NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -The 2020 Saints draft class is set. It’s a class that began with five picks, at one point briefly had six, then dropped to three to finally finish with four players. Time to hand out some grades on each prospect.
First round (24th overall) : Center/guard Cesar Ruiz , Michigan
As we mentioned Thursday night, there were clues all throughout the pre-draft process, and specifically draft week, that the Saints had Cesar Ruiz on their radar. The pick wasn’t sexy. Back-to-back centers with their first pick in the draft didn’t initially excite the fan base.
On the surface, it didn’t appear the Saints needed another interior lineman, at least not one in the first round, but then Sean Payton made it pretty clear where he views Ruiz’s ability.
‘We didn’t draft someone that high to come in and be a backup,” he told the local media Thursday night after the pick.
Ruiz was the top interior lineman on their board even if he wasn’t the 24th rated player on most outside draft boards. Clearly, the Saints felt that was an area they needed an infusion of talent. It sounds like he will have every opportunity to start from day one.
Third round (74th overall) Linebacker Zack Baun, Wisconsin
3rd round - 74th overall (via trade with Cleveland)
The Saints went into day two on a mission to land Baun. Mickey Loomis said they spent all day on the phone and began at the top of the second round at 33 and just kept calling team after team.
They were ready and willing to give up a lot to land Baun, likely a second rounder in 2021. Then a funny thing happened. While the Saints relentlessly worked the phones, Baun inexplicably kept falling down the draft board.
By the time the third round arrived, he was still there and actually became much cheaper to get. In the end the Saints gave up a 2021 third round pick and even received Cleveland’s seventh round pick in the deal. But with the Saints losing Teddy Bridgewater, the Saints were likely going to get a third round compensatory pick next year.
In terms of value, there were some that had Baun with a late first round grade. The Saints had him in their top-40 and didn’t think they’re was a chance he would make it out of the middle of the second round. To get him at 74, for the price they did, made this selection a homerun.
On the field, Baun fills their biggest need at linebacker and will have a chance to make an impact right away. He has versatility to play on the edge or off the line. Last season, he had 12.5 sacks for the Badgers. The Saints see him as a mike or sam linebacker.
Third Round (105th overall) Tight End Adam Trautman, Dayton
As we were just about to turn out the lights on day two of the draft and look ahead to day three, the Saints struck again. This time they dealt their fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh round picks to Minnesota to move up and get Dayton tight end Adam Trautman at 105.
A former high school quarterback, Trautman dominated at tight end for Dayton. Then, he shined at the Senior Bowl to officially put himself on the draft map. The Saints see him as a ‘y’ tight end or in-line hand in the dirt type of player. What stood out is how well he moved from that in-line position and can get downfield. It appeared at Dayton they used that to their advantage with drags/crosses, seams, posts and corner routes.
The need at tight end flew under the radar but with Jared Cook going into the final year of his contract it made sense. The fourth round felt like the perfect time to find one. Instead, the Saints got it a few picks early.
The deal is a lot to surrender on the surface, but if you look at the points value chart, the Saints actually got the higher end of the deal. There’s no way of knowing if Trautman would have been available in the fourth round but clearly the Saints did not want risk not getting him.
Seventh Round (240th overall) QB/Ath Tommy Stevens, Mississippi State
Just when we thought the draft was over and the Saints were honing on undrafted free agents, they jumped back in late in the seventh round to take Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens via trade with Houston.
Its unclear if Stevens would have gotten drafted, but the Saints didn’t want to risk competing with other teams to land him as an undrafted free agent, thus they jumped in seventh. It cost them a sixth round selection in 2021. Stevens transferred to Mississippi State last season where he started the season but lost his job after getting injured. He returned to start in the Bulldogs bowl game.
Stevens compares to Taysom Hill with his size and athleticism and will be groomed for Taysom-type role within this offense. Payton said he can also play the 'f’ tight end position and special teams.
This pick is intriguing given the possibilities they could go with him.
Quality over quantity is the theme of the 2020 draft class.
In the end, the Saints landed three top-40 players a possibly another Taysom Hill.
Ruiz, Baun and Trautman will be on the field in some form or fashion in 2020 even if they’re not official starters. Suggesting Stevens will have the same impact as Hill may be a bit much but he is someone to watch.
All in all, it was a quality haul for a Saints team that was already loaded.