A new Saint: Pete Warner

Who is Pete Warner?

By: Courtney Burrows

So, the draft has come and gone, and now it is time to grade teams, picks, and potential future of these young athletes.  Back in the beginning of April, I wrote an article for a Saints Mock Draft and selected Pete Werner, LB out of Ohio State in their 3rd round.  As we now know, the Saints landed Werner in the 2nd round at Pick 60th overall, which I do think might have been one round too early.  The Saints have drafted five Ohio State players in the past few years that have performed well for us like WR Michael Thomas and CB Marshon Lattimore.  So needless to say, The Saints have had success with Buckeyes!  Here’s to hoping that Werner makes the same big name for himself in the Big Easy.  Linebacker was also an immediate need the Saints had to fill with the loss of Alex Anzalone and Kwon Alexander in the offseason.  Pete Werner can and will be an immediate starter. 

Werner is a stout run defender who is fast and athletic for his 6’2” 242 lb. frame. At Ohio State, he led in 2020 with 54 tackles and was second on the team in 2019 with 64 tackles.   He should immediately step into the WLB role alongside Demario Davis, who was named a first-team All-Pro in the NFC by the Associated Press.   Werner fits well as he should be able to hold the line while the more athletic and quicker Davis can move off and pounce in the open field. Having both strong defenders in the middle of the line will help to stop the run and rush the pass. Ultimately, this will help the Saints to continue to compete in the NFC South.  Werner is an extremely smart player who fits into Coach Payton’s defensive scheme and will help round the front seven.  The one thing I notice from watching the tape was that he is not strong with open field tackling he is fast and gets there but needs to fine-tune and wrap up tight ends and others, but that is definitely something that is coachable.  I feel he will give the defending NFC and Super Bowl Champ Buccaneers’ TE Gronkowski and run for his money.

Will Pete Werner be a Pro Bowler for the Saints?  That is the question that all fans look at when combing over rookies and what they can do for the team.  I would like to hope that the combination of Davis and Werner translate into a new era similar to when Jonathon Vilma and Scott Fujita ran the defense and helped the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV.  Vilma was the leader and tremendous in coverage and Fujita helped to the line and stop the rush.  Though Fujita was never a Pro Bowler, Vilma was named to the Pro Bowl and All-American Team multiple times.  In the Saints Super Bowl season, Vilma had 58 to Fujita’s 43 solo tackles.  They both were a defensive wall that stopped many opponents in their tracks.  This is the future for the Saints defense.  Davis should step up and become the leader that the front seven need, and with that will come helping the young, talented Werner.  Together they will continue to disrupt defensives and keep the Saints on track to again fight for their place atop the NFC South.  So, the question is will Werner become a Pro Bowle? Yes, in time I think he has all the pieces to become one, but first Davis will get that honor this year and help to mold Werner into our future. 

Breaking down the Saints first round draft pick

By: Courtney Burrows

Day one of the 2021 NFL Draft is in the books.  How did your favorite team do?  The Bears have the steal of the draft with Ohio State’s QB Justin Fields at Pick 11.  The Raiders left most scratching their heads with Alabama’s OT Alex Leatherwood at Pick 17 when there were bigger needs still on the board. 

My beloved New Orleans Saints had Pick 28 and had been rumored to have been in talks all day with other teams for potential trades to move up.  My gut tells me they were trying to move up for one of the top QBs or WRs, but when that didn’t happen the expectation was to take a CB, DE, or WR.  My blood pressure was rising, the tension in the air was thick and looming. 

As I saw the Titans take CB Caleb Farley at Pick 22, I thought there was a chance for us to grab another highly ranked CB and even potentially take Ole Miss’s star WR Elijah Moore.  Remember our famous QB Archie Manning, who graduated from Ole Miss, and son Eli Manning followed him there years later?  Of course, you do, so the Saints and the Rebels have a long history together, which made me even giddier to think about Thomas and Moore running slants and catching touchdown passes. 

At this point, I’m on my feet with nervous anticipation.  This pick is in and with the 28 pick the Saints choose Payton Turner, DE out of Houston.  My jaw drops, and I am confused.

Let’s go back to 2018, when the Saints traded up to Pick 14 and selected Marcus Davenport out of Texas-San Antonio.  He definitely wasn’t immediate starter material as he was viewed as a developmental player, our defensive future.  Davenport has not lived up to his expectations.  He recorded three sacks his rookie season, a few more in 2019, then seemed to regress.  He has not panned out to be the elite pass rusher the organization thought he would become. 

Flash forward to 2021, Turner was not expected to go until the late 2nd or 3rd round.  He is 6’6” and 268lbs and was a three-year starter at Houston with a 4.25 short shuttle on pro day.  Needless to say, he is fast and explosive off the line with long arms, but was he the elite 1st round pick the Saints needed? 

Still on the board were DEs Joe Tyron Washington, Gregory Rousseau, Miami, CBs Eric Stokes, Georgia, Asante Samuel Jr, FSU, and Elijah Moore, WR Ole Miss.  I do believe that any of the players would have been an immediate need filled and potential future face for the Saints. 

The Saints really needed a top-tier CB to play opposite Lattimore. The team also desperately needs a strong receiver to help elevate whoever is under center and take pressure off Thomas as he looks to bounce back from 2020. Yet, here we are. As any good faithful fan and fantasy football guru knows, you must dig deeper, watch a few tapes, and realize that an NFL organization might know more than we do.  So, that’s what I did.  Turner is a beast and superbly athletic.    

He needs fine-tuning, but he showed great progress in the last three years at Houston.  He posted 68 solo tackles and 9.5 sacks in his collegiate career.  The Saints must compete even harder now in the NFC South with the loss of Brees.  The Superbowl defending champions Buccaneers have an incredible defense and brought back all their key players and will continue to add to that in the draft. 

If the Saints have added depth to the defensive front with Turner to keep atop their division, then I hope to not be bitter.  Turner might just be the surprise draft pick. The change in NOLA, the player that bolts off the edge, rushes the offensive line and gets to the QB, specifically Brady, and if that happens, then I am a happy fan. 

The more and more I dive into Turner’s playing ability and potential, the more I like the pick.  It might take some time for me to shake the feeling of what-ifs, but as a devout WHO DAT nation member, I have to respect the pick and look to round two where we must get a WR to complement Thomas.  I also have to trust the process and trust the fact that the organization remembers the Davenport pick and we don’t forget, I hope they didn’t either.  Welcome, Payton Turner to New Orleans!

