As the world looks forward to the 2021 draft, it is good to look back at last year’s unique draft. The Saints came into it with minimal draft capital so GM Mickey Loomis needed to hit home-runs to find rookie studs. In the end, the Saints 2020 NFL draft class ended up with four picks and the unusual circumstances surrounding the 2020 season created a problematic situation for all rookies. Regardless, the Saints are one of the best in the league at incorporating young players, and 2020 was no different.
Saints 2020 NFL Draft Class: Day One
1.24 | Cesar Ruiz | IOL | Michigan
The first pick of the Saints 2020 NFL draft class, Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz, slotted in brilliantly on the Saints offensive line. While he played center at Michigan, Ruiz lined up at right guard for the Saints. The rookie started nine games in 2020. The Saints offensive line ranked in the top-ten in both pass-block and run-stop success. Ruiz played 69% of the snaps in the Big Easy. His discipline was second to none as he hardly drew a penalty flag. In Ruiz, New Orleans found a foundational piece on the offensive line.
He also proved he could play two different positions adding versatility to the unit. When looking back at any draft class, first-rounders must become stalwart players; in the Saints 2020 NFL draft class, the team found even more than that. The rookie never looked out of place and seems like a future pro-bowler.
Grade | A-
Saints 2020 NFL Draft Class: Day Two
3.74 | Zack Baun | LB | Wisconsin
Third-round pick Zack Baun didn’t see much on-field action in 2020. On defense, he saw 8% of snaps; the majority of his snaps came on special teams. Baun is a quick, powerful player who should see more play on the field next season. Kwon Alexander may move on, and the Saints need to get under the cap. Playing players on rookie deals is one way to do that.
There is a caveat to this; New Orleans never hesitate to start a player regardless of his draft round. Alvin Kamara, Trey Hendrickson, and others star for the Saints despite being selected in the mid-rounds. There is plenty of work for Baun to do in the pre-season. Strong mid-round picks can supplement the Saints draft class; the jury is still out on Baun.
Grade | C-
3.105 | Adam Trautman | TE | Dayton
Speaking of successful mid-round picks, Adam Trautman shone in 2020. Jared Cook was never the long-term solution in New Orleans. Trautman proved over the 2020 season that he is the long-term solution at the TE position. As the second-string tight end, Trautman took part in 37% of offensive snaps. He demonstrated good receiving skills up the middle as well as showing some YAC ability.
Trautman was an automatic first down when the quarterback threw to him. With a change looming in New Orleans at the quarterback position, they need a reliable safety blanket. Trautman can develop into that and more for the Saints.
Grade | B
Saints 2020 NFL Draft Class: Day Three
7.240 | Tommy Stevens | QB | Miss St.
The seventh-round quarterback is not on the New Orleans roster anymore. Picks from this round are hopeful stabs in the dark. Obviously, the Saints brass didn’t see enough in Stevens‘ long-term potential to keep him on the roster. There is no damage done here from the Saints’ perspective, though. Most seventh-round quarterbacks don’t become starters in the NFL. They used little capital to draft Stevens, the coaches evaluated him, and they felt he wasn’t good enough.
Grade | D
Overall View of the Saints 2020 NFL Draft Class
With the minimal capital the Saints possessed, New Orleans did a good job. The Saints draft class of 2020 won’t go down in history like the 2017 draft, but it didn’t need to. The Saints already owned a roster packed full of talent. The front office just needed to fill a few holes while finding the long-term answers to some positions. In Trautman and Ruiz, they discovered that. That is a great job considering the team owned just four picks.
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