Who will be Drew Brees’s Heir?
By Calvin K (Twitter: @Calvin_SGF)
The New Orleans Saints have an uncertain future at QB, as 2020 starter Drew Brees seems likely to retire after their divisional round playoff loss. New Orleans could opt to stick with in-house options such as Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston, and they could also look to free agency for a player such as Mitchell Trubisky.
However, the latter option is extremely unlikely, as the Saints are approximately a whopping $65.5 million over the cap. This means that New Orleans almost certainly won’t pay up for a QB, so if the Saints decide to look elsewhere, it will likely be in the NFL draft. Here are four options they could be interested in.
Mac Jones (Alabama)
It’s unlikely that the Saints get Jones at the 28th overall pick, which is where their first round pick currently is. However, if Saints head coach Sean Payton believes Jones could be a franchise QB, he might be willing to trade up.
Jones certainly wasn’t lacking in the stats department at Alabama, piling up 4,500 yards and 41 passing touchdowns in just 13 games. Jones did all of this with an astounding 77.4% completion rate, the highest in the FBS by 3.9 percentage points.
The stats make Jones out to be a generational talent, but there still are some concerns. Jones was surrounded by weapons at Alabama, with top RB prospect Najee Harris, Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith, and first-round talent Jaylen Waddle alongside him on offense (Waddle did miss part of the season with an injury). On top of that, Alabama quarterbacks tend to be unsuccessful in the NFL; head coach Nick Saban hasn’t produced a single star QB during his Alabama tenure.
Despite all of this, Jones still has potential for success, and his college numbers definitely make him a first-round talent. Payton could send his 2020 fourth rounder along with a future pick to move up a few spots in the first round, and if the move pays off, the Saints could have their next franchise QB.
Kyle Trask (Florida)
Trask is a player who the Saints wouldn’t have to trade up for, in fact, they could opt to trade down and still get Trask early in the second round. Trask had great stats in 2020, racking up 4,283 yards and 43 touchdowns while playing one fewer game than Jones. One of Trask’s interesting traits, however, is that he is purely a pocket passer, something that is said about fewer and fewer quarterbacks these days as the NFL looks for dual-threat, mobile QBs.
It’s unclear whether Sean Payton would rather have a player like Trask or a more mobile quarterback. Obviously, Drew Brees was not mobile at all during his career, but backup Taysom Hill, who is a Payton favorite, is a fantastic runner. Jameis Winston, the other Saints backup, isn’t much of a runner, but his goal seems to be to throw for as many air yards as possible, even if that means throwing a whopping 30 interceptions like he did in 2019.
Nonetheless, Payton doesn’t seem to have a clear preference in terms of quarterback type, which could make Trask an enticing option New Orleans could get without trading up. Trask has experience against tough SEC defenses, which could help him adapt better to the NFL. This could influence Payton’s decision about Trask, and an early second-round pick would be a small price to pay if Trask becomes the Saints’ next franchise QB.
Jamie Newman (Wake Forest)
Newman opted out of the 2020 college football season, so he is a difficult player to project for this year’s draft. However, his prowess as a dual-threat QB could entice Sean Payton into taking him later in the draft. 2020 backup Taysom Hill was fine for the Saints, but he didn’t look great, so Payton may choose to look for a different dual-threat QB to at least challenge Hill for the role.
Newman, out of Wake Forest, threw for 2,868 yards in 2019, while rushing for 574 yards on 180 attempts (college football counts sacks against rushing yards). Newman has a good arm, but his 60.9% completion percentage in 2019 could cause some teams to shy away. However, it’s clear that Newman is a talented – albeit raw – player, so he could be a good dart throw with upside for the Saints.
Sam Ehlinger (Texas)
Ehlinger is a sleeper option the Saints could target at the end of the draft, or as an undrafted free agent. Because of his late-round status, he’s unlikely to gain an immediate role, but he could challenge for a roster spot as a project player to be used in the future.
Ehlinger is one of the better runners in this year’s draft class, but he isn’t a polished passer, so he’d probably need at least a year or two of development before possibly challenging for a starting role. He does have three and a half years of starting experience in college, so that could positively influence the Saints’ thinking on him.
The good part about Ehlinger is, while he is a project, he won’t cost much – if any – draft capital. His rushing ability and arm talent does give him at least some upside as a player, giving him the potential to earn a roster spot on the Saints.