5 Saints with the most to prove in 2021

Michael Thomas needs to bounce back next season

By: Courtney Burrows

The New Orleans Saints are looking forward to the 2021 Season to try and build on the legacy of their years of NFC South dominance behind Drew Brees.  Now that Brees has retired, the team really needs to come together and fight for each other and the beloved city in which they play.  There are many players on defense and offense that need to step up and prove that they are ready to be a leader on the field and in the locker room. 

Michael Thomas, WR- Though it was not all his fault, as he played most of 2020 with a nagging ankle and recurring hamstring injury, Thomas left a bad taste in the football world as he had a lackluster season.  There were already rumors of Brees retiring and what a season it was destined to be for the QB/WR duo.  In 2019, he set the single-season reception record with 144th career catch passing Marvin Harrison and ended up with 1,725 yards, and then fell to hit the mark with only 438 in 2020.  Elite receivers in this league can be up and down, especially after their main QB leaves as a new rhythm must be established.  Welcome to the off-season, where Thomas has been catching with Winston and Hill to get comfortable with both.  Thomas is entering the 2021 season healthy and 29 years old.  He can still produce but must prove that he can get separation from defenders and corners and get open for deep balls and shorter passes and then use his acceleration to beat coverage.  Since we don’t know who will be under center for the Saints, we don’t know arm strength or accuracy and Thomas must be prepared for it all, whatever is thrown at him.  Thomas must regain his phenomenal level of play so that the Saints can justify keeping him.  The Saints should draft a rookie slot receiver to complement him which can take some load off Thomas’s shoulders, but he must produce in 2021 or he might just find a new home in 2022. 

Jameis Winston QB- We all know the story of Winston’s fall from grace as a Buccaneer.  He was a Heisman winner drafted first overall in 2015 becoming the third rookie to throw for over 4,000 yards.  He continued to produce in the NFL, but in 2019 he set the record for interceptions returned for touchdowns in a season.  The Buccaneers did not resign him, and he landed in New Orleans to potentially back up future Hall of Famer Brees.  Though, he did not see much playing time in 2020, as the Saints used Hill to replace injured starter Brees, Winston did appear in Week 9 against his former team, and then faced them again as he came in on a trick play in the Divisional Playoff Game and threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Tre-Quan Smith.   If anyone has something to prove to not only The Saints for signing him but to the entire NFL, it is Winston.  He was a turnover and interception machine last time he was a starter, and if he wants to be the head of the Saints’ offense, he must produce.  Winston needs to prove that he has matured, studied, become a more patient passer, and show that he has put in the hard work since leaving the Bucs to be named a starter again and lead a team.  I expect the Bucs to be the presumed NFC Champs and the ones to beat as reigning Superbowl champs, but if Winston can play like a man with a mission, listen to his coaches, put any ego aside, and get the naysayers out of his head, I think he could be the one facing the Bucs in the Divisional Game again and walking away victorious. 

Tayson Hill QB- If we are going to talk about the elephant in the room surrounding the Saints 2021 starting QB, Hill must be mentioned as someone with lots to prove.  Coach Payton turned to Hill in Week 10 after Brees was ruled out, and he threw for 233 yards and rushed for two touchdowns against the Falcons.  Hill continued to get the start and had ups and downs, but he seemed to find more success rushing and scrambling then throwing.  If anyone has the most to prove, it is Hill.  He has a new 4-year contract and will compete with Winston for that starting job under center.  Is he simply a utility player that can throw, rush, block, and confuse defenses, or is he the real deal learning for the past few years under Brees?  Only time will tell, but Hill should be practicing and connecting with all his weapons and becoming one with his offensive line to prove that he has the stuff.  Payton trusted him once to lead the offense, which left most in the NFL wondering why, but then we saw glimpses of strength, athleticism, and determination that can translate well under center, and if anyone can nourish that it is Sean Payton.  I for one and excited to see who is given the reigns come September. 

Marcus Williams Safety- The Saints placed a franchise tag on Williams who was drafted in the 2nd round in 2017 and has played every season since in New Orleans.  Williams is best known for the blown tackle in the NFC Divisional Game vs the Vikings dubbed the Minneapolis Miracle, but he didn’t give up.  Instead he worked harder and got more efficient at tackling.  Last season, he had 59 total tackles and three interceptions and was pivotal in the defense ranking 4th in the NFL with an average of 300 yards per game allowed.  Williams must continue to step up and prove that he was worthy of the tag especially now that other key defensive players left in free agency.  I see the Saints drafting a WR and an CB as first priorities, so Williams must be the leader of the secondary keeping their opponents off the field so that the offense can do their job without Brees leading the way. 

Sean Payton Coach- Even though he isn’t a player, Payton has a lot to prove this upcoming season to himself, the league, and most importantly his team as they move on from Drew Brees and their 15-year offensive brilliance that led the team to one Superbowl win and multiple Divisional wins and appearances.  Can Payton make the right moves to keep his team in the NFC South race and Superbowl contention?  Payton has a master offensive mind creating plays that keep defenses scratching their heads, but he always had Brees with the talent to execute those plays.  He must make decisions now based on lesser talent but still talent nonetheless and other coaches with fewer excelled players have risen, so will Payton.  If Thomas bounces back and Kamara keeps grinding, then the rest should fall into place.  They must draft a slot receiver and hope that last year’s draft of Adam Trautman at TE will pan out.  Coach must place full trust in Cam Jordan to lead the defensive so that he can put the pieces back together on offensive and rise to the top again where the Saints and the city of New Orleans belong. 

What do you think? Of course, there are others who will step up and shine and others that will fade. I am looking forward to watching the coaches and players continue to flourish even though the 15-year dream of the Future HOF Drew Brees era is over and walk gloriously into the light of NFC stardom and continued league respect. The Saints as a whole will have chips on their shoulders losing yet another Divisional Round and not finishing where they desired. I believe they all will have something to prove and say, “Yes we lost one of the greatest, but together we are still phenomenal.” #WHODAT!

Remaining Free Agent Targets for New Orleans Saints

Will the Saints Get Sherman?

By: Courtney Burrows

The off-season for the New Orleans Saints was a doozy, wasn’t it.  We said goodbye to the leader of the pack, Drew Brees.  The Saints resigned CB PJ Williams, S Marcus Williams, QB Jameis Winston, and brought EDGE Tanoh Kpassagnon over from the Chiefs.  They also added Ty Montgomery and Dwayne Washington both running backs who will contribute mightily to special teams and returns.  The Saints also released LB Kwon Alexander, TE Jared Cook, WR Emmanuel Sanders, DT Sheldon Rankins, and Malcom Brown, CB Janoris Jenkins, DE Trey Hendrickson, and punter Thomas Morstead.  Needless to say, there are holes to fill that can be addressed in the draft but some can be fixed right now.  The Saints cleared up $111 million in cap space to releases, retirements, contract restructures, so let’s look at the top 3 free agency needs for the Saints and how they might be secured. 

