New Orleans Saints 2020 Draft Report Card and Final Grade

Photo Credit: University of Wisconsin Badgers Football on

The 2020 NFL Draft is now “in the books” for the New Orleans Saints, and after some wheeling and dealing by general manager Mickey Loomis, the Black and Gold were fortunate enough to land 3 players of whom they had ranked within their list of Top 40 players in this year’s class.

While New Orleans had to surrender most of their middle and late round picks in order to do so, they are a team that already has a “loaded” roster that’s poised for another run at the Super Bowl; which means that most of their latter round selections would have been very hard-pressed to make the roster.

With that in mind, we present our Saints 2020 Draft Report Card and Final Grade — as we give detailed analysis of the 4 picks that they made — along with a “quick take” regarding a few of the stand-out undrafted free agents that were signed by the team following the Draft’s conclusion.

And we begin with….


A large portion of Saints fans figuratively “lost their minds” when this pick was made initially with the #24 overall pick in the 1st Round, since most of them were expecting the franchise to draft a player at a position of presumed bigger ‘need’ such as wide receiver or linebacker. But Saints front office brass had O-Line ranked higher on their list of priorities, following the team’s quick exit in the Playoffs when they lost to the Minnesota Vikings.

The interior of the offensive line — specifically the guard position — struggled mightily in that game and factored heavily in the heart-breaking loss, and it was quite obviously something that has bothered them ever since. That final end result this past January clearly influenced their mind-set heading into the opening round, and Ruiz was the top-rated interior lineman in this year’s Draft class.

In 3 seasons with the storied Wolverines football program under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 20-year old Ruiz eventually went on to start a total of 31 games at Michigan, 26 of them at center. Ruiz ultimately earned 2nd-team All-Big 10 honors as a junior, before declaring for the draft as an underclassman.

As it’s been noted time and time again in recent years, the Saints place a high-priority on versatility and players that can line up at multiple spots, and the selection of the 6-foot-2, 307 pound Ruiz will now allow the team to make the center and guard spots interchangeable. However, the deficiencies at the guard spot (particularly the notable struggles of starting right guard Larry Warford (who’s been rumored to have fallen out of favor with team management because of his physical conditioning / weight issues), were clearly a factor in their decision to proverbially “pull the trigger” on the selection of Ruiz.

He’s expected to take over the starting center position, which would allow the team to move current starting Erik McCoy (the physically larger of the two players) over to the right guard spot when (and if) Warford eventually departs. But the best thing about the selection of Ruiz is that given his young age (he will turn age 21 in mid-June), he could eventually become an “anchor” on the Saints O-Line, with the potential to be the Black and Gold’s starter at the center position for this entire new decade and likely well into the next one (the 2030’s).




The Saints traded their 3rd Round pick (#88 overall) as well as another 3rd Round pick in next year’s 2021 NFL Draft, to the Cleveland Browns in order to move up 14 spots to the #74 overall selection to nab the 6-foot-3, 235 pound Baun — who arguably was a potential 1st Round pick before he fell down the Draft Board — presumably because some teams were worried about a drug test which come back positive for a diluted sample at the NFL Scouting Combine in late February (which Baun attributed to drinking too much water for the initial weigh-in).

Clearly Saints front office brass took Baun at his word, and literally had to be stunned after they realized that one of college football’s very best and premier linebackers of the past few years, was actually still available. Baun’s biggest impact at Wisconsin was his capability to rush the passer, and as a fifth-year senior with the Badgers program in 2019 recorded 12½ sacks and 19½ tackles for loss; while earning consensus 1st-team All American honors. Baun played in a total of 25 games as a starter for the Badgers and had 78 tackles, as well as one interception, 3 PBU’s (pass break-ups), one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Just prior to his phenomenal 2019 season, Baun only had just 2½ career sacks; and some analysts had concerns that he may have been injury-prone due to a recurring foot issue, but he put those concerns to rest with last year’s outstanding performance. Baun redshirted as a true freshman right before the 2015 season after breaking his left foot; and then ended up re-injuring the very same left foot nearly a year-and-a-half later (during spring practices) just prior to the 2017 season; and eventually missed all of that year as well.

