New Orleans Saints NFL draft picks 2022: Analysis for every selection

METAIRIE, La. -- The 2022 NFL draft is in the books, with every New Orleans Saints' draft pick analyzed here.

The event was held on the Las Vegas strip in the area adjacent to Caesars Forum two years after it was initially scheduled. The 2020 draft was turned into a virtual event because of COVID-19.

Here's a pick-by-pick look at how each player New Orleans has selected will fit.

Analysis of every NFL pick | Updated depth chart

Round 1, No. 11 overall: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

My take: Obviously, I have to love this pick after screaming from the rooftops about New Orleans’ wide receiver need over the past two months, right? Unfortunately, the Saints had to make two trades over the past month to get up to the 11th pick. But they didn’t give up too much in Thursday night’s trade (sending picks No. 98 and No. 120 to the Washington Commanders to move up five spots). This was the Saints’ most glaring need after they finished 32nd in the NFL in passing offense last season, and the offense should look significantly better once QB Jameis Winston and WR Michael Thomas return from major injuries as well.

Always trading up: Did it surprise anyone that the Saints were the first team to trade up in this year’s draft? They have now moved up a staggering 24 times in the past 16 drafts (including twice over the past month). And they haven’t traded down since 2007. Perhaps Olave won’t be worth the amount of capital New Orleans gave up to acquire him. But considering the run of wide receivers that took place in the middle of Round 1, it’s hard to argue the Saints should have sat back and waited. And the trades were proof of what they have insisted all offseason: They don’t plan to go into rebuilding mode under new coach Dennis Allen.

Always drafting Buckeyes: The Saints have now drafted nine players from Ohio State since general manager Mickey Loomis took over in 2003, including four first rounders – Olave, LB Pete Werner (2021), CB Marshon Lattimore (2017), Thomas (2016), S Vonn Bell (2016), DB Malcolm Jenkins (2009), RB Antonio Pittman (2007), DE Will Smith (2004) and LB Cie Grant (2003).

Round 1, No. 19 overall: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

My take: Apparently the Saints were motivated to make as many mock drafts right as they possibly could Thursday after being widely projected to take a wide receiver and offensive tackle – filling perhaps their two most glaring needs. And nobody should be happier than quarterback Jameis Winston. Instead of shopping for his replacement, they supported him by adding Penning and Olave. Obviously, the Saints should still expect a significant drop-off at left tackle after losing perennial Pro Bowler Terron Armstead in free agency. But Penning should help fill the void.

Another "big" investment: One thing that hasn’t changed with the Saints’ switch from head coach Sean Payton to Allen is the continued investment in the offensive line. Since 2015, they have now taken offensive linemen Andrus Peat, Ryan Ramczyk, Cesar Ruiz and Penning in Round 1. And center Erik McCoy was their first overall pick when they drafted him in Round 2 in 2019. Injuries decimated their offensive line in 2021, which was a big reason why they missed the playoffs for the first time in five years at 9-8. But if this unit can stay healthy, and Penning and Ruiz can show development, it should re-emerge as one of the team’s top strengths.

Something old, something new: After the Saints drafted the 17th player from Ohio State in franchise history earlier Thursday night, Penning became the first player they ever drafted from Northern Iowa. He was also the first UNI player ever selected in Round 1 of the draft. But the 6-foot-7, 325-pounder went from being lightly recruited out of high school to turning heads in the pre-draft process, and he also was able to show his physicality and a nasty streak.

What’s next: The Saints traded away both their third- and fourth-round picks to move up for Olave in Round 1. So they currently have only three picks remaining (No. 49 in Round 2, No. 161 in Round 5 and No. 194 in Round 6). The safety position is arguably their top remaining need, though they could still potentially address that in free agency after hosting veteran Tyrann Mathieu earlier this offseason. Defensive line and cornerback are also needs if they want to finally give Allen a player for his side of the ball.

Round 2, No. 49 overall: Alontae Taylor, DB, Tennessee

My take: New Orleans finally added a defensive player for the defensive-minded coach Allen. The 6-foot, 199-pounder fits their mold as a long, tall cornerback with press-coverage skills. The Saints have good depth at cornerback with Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby and Paulson Adebo. But Taylor could potentially play a hybrid cornerback/safety role in nickel or dime packages as a young player, with the potential skill set to play outside, inside or even back at free safety. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. referred to him as “Mr. Versatility,” pointing out that he began his college career as a receiver and should be “dynamic” on special teams as a potential gunner.

Round 5, No. 161 overall: D'Marco Jackson, LB, Appalachian State

My take: The 6-1, 233-pounder had a monster senior season as the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. According to ESPN’s draft bio, he is the only FBS player in the 2000s with a season that included at least 120 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 6 sacks and 6 passes defended. He’ll likely make a bigger impact on special teams early with Demario Davis and Pete Werner locking down the top two LB spots. But he continues a theme in this class of experienced four-year players.

Round 6, No. 194 overall: Jordan Jackson, DT, Air Force

My take: The 6-5, 294-pounder had a career-high 7.5 sacks as a senior in 2021 and a total of 15.5 over his final three seasons (missing 2020 while recovering from shoulder surgery). The Saints value rotational depth at DT, where they also added veterans Kentavius Street and Jaleel Johnson this offseason. Jackson could earn a role as an interior pass rusher.