers in the NFL draft.
Round 1, No. 24 overall: Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan
My take: This isn’t a “sexy” pick, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. The interior offensive line was actually the one position Saints coach Sean Payton identified by name as a draft need. Either Ruiz or last year’s standout rookie center, Erik McCoy, could eventually move to right guard -- where Pro Bowler Larry Warford is in the final year of his contract. “We weren’t drafting [Ruiz] that high to be a backup,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Larry’s going to have to compete.” It’s also possible the Saints could try to shop Warford.
It would have been easier to get excited about this pick if the Saints had addressed a position that could help them more in 2020 (like wide receiver or the defensive front seven). And it’s a bit surprising that they didn’t, since they seem to be “all-in” with 41-year-old quarterback Drew Brees and 30-something free-agent signings Emmanuel Sanders and Malcolm Jenkins. But it’s hard to doubt the Saints’ history of offensive line investments.
Big-man investments: No one is comparing Ruiz to All-Pro Ryan Ramczyk, who has established himself as possibly the best right tackle in the NFL. But it’s hard not to think back to 2017, when the Saints’ choice of Ramczyk at No. 32 overall was met with a similar lack of enthusiasm -- since they already had two established starting tackles in Terron Armstead and Zach Strief. The Saints have obviously made the O-line a big priority in recent years via the draft (Andrus Peat with the 13th pick in 2015, Ramczyk at No. 32 in 2017, McCoy at No. 48 last year); free agency (Warford in 2017) and trade (center Max Unger in 2015).
No sacks allowed: Ruiz (6-foot-3, 307 pounds) started 31 games at Michigan (five at right guard as a sophomore, then 26 at center over the past two years). He didn’t allow a sack on 449 pass-blocks reps last season. Payton said “FBI” (football intelligence) was even more important than usual this year, knowing players won’t have a rookie or veteran minicamp or OTAs. And Ruiz is “one of those A-learn players" who made all the calls for Michigan's O-line.
Zack Baun's NFL draft profile
Check out highlights from former Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun, a top prospect in the upcoming NFL draft.
Round 3, No. 74 overall: Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
My take: Biggest need? Check. Best available player? Check. The Saints’ third-round draft choice will probably be met with even more excitement from the fan base than their first-rounder since Baun is a dynamic playmaker who was projected by many analysts as a possible first-round pick himself. I’ll be curious to see where the 6-foot-2, 238-pounder fits in the Saints’ defense since they have typically shied away from “tweener” types like him. But he will fill a pressing need whether they use him as an edge rusher (he had 12.5 sacks this season) or drop him back in coverage on passing downs. And the Saints likely have a vision for that type of player since they also considered signing Jamie Collins in free agency. Baun said he didn’t know why he fell in the draft; he said he has been fully healthy for two years. But the Saints were their usual aggressive selves when he fell into their range. They have now traded up 18 times in the past 14 years.
Adam Trautman's NFL draft profile
Check out highlights from former Dayton tight end Adam Trautman.
Round 3, No. 105 overall: Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton
My take: The Saints are obviously putting a lot of eggs in one basket here, trading away all four of their Day 3 picks for one guy. But that matches their M.O., since they have now traded up 19 times in the past 14 years. As GM Mickey Loomis has said before, “If you like the player, go get ‘em. That’s our philosophy.” And they obviously like Trautman a lot. Loomis said the Saints wound up with four players they had ranked in their top 40 overall. Trautman (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) was a first-team FCS All-American who generated a lot of buzz at the Senior Bowl. He caught 70 passes for 916 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior. Coach Sean Payton said he sees him as an in-line tight end -- and as one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft despite being from a small school. He can possibly contribute right away in multiple TE sets with veterans Jared Cook and Josh Hill, while being groomed as a potential replacement for the 33-year-old Cook.
Round 7, No. 240 overall: Tommy Stevens, QB, Mississippi State
My take: Was there a better fit in the entire draft? Stevens was repeatedly compared to Saints QB/RB/WR/TE Taysom Hill coming into this year's draft. And now the versatile 6-foot-5, 235-pounder will get a chance to develop in the same creative system. Chances are, the Saints will still sign a veteran quarterback in free agency since they have made it clear that they want three quarterbacks ready to play on game days so they can keep using Hill in his versatile role. Stevens threw for just 1,155 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions during an injury-riddled senior season as Mississippi State’s starter, while running for 381 yards and four TDs. But he sent teams like the Saints video of him running routes on request and was reportedly prepared to work out at tight end among other positions at his pro day. Stevens began his career as a backup quarterback at Penn State, where he started experimenting with a versatile role because he was “bored.” And at the time, he was working with Penn State graduate assistant Joe Brady, who later became an assistant in New Orleans before rising to bigger jobs with LSU and the Carolina Panthers.