KJ Wright Linebacker- Wright is 6’4” and 246 lbs. and has not yet been resigned by the Seahawks and reports out of Seattle state that they are not interested either, so he could be cheap and would be able to step in day one and produce.  In 2020, he had 86 tackles and 11 for losses, he is been a quiet, consistent linebacker.  Even tough he turns 32 this summer, if the Saints drafted a LB, Wright could be the plug and play needed while the new prospect develops under the coaching staff.  This would be a very low risk move by the Saints, as Wright was already passed over the Cowboys which should make his price even lower now.  Wright wants to play and given the chance despite his age, could easily move onto the line and help the Saints fill immediate holes. 

Richard Sherman Cornerback-The Saints have an all-star CB in Marshon Lattimore but releasing Jenkins hurt in having a reliable, speedy corner to complement him.  The re-signing of Jenkins helps but having to rely on other defensive backs to cover is not ideal.  There are many great talents in the draft that the Saints could easily slot into the role, but for now, let’s shift our eyes to veteran Sherman to help the defense cover the slot.  Sherman is aging and missed out on numerous 2020 games due to injury, but don’t sleep on him just because he is older.  Remember Sherman is a 5-time Pro Bowler and elite secondary machine that plays with grit and fire in his belly.  In just five game sin 2020, he still managed 18 combined tackles, one pass defended, and one interception.  The point is Sherman can still produce and should be a steal in terms of money because so many teams have already passed him by.  New Orleans is a perfect fit for a 1 to 2-year contract for Sherman.

Jurrell Casey DT- Losing defensive tackles Rankins and Brown definitely hurt the Saints, but salary cap had to be refined.  Casey is someone that makes me scratch my head in wonder because his 2020 season was cut short due to a bicep tear, so can he regain his explosive power?  Is he worth the gamble and cheap enough to consider?  Those questions I cannot answer, but in 142 career games, Casey has had 51 sacks and 507 tackles.  Again, this is another aging player who might be worth the risk for a year to help round out the defense for the Saints.

Bottom line is that the Saints need to address more defensive free agents now so that they can focus on the offensive side of the ball earlier in the draft.  That does not mean that they ignore talented, raw defensive players that fall in their laps like a potential DE or LB in rounds three and four.  The Saints first grab in round one should be a wide receiver to complement Thomas as they must rebuild the confidence in the offensive after losing Brees, unless they make a move up for a shot at a QB.  If that does happen, round two should then be a WR.  I also could see the Saints grabbing a cornerback in round two, which means adding Sherman now for security and depth makes perfect sense. 

2021 NFL Draft Sleepers

By: Courtney Burrows

The NFL Draft is less than 28 days away which is both exciting and anxiety-ridden as we wait to see where out favorite rookies will land and who our favorite team takes.  As a rookie off-season fan, I have studied and gone back and forth on the first two rounds meticulously.  There is a plethora of information out there on these first rounds, but what about the deep sleepers, the last ones on the board, and the guys not talked about much?  Remember James Robinson who went undrafted and had an incredible rookie year as the Jaguars starting RB, of course, you do and so do I. 

Let’s dive deep into those sleeper picks who might help you in a dynasty startup or a bench spot because they should be and will be drafted!

  1.  Dez Fitzpatrick WR, Louisville.  Fitzpatrick finished his 2020 season with 833 yards and four touchdowns which isn’t as impressive as the top tier rookie wideouts, but at Pro Day he ran a 4.43 40-yard and had a 35-inch vertical jump.  He is lean, strong, and can win the contested deep ball.  Fitzpatrick runs crisp routes and can beat the corners with his speed downfield.  He isn’t flashy, but he is consistent as he finished his collegiate career with 2,589 yards and 21 touchdowns.  He would be an excellent late 3rd to mid-4th round pick.  His potential to be a WR3 on a strong offensive-minded team is there. 

2. Jaret Patterson RB, Buffalo.  There are numerous high-end running backs in this year drafts, and quite possibly Patterson isn’t one of the names you have heard.  Well let me tell you, there isn’t much on the field this young man can’t do.  Patterson is versatile running inside the tackles, weaving in between defenders, and yearning for the endzone. He is patient, consistent, and sturdy.  In 2020, he ran for 1,072 yards on 141 attempts and 19 touchdowns as he averaged 7.6 yards per carry.  He can carry a full workload of a game, but he might work better in a RBBC, but he will be a steal for any team. 

3. Cade Johnson WR, South Dakota State.  Johnson is not your typical size threat of the long, lean WR in the NFL as he only stands 5’10” and 180lbs, but he is special.  He has exceptional speed and quickness off the line that leaves defensive backs shaking their heads.  He has superb hand-eye coordination and tracks the ball and is able to hold on seemingly in all situations, which is what stands out most to me…his hands.  They are solid and secure and in his 2018 and 2019 season he had zero fumbles!  His smaller stature might throw some scouts off his trail, but that would be a waste as Johnson can easily be a WR2 within a year or two.  He should go off the boards in the 3rd but it might not happen till the 4th round. 

4. Kenny Yeboah TE, Ole Miss.  I might be partial to my Ole Miss boys as I project Elijah Moore being a 2nd round pick, but Yeboah is a diamond in the rough.  Yeboah is a huge specimen of a TE at 6’3” and 247lbs., and he reminds me of Gronk.  He is raw and needs professional-level coaching to trim that size to have better route running, acceleration, and speed, but he is already an elite blocker and can separate himself from defenders with ease.  Under Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss in 2020, he averaged 20 yards per catch and over 70 yards a game.  With the big TE names like Pitts, Jordan, and Freiermuth, Yeboah might slip to the 4th round, but he is going to be a TE name that will be in the NFL for years to come.  I see him fitting best as a Steeler, Seahawk, or Panther. 

5. Davis Mills QB, Stanford.  With all the hype surrounding the Top 5 QB in this year’s draft, we are not hearing much about those 5th or 6th round picks that are not day one starters but QBs with the potential to learn and conquer.  Mills is one of those young men.  He is very smart with his decisions, timing, and game management but lacks mobility which is what the NFL craves these days in QBs.  Mills is a pocket passer who needs the room to set up and throw, but when he is given that time, his deep ball accuracy is on target.  He needs to be groomed by a veteran like Rodgers, Stafford, Wilson, Cousins, or Ryan.  Mills needs to work on his footwork out of the pocket, but he is a leader and can be a starter in this league within two years barring the right team.

