Following the departures of several defensive talents in free agency, the New Orleans Saints focused primarily on strengthening their defense during the early rounds of the 2021 NFL draft.
The Saints may have left Cleveland with six new rookie talents added to the depth chart, but did head coach Sean Payton and co. do enough to keep the depleted-looking Saints roster competitive next season?
Let's meet the new kids on the block for the Saints.
The New Orleans Saints' 2021 NFL Draft Picks
#1 - Round 1, Pick 28: Payton Turner, DE, Houston
The Saints' war room surprised a few people with this pick because most had expected to see Payton Turner taken off the board somewhere in the second round. But Sean Payton clearly sees something he likes in the talented defensive end.
Turner, who made a late push for an early-round selection following a top performance at the 2020 Senior Bowl, is a leader and was Houston's team captain during his college career.
In his senior year as a Cougar, the long and rangy 6-foot-6 defensive end led his team with 10.5 tackles for losses and five sacks.
Saints fans will be hoping Turner can come in and make an immediate impact. The team lost its most productive defensive end, Trey Hendrickson (12.5 sacks in 2020) to the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency.
#2 - Round 2, Pick 60: Pete Werner, LB, Ohio State
Pete Werner featured in 47 games for the Ohio State Buckeyes, starting 35 times.
A key component in one of the Big Ten's most feared linebacker units, Werner led the team with 54 tackles in 2020 after being second in the same metric in 2019 when chalked up 64.
The former Buckeye also tallied four sacks and an impressive 16 TFLs during his college career.
A versatile linebacker, Werner has the size and speed necessary to play as a tight end eraser but is equally adept both in coverage and at the line.
#3 - Round 3, Pick 76: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
The Saints had to trade the 98th and 105th overall picks to the Denver Broncos to move up the draft board in the third-round to land Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo.
Adebo opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, which is likely why his draft stock fell. But looking at the cornerback's stats, it seems the Saints have found their man to replace Janoris Jenkins, who will play for the Tennessee Titans in 2021.
During Adebo's 2018 & 2019 campaigns with the Cardinals, the CB took five of the eight picks he caught to the house and earned a coverage grade of 92.0 from PFF. Opposing quarterbacks could only muster a 63.8 passer rating when targeting Adebo.
Paulson Adebo has a reputation for being a shutdown corner with incredible hand skills.
#4 - Round 4, Pick 133: Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame
Most analysts and fans expected the Saints to pick a quarterback at some point during the later rounds of the draft, and Payton and co. didn't disappoint, selecting Drew Brees' stunt-double, Ian Book, in the fourth round. Book has almost identical physical measurements to the now-retired Saints legend.
Drafting the Notre Dame QB is much more than just a way to save money on jockstraps for the cash-strapped New Orleans Saints, though.
Book is the winningest quarterback in Notre Dame history. A feat that's even more impressive when you factor in that NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana attended Notre Dame.
Book did, however, play a season more for the Fighting Irish than Montana did, but that's still an impressive feat.
In four years at Notre Dame, Book threw for 8,948-yards; 72 touchdowns and just 20 interceptions. He is known for his bravery in the pocket and ability to remain poised under pressure.
#5 - Round 6, Pick 206: Landon Young, OT, Kentucky
Sean Payton waited longer than he usually does to draft an offensive lineman. But the itch got to him in the end as the Saints moved up in the sixth round, trading picks 218 and 229 to the Indianapolis Colts to draft Landon Young.
The lineman made 24 consecutive starts on the Kentucky Wildcats offensive line and was a pillar of consistency for the majority of his college career.
Young earned First-Team All-SEC honors in 2020 and was a key component in a Wildcats offensive line that made it all the way to the semi-finals of the Joe Moore Award (an award that recognizes America's Best Offensive Line) in both 2019 and 2020.
#6 - Round 7, Pick 255: Kawaan Baker, WR, South Alabama
Personally, I think that had the Baltimore Ravens not taken Rashod Bateman off the draft board with the 27th overall pick of the first round, the Saints, who were up next, would have picked the wide receiver.
In the end, though, fans in the Bayou had to wait until the final round of the 2021 NFL draft before Payton and co. finally vouched for the now-former Alabama Jaguar, Kawaan Baker.
Kawaan Baker is a speed-merchant receiver who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds.
Baker tallied 1,829 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns over the course of his college career, with the best of those years coming in 2020 when he posted 51 catches for 659 yards and eight touchdowns.
For my money, the New Orleans Saints made some top picks in each round of the draft, filling the majority of their positional needs during rounds one through to seven.
Payton and Loomis further bolstered a formerly depleted roster in undrafted free agency when they snapped up cornerback Bryce Thompson (Tennessee), safety Eric Burrell (Wisconsin), defensive tackle Josiah Bronson and defensive back Trill Williams (Syracuse).
The Saints certainly marched out of Cleveland in much better shape than when they marched in.