We should anticipate some movement from the Saints in the 2021 NFL draft. Sean Payton was hired as the team’s head coach back in 2006, and he’s used his position at the top of the war room to coordinate trades up the board in every draft he’s conducted since 2007 (though the team didn’t make any moves when he was suspended for 2012).
In 2020, the Saints made trades to acquire three of the four players they picked: linebacker Zack Baun, tight end Adam Trautman, and quarterback Tommy Stevens. The year before, trades in the 2019 draft brought them safeties C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Saquan Hampton, plus tight end Alize Mack. And their 2018 draft trades yielded defensive end Marcus Davenport and cornerback Kamrin Moore. That’s pretty clearly a trend.
But how do teams reach agreements on valuing draft picks? Legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson put together this chart back in the 1990’s, which quickly became a staple for reference across the NFL:
But trends change in the draft, and today’s event includes rules changes like the ability to trade compensatory picks. That’s especially relevant to New Orleans; the Saints added three compensatory selections this offseason after losing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, linebacker A.J. Klein, and personnel executive Terry Fontenot, with more on the way in 2022 (another third rounder for Fontenot, plus projected mid-round picks for defensive end Trey Hendrickson and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins).
So to reflect those evolutions, Pats Pulpit’s Rich Will updated trade values in his own chart. Today NFL teams have their own in-house models, but this is a better approximation for how draft picks are valued around the league. See for yourself:
And here are how the 2021 Saints draft picks are valued in the Rich Hill value chart:
- Round 1, Pick 28: 209
- Round 2, Pick 60: 88
- Round 3, Pick 98: 38
- Round 3, Pick 105: 39
- Round 4, Pick 133: 19
- Round 6, Pick 218: 3
- Round 7, Pick 229: 2
- Round 7, Pick 255: 1
- Total value: 399
The Saints have a ton of flexibility this year after stockpiling picks through the compensatory system and the trading market. If they hold onto each of these selections, it would tie for the second-most picks they’ve had since Payton took the job. Their four picks in the top 105 are tied for the third-most since 2006. Now of course we should expect them to trade at some point (and history suggests they’ll look to move up, now down), owing to the whole point of this exercise.
One factor to consider: salary cap commitments. Saints cap guru Khai Harley has been flipping over the couch cushions and recycling cans to find more space beneath the cap, and right now New Orleans only needs about $2.66 million to sign their draft class, per Over The Cap. Any big moves in the top three rounds will change that number and maybe force more cap cuts after the draft. But long-term extensions with highly-paid players like defensive backs Marcus Williams and Marshon Williams, or bookend tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk, would help lower their current-year cap figures and open up more resources. As always, it’s a tricky situation.