Saints 7 Round Mock Draft

Who Will The Saints Draft?

By: Courtney Burrows

The New Orleans Saints are still reeling from the news of Drew Brees’s retirement.  Yes, everyone knew it was coming, but that doesn’t change that fact that it is a tough pill to swallow.  The show must go on in New Orleans, and that started with free agency re-signing Winston at QB, James Hurst as a fill-in offensive lineman, and PJ Williams at safety.  There are glaring other holes to fill like Edge, CB, LB, as Kwon Alexander was released and TE since Jared Cook left (even though the Saints drafted TE Adam Trautman 3rd round in 2020).  One of the most needed draft positions is a strong slot WR complement to Michael Thomas, even though Emmanuel Sanders was released, he wasn’t what the Saints needed so that was an easy decision.  The 2021 Draft is less than 40 days away, and the Saints need to make big moves early.  There is still a high possibility that the Saints trade up for their future QB, but these picks will be made where they currently stand with no trades.  Here is a look at potential picks for each round.

Round One, Pick 28- Rondale Moore WR, Purdue.  Moore is a top slot receiver in the draft, and the Saints need one to complement Thomas.  His toughness and speed in the slot make him a perfect fit.  Moore is an incredible deep threat with explosiveness and vertical leap allowing him to come up with the ball and propel past defenders.  He finished his career at Purdue with 1788 receptions for 1,915 yards.  If he is still on the board, the Saints can’t turn his talent down. 

Round Two, Pick 60- Eric Stokes CB, Georgia.  The Saints need a real #2 CB since releasing veteran Jenkins.   Stokes is a 2nd round pick having him ranked as the 6th  to 8th  best CB in the draft behind his teammate Tyson Campbell.  Stokes ability to break up passes and disrupt receivers’ routes in zone coverage elevate him despite his size.  Stokes will make an impression from day one on any defense, why not the Saints where they desperately need the help.

Round Three, Pick 98-Pete Werner LB, Ohio State- Werner is a stout run defender whose instincts and quick reads of the offensive action help him locate the ball and tackle the runner.  He is underrated and will be available in the third round.  Werner is fast and athletic for his size and has large hands that break up passes and get in the faces of offensive players makes him a great fit that defensive line coach Ryan Nielson can coach up and mold into exactly what the Saints defense needs.

Round Three, Pick 105-Payton Turner DE, Houston- Turner is a versatile defensive player who is quick off the edge and solid in size and power.  Though he has quick bursts and acceleration, his stamina of overall speed is lacking in comparison of other DE, but that is something a good coach helps to fix.  Turner is smart and uses his mindset to know what offenses are thinking and has the flexibility and agility to switch gears mid-run.  He is a steal!

Round Four, Pick 133-Tony Poljan TE, Virginia- Jared Cook was released and Taysom Hill is no longer designated as a TE/QB, so the need is there.  Poljan reminds me of Hill since he played his first two collegiate years as QB, and we know how much the Saints have utilized Hill’s multi-tasking talent.  He is a physical pass protector pushing defenders away from the pocket.  Poljan has a huge wingspan and height that elevates him over defenders to be the first to the ball.  He is a great late-round pick that could translate into a TE1 in the coming years for the Saints. 

Round Six, Pick 218-Larry Rountree RB, Missouri- Granted the Saints have one of the best RB in the league with Kamara, but who better to learn from either.  Rountree is an undervalued RB whose quick feet let him weave in and out of holes and defenders.  His career stats include 40 touchdowns and 3,720 yards with an average of five yards per carry.  He is raw and needs grooming especially as a three-down and receiving back, but again learning from Kamara will be crucial to his future in the NFL. 

Round Seven, Pick 229-Dan Moore Jr. OT, Texas A&M-As an Aggie, Moore playing left tackle helped QB Kellen Mond complete 63.3% of his passes and throw for 2,282 yards.  Moore’s large size is balanced by his steady feet and frame, and though he does not have the quickness off the line, he does not quit on plays and charges until the whistle is blown.  That determination is something that can’t be taught.  Moore should spend at least a season on a practice squad to develop more refined pass protection and blocking, but he worth the gamble in the 7th.

Round Seven, Pick 225-Max Richardson OLB, Boston College-Richardson returned for his 2020 season at BC and became an immediate leader on the field and in the locker room.  The Saints thrive on players rich in discipline, character, and heart, just like Richardson.  He finishes his collegiate career with 315 total tackles.    Richardson has the ability to read plays and zone coverage well and established himself as a blitzing menace in college.  He has had some knee issues, which is why he might fall to the 7th, but the Saints will be lucky to snag him. 

What an exciting draft this is set to be, and if the Saints make wise moves to upgrade their roster to help return to NFC Glory without Brees, then they will continue to battle for one of the top spots in the league. I personally am excited to see who they grab, but maybe Coach Payton and GM Loomis will read my post and agree. I truly believe that they will trade up and grab Mac Jones or Trey Lance as the heir to the throne in NOLA. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds Thursday, April 29th.

2021 Mock Draft Rounds 1-3

Who Will Win The Early Rounds?

By: Courtney Burrows

It’s that time of the year when everyone is getting geared up for the NFL Draft and mock drafting is taking place in every platform from Twitter to ESPN.  I decided to do my own three-round mock draft because I’m addicted to all things fantasy and NFL.. and I like to think I make better choices than most….so let’s see what’s in store for the 32 teams at least from my point of view!

