The Saints decided, once again, to pass on a quarterback in the NFL Draft. That decision could be the final nail in the coffin on Sunday.
The New Orleans Saints have not drafted a quarterback in the first round since Archie Manning in 1971. In 2022, they passed on nine quarterbacks drafted after their two first-round picks, with which they selected wide receiver Chris Olave and offensive lineman Trevor Penning.
That decision to pass on Kenny Pickett, who was taken 20th overall, one slot behind Penning, could end up being the ironic nail in the coffin for New Orleans’ 2022 season.
Dennis Allen mentioned to the media this week that the Saints expect a challenge against him and hinted they had him top-rated (which was to be expected, he was leaps and bounds better than the next-best QB) in the draft.
Pickett went to the Pittsburgh Steelers, which, considering he played his college ball at Pitt, is the better story. But the Saints sorely need a quarterback, having rolled out a combination of Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, and Taysom Hill at various points this season.
None of the three have lived up to expectations on a full-time basis.
Saints QB woes are coming to a narrative head on Sunday
Winston has been what you’d expect: A gutsy passer who gambles on big plays. The risks pay off once in a while, but they have more frequently gotten the team into trouble or overextended his receiver’s skillsets, especially in regards to the rookie Olave who is still finding his footing.
Dalton is the more methodical quarterback, capable of making veteran reads and finding the easy pass for short but consistent yardage gains. The problem with Dalton is he doesn’t have that intangible in him to go from methodical game manager to game-changing quarterback. If you could combine the best attributes of Dalton and Winston, you’d have something good.
And Hill has been the stopgap trick-play quarterback he has been the last few years.
In retrospect, it’s easy to say the Saints should have drafted a quarterback, and it’s tough to say that Pickett would have the Saints in a better position. Pickett has struggled to adjust as you’d expect a rookie to, and the Steelers fanbase is somewhat divided on him. He has thrown two touchdowns and eight interceptions, though a good chunk of the INTs don’t fall on him.
The Saints would fall to 3-7 with a loss and find themselves even further out of the playoff picture with a loss when they face the Steelers this Sunday in Week 10.
Pickett himself is not the quarterback the Saints need, but facing off and losing to him would be further confirmation of what a significant sect of Saints fans have been saying: It’s time to find our future. No more stopgap quarterbacks. Drew Brees is gone and it’s going to take a hard reset to get back to competition.
Pickett is a symbol of the Saints aversion to committing to a youthful, next-gen quarterback. Passing on him was not necessarily a mistake, but not finding better answers at quarterback before now is.
And of course, for Pickett it’s a good chance to show the team who passed on him exactly what they missed out on and reclaim the narrative on his rookie season.
It goes down Sunday in Pittsburgh at 1 pm ET.