The Ravens, Jets, Chiefs and Giants were some of the clear winners on Day 1 of the NFL Draft. Whether it was getting high-end cornerbacks or pass rushers, or just making solid decisions with the picks they already had, these teams won the night based on who they included in their rosters had and how little they had to give up to win you. However, you can’t have many winners without a few losers, and boy did the Saints lose last night.
The Saints weren’t the only team to walk away with their tails between them last night. The Cowboys and Patriots both grabbed offensive linemen. The Commanders grabbed receiver Jahan Dotson, and the Packers again refused to pick any wide receivers. Yet none of those teams reached the level of incompetence the Saints did.
I know it’s kind of become a meme at this point, but the Saints literally drew a Kevin Costner on last night’s “Draft Day.” Why on earth would the team trade to pick a player they could have gotten at 16? Sure, the commanders ended up picking a receiver, so Washington probably would have picked one by 11, but they probably would have picked Jameson Williams. How do I know? Well, considering the commanders were willing to trade down, they probably didn’t like the receiver options they had at 11. They would have been flamed for picking Dotson ahead of Williams and Chris Olave, so they traded down and let other teams pick those guys first, acquiring some draft capital in the process. They clearly weren’t sold at either Olave’s or Williams’, otherwise they would have gone with one of them. If they hadn’t received trade offers they liked and were forced to make a pick at 11 AM and opted to avoid Dotson, they probably would have taken the guy that most analysts and pundits felt was a better choice. There’s no guarantee that would have happened, but I’m pretty confident in that assumption. The argument is natural, maybe the Saints knew the Commanders would choose Olave and that’s why they acted, but like I said if they really liked and wanted Olave they wouldn’t have acted the election at all.
That leaves the Vikings with 12, who eventually traded their pick to the Lions. The Lions will not trade if the guy they wanted wasn’t available. Do you really think they would trade 12 picks, giving up another first and an early second to take their second option? No chance. So it stands to reason that if the Saints had never traded up to 11 to pick Olave, the Commanders would likely have gone with Williams, so the Vikings don’t trade their pick to Detroit and instead trade with someone else or make their own picks . Olave is unlikely to get off the board at all if the Saints just stay put. They could have gotten their man, kept their picks from the third and fourth rounds, and saved themselves the hassle of having to generate a trade. Instead, they traded in so they could pop champagne and celebrate a job poorly done a few minutes earlier. Bravo!
That’s not the end of the Saints’ stupidity, however. The Saints weren’t done putting their palms to their faces. With the 19th pick, the Saints took Trevor Penning, a left tackle from northern Iowa. Trevor Penning “CAN” be a good tackle in the future, but he’s not ready to start yet. The man needs serious work on his technique. He was so used to bullying minor pass rushers in college, and then he got it displayed in the Senior Bowl. He’s big and anyone his size has the potential to dominate at the NFL level, but he still has a lot of work to do before he’s ready for it. The Saints don’t have an elite roster, but they will be fighting for a playoff spot next year, so the decision to draft a left tackle to replace Terron Armstead, who isn’t ready for the NFL, seems questionable. I know Penning was the most touted tackle on the board at 19, but you have to think a tradedown would have been a better option. Even if they don’t land Penning, there were several other, more pro-able tackle options in Abraham Lucas (though he also needs some refinement as a pass blocker) and Zach Tom.
Perhaps the Saints plan to develop Penning into a viable left tackle in a couple of years. If so, sure. However, I’ve always assumed that you shouldn’t draft a project in the first round unless it’s a quarterback. That’s what later rounds are for. The first round is for immediate players to put in your lineup and forget about. That’s not Penning.
At the end of the day, the Saints traded for a player they could have had in their original pick. They lost a third and fourth round to get it. I like Olave, but they absolutely shouldn’t have made that move. I could have lived with that decision, but then designing a tackle that many feel is immature for the NFL? I do not like it. As with everyone who got drafted yesterday, there’s a chance that both Olave and Penning could become superstars and prove all the haters wrong. When that day comes, I’ll happily apologize and waddle away with Egg in my face, but even so, the Saints could have handled their picks much better in either scenario. No matter how Olave and Penning fare, that’s a fact and that makes them the biggest losers of Day 1.