Round One

  •  Jacksonville Jaguars-Trever Lawrence, QB Clemson.  This is a no-brainer.  The Meyer-Lawrence Era is beginning.  Lawrence is one of the best all-around QB in the draft in the last few years.  He will slide into his starter role with weapons around him and prosper!
  • NY Jets-Zach Wilson, QB BYU.  If there isn’t a trade-up for this pick, I think the Jets bypass Justin Fields and grab Wilson.  He is a stud coming off an elite 2020 season of 3,692 passing yards.  New Head Coach Saleh will want a talented young gun to build his future team around.
  • Miami Dolphins-Ja’Marr Chase, WR LSU.  I know it is rare to think that Chase comes off the board before DeVonta Smith, but if the Dolphins are smart about it, they will draft as I draft!  Chase is big and physical and will give the Dolphins the edge as a deep threat option.  Chase is above Smith in my book as WR#1 because of how he always seems to be at his best when he jumps and contests the catch beating the secondary with ease!
  • Atlanta Falcons-Justin Fields, QB Ohio State- I do believe that Matt Ryan has one more year in him, but he is 35 and not many QBs last into their 40s in this league.  So, Fields will be drafted to take the helm.  Fields threw for 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions in the 2020 season and still has growing and untapped potential that the new coaching staff in Atlanta can use to their advantage.
  • Cincinnati Bengals-Penei Sewell, OL Oregon- Now I know that the Bengals need a star wideout for Burrow to throw too, but more importantly he needs protection.  He played through 10 incredible games proving his worth as the #1 pick last season then got hurt.  What does that prove?  The O-line needs help and Sewell is the best one to do that off the boards as he can open holes, protect the pass, and go nose to nose with the biggest defensive tackles out there and hold his own easily.
  • Philadelphia Eagles-DeVonta Smith, WR Alabama- Assuming that Hurts is the starting QB, whats more fun than reuniting the two Bama stars in Philly.  It’s no secret the Eagles need WR help and fast, so for them to pass up the Heisman winner who logged 1,856 yards last season would be insanity.
  • Detroit Lions-Jaylen Waddle, WR Alabama- The Lions just made a huge trade and sent Stafford to LA for Goff, so an immediate need is a capable wideout for him to throw too since all the other WRs in Detroit are up in the air with free agency.  Waddle has proven himself at Alabama to be efficient on special teams and as a speed demon in the open field. 
  • Carolina Panthers- Trey Lance, QB North Dakota State- Unfortunately, Bridgewater has not panned out like me or others thought for the Panthers.  Lance is a freak of athletic nature who still is unpolished and needs work, but he can learn for a bit behind Bridgewater, then take over and shine for years to come.  2020 season wasn’t what it was cracked up to be for all players but in 2019, Lance threw for 2,786 yards with zero interceptions.
  • Denver Broncos-Patrick Surtain, CB Alabama-The Broncos released CB AJ Bouye and find themselves in need of secondary help especially at cornerback.  Surtain fills that gap.  He is tall, quick, and can outrival in man to man coverage.  Surtain’s patience and consistency are his better qualities and ones that are hard to find in rookies. 
  • Dallas Cowboys-Micah Parsons, LB Penn State- What is there left to say about the dismal state on both sides of the ball the Cowboys found themselves in this past season.  Parsons is too talented to pass up, so they will grab him here, and he will start day 1 helping the defense regain it stardom.  Parsons has edge-rush ability as well as linebacker ball skills with arms that can wrap opposing offensives up.
  • NY Giants-Kyle Pitts, TE Florida-Pitts reminds me of the Raiders’ Darren Waller because he can play and produce all over the field.  The Giants should part ways with Evan Engram as he just hasn’t been the same with QB Jones.  Jones needs a new flashy, sticky handed weapon, and Pitts cannot be passed up.  The Giants have a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but Pitts could provide them with an offensive spark in the first game!
  • San Francisco 49ers-Caleb Farley, CB Virginia Tech-The 49ers have a lot of defensive and secondary players moving into free agency, and so there is much uncertainty.  Farley is a certain bet.  He is a beast-like competitor that seems to always find the holes to intercept passes and his explosiveness has him running those balls back after the catch.  Despite sitting out 2020, Farley is a fluid player that can stop and change directions on a dime defending the jump balls, and he is one player that cannot be overlooked. 
  • LA Chargers- Rashawn Slater, OT Northwestern- This is a simple pick for me and that is to protect your investment and your Rookie of the Year in Justin Herbert.  Herbert was sacked 32 times last season for 9th in the league.  Obviously, the offensive line needs to be addressed. Slater is an extremely versatile player who can tackle, play guard or center.  The Chargers need to help Herbert succeed and build up around him to advance to the Super Bowl, and Slater is the player to do that!
  • Minnesota Vikings-Kwity Payne, DL Michigan-The Vikings are used to having an elite defensive unit, and last year they didn’t live up to that as they ranked 32nd in pass rushing.  Needless to say, they need defensive line and edge rush help and Payne is an elite talent that can’t be passed on as the Vikings can find additional defensive help in later rounds as well.
  • New England Patriots-Terrace Marshall, WR LSU.  I know the Patriots need a QB and this might seem like a stretch for Marshall to come off the board so early, but he fits into a Belichick offense like no other.  Marshall is a large man who doesn’t look big when he runs because he is fast, elusive, and nimble.  His route-running ability is adaptable to all plays and that is perfect for an offensive mind like Belichick.   If Marshall would have played the entire 2020 season, he would have easily eclipsed 1000 yards, just wait to see him explode at the pro level.
  • Arizona Cardinals-Gregory Rousseau, EDGE Miami-The Cardinals need help in the secondary and a cornerback would be a smart pickup, but I don’t think they can let Rousseau slide past them especially since it looks like Arron Reddick is heading to free agency.  Though he sat out 2020, he had 15.5 sacks in 2019.  Rousseau can explode off the line like a train and dominates tight ends and blocks tightly. 
  • Las Vegas Raiders- Christian Barmore, DL Alabama- The Raiders allowed 29.4 points per game in 2020 which was the 3rd most in the NFL.  They need linebacker help and Barmore is their guy.  He is powerful and can knock lineman off their game, focus and collapse the pocket.  Raiders need a heavy presence up front and Barmore’s strength is perfect for Raider Nation. 
  • Miami Dolphins, Najee Harris, RB Alabama-This is one of the reasons I do not see the Dolphins taking both DeVonta Smith and Harris, too many Bama boys back together.  I feel that they are all in on their offense, and Harris will be the featured back, star, and will power through defenses and dominate.  We know that RBs run this league and Harris will be an elite one for years to come.  Harris rushed for 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2020, and he is the guy that will help Miami contend against The Bills again for the AFC East.  We knew it was never going to be Myles Gaskin. 
