Saints continue aggressive trade-up tradition
It’s like clockwork.
The domineering, dominating, significant presence of Sean Payton may no longer be part of the New Orleans Saints but the foundation remains.
So does the organizational strategy.
The Saints have consistently traded up in the NFL Draft, particularly in the first round, during the Mickey Loomis regime with Payton.
Loomis remains while Payton is gone and Dennis Allen and Jeff Ireland remain.
The Saints remained consistent with their approach, trading their 16th overall pick, along with their third-round pick (98th overall) and their fourth-round pick (120th overall) to obtain the 11th overall pick.
It was not a surpruise that New Orleans chose wide receiver Chris Olave of Ohio State.
The 6-foot, 187 pounder is not big but is certainly big enough. Like most, I saw him play several times, and he was obviously an impressive performer for a big-time college football program.
What’s to like about Olave? Plenty.
First, he is fast, clocked at 4.39 at the NFL Scouting Combine and the Saints truly needed a speed receiver to compliment Michael Thomas. Olave is a former track star.
Second, Olave is productive. He caught 65 passes for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns this past season.
Third, Olave is smooth and he is a consistent player.
Fourth, Olave is capable of lining up inside or outside to be effective and he understands how to find soft spots against zone coverage.
Fifth, of course, is the fact that he comes from Ohio State, the unofficial farm team of the New Orleans Saints, who simply love that school and its players.
The questions about Olave are about his physical strength and ability to deal with aggressive cover corners at the next level. He may not be a great blocker for the run game but that is a secondary concern.
With the 19th overall pick, the Saints grabbed tackle Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa.
Penning (6-7, 325) is strong and he is physical, having squatted 625 pounds. He runs very well for his size (4.87 time in the 40).
The three-year starter plays hard all the time and can be physically imposing against defenders, particularly in the run game. He is described as a tough guy who loves the game.
Some have Penning as the player with the most upside to be the best tackle in the draft. He is not a player I saw play, though it is clear from watching tape that he plays to the whistle all the time.
Of course, there will be questions about the level of competition against which he played.
The fact that the Saints drafted Terron Armstead out of a small school in Arkansas Pine-Bluff, and he played the same position at left tackle, becoming a great success, is certainly an indication that a player can make the large jump from a small program to the biggest stage of all.
The Saints resisted the urge to, as Payton was fond of saying, eat the cheese and bite on a quarterback.
That is not to say that they may not have to invest in a quarterback in the near future but it is clear that the Saints did not value any of the available quarterbacks enough to use a first-round pick on one.
Instead, the organization chose to give Jameis Winston potential protection in Penning and a potentially huge weapon in the passing game in Olave.
Many, if not most mock drafts, had the Saints drafting Olave and Penning in the first round.
This was one instance where many of the predictions turned out to be right.
If the Saints are right, they have solved two positions of need for many years to come.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…