  • Washington Football Team- Mac Jones, QB, Alabama.  Quietly Jones has crept up the boards in mock drafts, and we know that even though Taylor Heinicke was signed to a two-year deal recently, he is a backup.  Jones threw for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions in 2020.  He is not flashy or dominate, but he is smart and patient, and very much like Peyton Manning.  I think given the chance, Jones could be a great league QB and WFT needs a future leader.
  • Chicago Bears-Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue-Though the Bears might trade up for a QB, if the perfect one does not fall into their lap, they need to think about replacing Allen Robinson.  Though Moore is a smaller wideout, he has electrifying speed off the line and is incredibly hard to tackle.  Moore can play slot and can also mix it up with screens and sweeps. 
  • Indianapolis Colts- Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas.  Now we know that Wentz will be under center for the Colts and to give him time and help him elevate the team, one thing is for sure, they need to replace tackle Castonzo.   Wentz needs protection while in the pocket, and Jonathan Taylor needs lanes to run.   Cosmi has character, poise, strength, and a great head on his shoulders.  He has experience at right and left tackle and playing both adds depth to his abilities.
  • Tennessee Titans-Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss.  Though most will think Moore won’t go off the boards until 2nd round, I think the Titans would be sneaky to jump and grab him.  He and AJ Brown have great history from their days at Ole Miss where Moore played 3rd string WR to him and DK Metcalf, talk about great players to be learning from.  I know the Titans need other positions like EDGE, IDL, S, and OT, but Corey Davis is set to leave and Adam Humphries is not a true #2.  Moore can play slot like he did at Ole Miss where he used his tall frame and sticky hands to catch and run for 1,193 yards.  He is an incredibly quick receiver who will be an amazing complement to Brown and another weapon for Tannehill.
  • NY Jets-Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota.  If the Jets are “all-in” on offensive and turning their dreary 2020 season around, they need a true #1 wide receiver that will complement Zach Wilson for years to come.  Bateman can play in the slot and on the outside.  In three years at Minnesota, Bateman racked up 2,395 yards and it easily could’ve gone over 3,000 if his Junior year was not cut short sue to Covid. 
  • Pittsburg Steelers-Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson.  So the Steelers really struggled last season in the run game.  After Connor was hurt and returned, things just never looked the same.  Etienne’s 2020 season was incredible as he rushed for 1,572 yards.  He just seems to find the open lane and can barrel over tacklers.  My guess is 2021 will be Roethlisberger’s last year, so they will begin rebuilding, and Etienne is the perfect cornerstone for that to happen.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars-Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL USC.  The Jags are drafting the #1 QB as their #1 pick, now let’s get more depth and protection up front for Lawrence.  Vera-Tucker is 6’4” and 315 lbs with room to grow.  Vera-Tucker has great vision in his pass protection and has fantastic footwork and hands to keep pass rushers at bay.  Lawrence will be able to be patient in the pocket with Vera-Tucker added to the mix.
  • Cleveland Browns-Azeez Ojulari, LB/EDGE, Georgia.  The Browns need speed in their secondary and overall help on the defensive side of the ball.  Besides Myles Garrett, there are glaring holes to be filled.  Ojulari has remarkable burst off the line, and if he is paired opposite Garrett, then what an improvement that would serve.  Ojulari has flown somewhat under the radar but had 27 tackles in 2020, 18 of which were solo, and once he packs on more bulk, he can be an unstoppable force with Garrett bringing the Dog Pound back.
  • Baltimore Ravens-Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR USC-The Ravens need linebackers and safety help, but I can’t help but wonder if things would have been different in their playoff run with a reliable, consistent wideout.  Lamar Jackson can run, but he also runs for his life with no one to truly connect with downfield.  I believe they could trade for a veteran WR, but if they continue to build the offense with weapons, then Jackson and the Ravens will have better days ahead.  They also have time for other positions in later rounds.  St. Brown can line up in slot and outside.  He runs routes smoothly and efficiently which is something Jackson needs.  St. Brown is going high here, but I like the Ravens locking in someone who can grow with Jackson.
  • New Orleans Saints-Kadarius Toney, WR Florida.  The Saints having a glaring hole at QB for the future, but with no real prospects left on the board, they shift their eyes to assisting whoever is under center with a star top product alongside Michael Thomas.  Imagine the creativity and freedom in play calling Coach Payton will have if he has two speedy, incredibly talented wideouts on the field.  Toney is extremely adaptable and can line up anywhere but would be used best as slot.  He accelerates off the line like a bullet blasting past defenders deep, short, and in the middle.  This is a dream scenario of mine!
  • Green Bay Packers-Jaycee Horn, CB South Carolina.  The Packers are in desperate need of a cornerback as it they have had issues with the position in the last few years.  We saw how the Packers were beaten late in the NFC Championship and the secondary lacked spark and consistency.  Horn is a large player who despite his size seems to be able to be present all over the field.  In his three-college seasons, he totaled 101 tackles.  Horn is the guy that can help turn things around for the Packers defense.
  • Buffalo Bills- Christian Darrisaw, OL Virginia Tech.  The Bills need to desperately improve their running game so that they can make it to the Super Bowl next year.  Darrisaw’s expert run blocking led his star running back last season to the have the 2nd most rushing yards in the ACC.  He uses his body and strong hands to stop defenders at the line.  Darrisaw could be dangerous with the Bills as all the other pieces have been lining up, but if they can be more efficient at opening holes and lanes for the run game, then look out league.
  • Kansas City Chiefs- Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa.  First of all, Zaven is the best name in the draft, it is modern and unique and I love how it rolls off my tongue.  That being said, Collins is a gifted linebacker who can be placed all along the line and still produce.  In 32 games with Tulsa, he had 236 tackles and two defensive touchdowns.  He is a playmaker, and it is no surprise that the Chiefs could use an upgrade on their defensive line.  The Chiefs roll on offensive, but always give up big plays and points as they averaged 22.8 points to opponents in 2020 which is up from 20.2 in 2019.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Carlos Bansham Jr, EDGE, Wake Forrest.  The Super Bowl Champs proved their defense was the key to their victories as it was an elite unit and really turned it up the last half of the season.  One of the main positions they need to address is Edge rusher since Shaq Barrett is a free agent.  I think they will resign him and add another with Bansham.  Bansham is physical and has quick bursts off the line of scrimmage, and he can change directions with ease to tackle.  He will be a crucial addition even if they do resign Barrett.

Round Two

Round Two- This first round saw many offensive players fly off the board which means that the teams now need to fill the remainder of the holes on the field with other sleeper picks and options.  Here we go!

  • Jags- (Needs DL, TE, CB, LB, S) Nick Bolton, LB Missouri
  • Jets- (Needs CB, EDGE, RB, S, LB, OT)  Asante Samuel Jr, CB FSU
  • Falcons- (Needs EDGE, LB, CB, RB, DB, S)  Javonte Williams, RB North Carolina
  • Dolphins-(Needs LB, OT, S, DE) Jaelan Philips, DE Miami
  • Eagles- (Needs CB, LB, G, S, OT)  Javon Holland, S Oregon
  • Bengals- (Needs WR, CB, OL, LB) Tylan Wallace, WR Oklahoma St.
  • Panthers-(Needs LB, CB, OT, TE) Tyson Campbell, CB Georgia
  • Broncos- (Needs EDGE, LB, QB, OT) Patrick Jones, EDGE Pittsburg
  • Lions- (Needs CB, OL, LB, S) Daviyon Nixon, DL Iowa
  • Giants- (Needs EDGE, LB, WR, S, CB, OG) Jayson Oweh, EDGE Penn State
  • 49ers- (Needs IOL, OT, DT, QB, S) Jay Tufele, DT, USC
  • Cowboys-(Needs CB, S, DE, OT, TE) Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
  • Jags- (Needs DL, WR, TE, CB, S) Richie Grant, S, UCF
  • Patriots- (Needs TE, QB, LB, S, OT, DT) Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
  • Chargers- (Needs CB, IOL, LB, DT, WR) Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
  • Raiders- (Needs EDGE, IOL, LB, S, OT) Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami
  • Cardinals- (Needs CB, RB, TE, LB, DL) Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
  • Dolphins- (Needs LB, OT, DE) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Norte Dame
  • Washington- (Needs OT, WR, CB, S) Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
  • Bears- (Needs QB, OT, IOL, CB, LB) Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
  • Titans- (Needs EDGE, IDL, CB, TE, OT) Alim McNeil, DL, North Carolina State
  • Colts- (Needs CB, S, WR, LB, TE) Aaron Robinson, CB, Central Florida
  • Steelers- (Needs OT, CB IOL, LB, QB, TE) Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
  • Rams- (Needs OT, EDGE, LB, IOL, CB) Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburg
  • Ravens- (Needs EDGE, TE, S, DL, OT) Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
  • Browns- (Needs CB, DL, OT, S, WR, TE) Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
  • Saints- (Needs QB, CB, LB, S, EDGE) Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
  • Bills- (Needs CB, LB, EDGE, TE) Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
  • Packers- (Needs WR, OT, C, LB, S) Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
  • Chiefs- (Needs WR, IOL, OT, CB, DL) Dazz Newsome, WR, North Carolina
  • Buccaneers- (Needs DT, WR, RB, OT, QB) Darius Stills, DT, West Virginia

Round Three

  • Jags- (Needs DL, WR, TE, CB) Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
  • Jets- (Needs EDGE, RB, S, LB, OT) Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis
  • Texans- (Needs CB, EDGE, TE, WR, OT) Rodarius Williams, CB, Oklahoma
  • Falcons- (Needs EDGE, LB, CB, DB, S) Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina
  • Bengals- (Needs CB, OL, LB, DT) Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
  • Eagles- (Needs CB, LB, G, OT ) Jackson Carman, OT, Clemson
  • Broncos- (Needs LB, QB, OT, S) Pete Werner, LB, Ohio State
  • Lions- (Needs CB, OL, S) Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
  • Panthers-(Needs LB, OT, TE) James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati
  • Washington-(Needs WR, CB, S) TuTu Atwell, WR, Louisville
  • Cowboys- (Needs S, DE, OT, TE) Joe Tyron, DE, Washington
  • Giants- (Needs LB, WR, S, CB, OG) Marquez Stevenson, WR, Houston
  • Chargers-(Needs CB, IOL, DT, WR, TE) Jared Goldwire, DT, Louisville
  • Vikings- (Needs CB, EDGE, S, OT) Trey Smith, OT, Tennessee
  • Cardinals-(Needs CB, RB, LB, DL) Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
  • Raiders-(Needs IOL, LB, S, OT) Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, FSU
  • Dolphins-(Needs OT, DE) Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
  • Washington-(Needs CB, S, LB) Caden Sterns, S, Texas
  • Bears-(Needs QB, IOL, CB, LB) Jaylen Twyman, DB, Pittsburg
  • Eagles-(Needs CB, LB, G) Robert Hainsey, OT/G, Notre Dame
  • Titans-(Needs EDGE, CB, TE, OT) Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke
  • Jets-(Needs EDGE, S, LB, OT) Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
  • Steelers-(Needs CB, IOL, LB, QB, TE) Elijah Molden, CB, Washington
  • Lions- (Needs CB, OL, LB) JaCoby Stevens, LB, LSU
  • Browns- (Needs DL, OT, S, WR, TE) Jerome Johnson, DT, Indiana
  • Vikings-(Needs CB, EDGE, DE, S) Ta’Quan Graham, DT, Texas
  • Browns-(Needs OT, S, WR, TE) Damar Hamlin, S, Pittsnurg
  • Packers-(Needs WR, OT, C, LB, S) Trevon Grimes, WR, Florida
  • Bills-(Needs CB, EDGE, TE) Victor Dimukeje, DE, Duke
  • Chiefs-(Needs IOL, OT, CB, LB) Paddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern
  • Buccaneers-( Needs WR, RB, OT, QB) Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State

Keys to Bills AFC Championship Victory

By: Courtney Burrow (Twitter: @luvtractor3)

The Buffalo Bills march into Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday to face defending Super Bowl champs, the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Showdown. 

The Bills are coming off a 17-3 win over the Ravens, and the Chiefs were 22-17 over the Browns where Mahomes was injured and is in concussion protocol. 

Mahomes will play Sunday barring setbacks, but the Bills are healthy and ready to advance, and here’s how they can do it.

Defensive Keys

The Chiefs’ Hill and Kelce are threats that cannot be completely neutralized but can be lessened if the secondary and defense step up. 

In Week 6, the Bills were missing key players in the matchup versus the Chiefs.  Matt Milano, the Bills star linebacker was out, but he is back and held Ravens TE Andrews last week to 28 yards on 11 targets.  Milano and fellow linebacker Tremaine Edmunds must be aggressive and hold Kelce to that same number or less. 

Kelce is Mahomes’s safety blanket, and if Mahomes is a little shaky from his injury, he will look to Kelce in the short passing plays for relief.  Defensive coordinator Frazier and his unit must blitz and pressure Mahomes and trust that their cornerbacks will be stride for stride with star wideout Tyrek Hill. 

Bills’ CB Tre’Davious White shadowed Raven’s “Hollywood” Brown in the divisional round game holding him to only 30 yards, and this must be repeated to ensure that Hill is not a deep option because he is incredibly fast and can and will beat his defenders if given the space. 

In the Chiefs Week 6 win, the Bills defense held Mahomes and company to 221 yards in the air, but the running game exploded with 245 rushing yards.  So, the defense must be prepared to contain CEH, Bell, or Williams in the running game and most importantly shut down Mahomes in the air and create turnovers.  

Since mid-December, Mahomes has had three fumbles and four interceptions, and being banged up means that blitzing the line is key! The Bills defense has consistently gotten better in the second half of the season and is healthy, and they will be the secret to the Bills rolling to a Super Bowl appearance. 

Offensive Keys

Rookie Zack Moss had a season-ending ankle injury in the Wild Card game vs the Colts, which left Devin Singletary to carry the load, and the Bills don’t even rely on him for goal-line carries.  In last week’s win over the Ravens, Singletary carried for 25 yards and additional 12 yards on three receptions, but that will not cut it against the Chiefs. 

Singletary must be more involved and confident between the tackles, which means that offensive coordinator Brian Daboll must get him involved early so that some of the pressure is taken off Allen.  Singletary doesn’t need a 100 plus yard game, he just must be utilized more.

Josh Allen has had an incredible season throwing for 4, 544 yards relying on Diggs most of the way, but he must spread the wealth and look for Beasley (even though he isn’t 100%), Brown, and Knox as I expect the Chiefs secondary to be shadowing Diggs heavily. 

Diggs is a yardage machine racking up 106 yards and a touchdown in the divisional game vs the Ravens, and I expect Allen to continue to look Diggs’s way and will find the open field, but Allen cannot rely solely on him. 

Allen went 23 of 37 and 206-yards vs the Ravens, and that was a decent outing but considering how he averaged 300 yards the last three games of the season and is completing 69.2 % of his passes, I truly don’t think that Allen has shown us his top potential like he will this weekend against a good but beatable Chiefs defense.

This season, the Bills have had 68 red zone attempts to the Chiefs 59, so Allen must get the ball into the endzone early and not settle for Bass’s leg and field goals.  The goal is to keep the Chief’s offense off the field. 

The Bills are 4-0 ATS in their last four road games, and they haven’t lost since Week 10 vs Arizona when Hopkins caught that Hail Mary.  Needless to say, they are hot right now, and I am going with the hot hand and Josh Allen’s determination to bring the Bills to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1994. 

Prediction Bills 31-27

Saints 2021 QB Outlook: Who’s The Heir?

By: Courtney Burrows (Twitter: @luvtractor3)

The New Orleans Saints are heading into the playoffs as the number two seed at 12-4 on the season after beating the Carolina Panthers 33-7 on January 3rd.  Saints are one seed behind the Green Bay Packers and will play the Chicago Bears in the wildcard game this Sunday. 

The Saints also finished the season as the only NFC South team to sweep the division 6-0 since the division’s formation in 2002!  This is great news for Saints fans like me, but the real question is no matter how this playoff run shakes out, who will be the starting quarterback when the 2021 NFL season kicks off? As we know, the ageless wonder Drew Brees will soon walk off into the sunset (hopefully with a Lombardi trophy).

Drew Brees, #9, the one who revitalized New Orleans a few years after the city was still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Brees did this with a 31-17 win over the Colts for Superbowl XLIV. 

Brees has been the leader of the Saints for 15 seasons, and his leadership, work ethic, and dependability has been a staple for New Orleans and Sean Payton.   At the end of Week 10 this season, Brees held the NFL record for career pass completions, completion percentage, and passing yards.  

Can anyone doubt this man’s ability or the way the fans and city of New Orleans hold him in high regard and in some cases like a god that has led with vivacious charisma and poise?  Now, what do the Saints do if he retires at the end of this season?  Where do we go from here?  Who will Coach Payton use to carry the torch? This question keeps Saints fans up at night. 

This Wild Card weekend, as a devout Saints fan, I wonder if this will be my last chance to see the incredible quarterback play, pass, and point to the Heavens after a touchdown.  I doubt it as I am predicting the Saints victorious over The Bears with a score of 27-20.  The Saints have been down this road before and the last few seasons have come up short, but with Brees potentially retiring, I am riding the Saints all the way to the Super Bowl. 

Who will take over?

Currently, the Saints QB roster consists of backups Taysom Hill and Jamies Winston.  In Week 10, Brees was injured and went on IR for 11 broken ribs and a punctured lung.  It was Hill not Winston that Payton leaned looked to for help. 

Hill started Week 11 vs the Falcons and threw for 233 yards and rushed for 51 yards and two touchdowns.  Hill played like it wasn’t his first career start in the NFL.  There were definitely growing pains as Hill fumbled and was sacked three times, but he completed 78 percent of his passes and secured a victory. 

He continued to propel the Saints with wins versus the QB-less Broncos in Week 12 and the Atlanta again in Week 13.  Week 14 was a different story as the Saints fell to the Eagles yet Hill still threw for 291 yards and two touchdowns and one interception. 

Hill’s explosiveness in scrambling, rushing, and often drop back passing is very encouraging and refreshing, but he also ranks as the 25th QB when pressured (sighs).  Hill signed a 21 million, 2-year deal in April 2020 making him expensive but obviously still slated to be a Saint for the 2021 season.  Winston too signed a contract with the Saints in April 2020, but it was only for one year, so he is due to become a free agent. 

So, what do we make of Winston’s future in NOLA?  Recently in a Huddle and Flow Podcast interview, Payton seemed to lean that Winston will get another shot at the helm if a new contract is extended through 2021.  Interesting but smart to leave the door open.  Let’s look at other options as well.

There is also a chance that Sam Darnold needs a home if the Jets draft Justin Fields in the first round.  Darnold is a modest QB that needs a real coach, one that will utilize his talents and teach him to reach his full potential. 

Could Payton be the coach that Darnold needs?  The Saints are already maxed out on salary cap, but trades and draft picks could be exploited, but is Darnold better in the long run than Winston or Hill?  This fan is not so sure. 

The long-term potential of Winston looks more inviting than Darnold since we know Winston can show up if he has a great supporting cast in an offensive line and center and The Saints do.  Another name to add to the mix is Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Yes, he is older and has been on more teams than one can count, but he continues to prove himself time and time again when he gets the start.  Fitzmagic might be a cheap pick up and one to have in the back pocket if Winston is lured elsewhere. 

Head Versus Heart and Forever Grateful

That all being said, The Saints should select a QB in the first few rounds of the 2021 draft–a QB selected in a draft that has high potential to be the franchise face for years to come.

Hill is 30 years old and Winston is 27.  I feel that Hill and Winston will battle for the starting role, but I do not believe that either are the long-term answer to replace Brees, they are simply the short-term fix.  Brees has been such an essential piece, and there are only so many quarterbacks that can be successful in their late 30s and early 40s in this league.   

My heart tells me Hill will start in 2021 because he has the experience in the Sean Payton system (knows the screens well, protection, and shot plays), but my head tells me it will be Winston because he is more ambitious than before while carrying more talent. 

My final piece to all of this is that whoever takes over for the Saints will never be able to hold a candle to the greatness that Drew Brees has bestowed on my beloved Saints and the beautiful city and people of New Orleans.  I am bestowed into my keyboard as I look forward to watching Brees play in all his glory this Wild Card weekend. I will always be thankful and grateful to Tom Benson for seeing his potential and taking a chance on the future Hall of Famer, #9, Drew Brees. 

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