Baun’s speed and versatility to play all of the linebacker positions in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 defensive scheme (which the Saints have employed for the past several years under defensive coordinator Dennis Allen) certainly were appealing to New Orleans, and Saints head coach Sean Payton noted that Baun will play at both the “Mike” / middle and “Sam” / strongside LB spots with the Black and Gold as a rookie and going forward into the future.

Presumably, the Saints are envisioning Baun as the eventual heir apparent to All-Pro linebacker Demario Davis, who will be age 31 soon and whose current contract expires after the upcoming 2020 NFL Season. Most analysts have praised Baun for his off-the-chart “football IQ”, and his extensive knowledge of playing the LB position from a variety of different alignments. He’s a solid defender against the run, is sound in pass coverage against offensive backs and tight ends, and quite obviously excels as a pass-rusher coming off the outside edge.

Just the same as with the pick of Cesar Ruiz, the Saints are expected to give extensive playing time to Baun as a rookie; and their eventual goal seemingly is to have the 23-year old (he turns age 24 in December) eventually become the unquestioned leader of the linebacker corps, for what they hope at least will be for the majority of this new decade and possibly beyond.




New Orleans was able to trade up once again in Round 3, but this time around in order to move up to the #105 pick overall they were forced to surrendered ALL of their remaining picks  (Nos. 130, 169, 203, and 244 overall) to their conference rivals the Minnesota Vikings; in order to take one of the 2020 Draft Class’ top-rated TE’s in outstanding University of Dayton star Adam Trautman.

The 22-year old Trautman is a former high school quarterback and basketball star who has drawn comparisons to current San Francisco 49ers All-Pro TE George Kittle, who ironically Trautman has said that he models his playing style after. Some analysts had even considered him to be THE #1 rated tight end in the entire 2020 Draft Class. The 6-foot-6, 255-pound Trautman hauled in a total of 31 touchdown catches in his 4-year college career; but “blossomed” into a full-fledged superstar as a senior in 2019 when he caught 70 passes for 916 yards and a whopping 14 touchdown receptions.

Additionally, he was the first player from the University of Dayton drafted into the NFL since 1977 (43 years ago) and also was the first-ever TE to earn recognition as the Pioneer Football League (in the “small school” / FCS subdivision level) Offensive Player of the Year honors. He was named to the FCS All-America team after the conclusion of last season.

Trautman’s draft stock rose even further after he caught the eye of pro scouts at the Senior Bowl in late January with several stand-out performances in the week of practices leading up to the game. Trautman’s most impressive trait is his ability to beat double and even triple-team coverages against opposing linebackers and defensive backs, as well as a penchant for making difficult catches look easy; including a notable and jaw-dropping knack for making one-handed catches.

The Saints also found him to be a very appealing prospect because of his top-caliber blocking ability as an “in-line” tight end, a desirable  trait that he similarly shares in common with veteran back-up tight end Josh Hill. Essentially, Trautman is the proverbial “total package” and gives New Orleans everything they could ever possibly dream of at the tight position.

Whether or not he ultimately does measure up to the level of excellence that the 49ers have enjoyed with Kittle is yet to be determined; but this much you can be certain of: in due time, Trautman might end up being the biggest “steal” of this year’s Draft class, which for a player of small-school pedigree, is no small feat. The Saints knew exactly what they were getting when they made this selection, and eventually giving up as much as they had to Minnesota in order to get him, will be the best investment (other than signing Drew Brees 14 years ago) that the current regime has ever made.




The Saints traded their 6th Round pick in next year’s 2021 NFL Draft to the Houston Texans, to draft the young man who presumably will have an opportunity (albeit a “long shot”) to become the team’s #3 QB in Mississippi State QB Tommy Stevens. Stevens transferred to the Bulldogs program after spending the first 3 years of his college career at Penn State, and ironically has drawn many comparisons to current Saints #2  QB Taysom Hill because of his dynamic athleticism.

At Penn State, the 6-foot-4, 250 pound Stevens completed 24-of-41 passes (58.5%) for 304 yards and 4 TD’s with 1 interception, while also rushing the football for an additional 506 yards and 8 touchdowns on 76 carries. Along with those numbers, Stevens also saw time in the Nittany Lions offense line-up in the slot as a “hybrid” wide receiver / tight end, and caught 15 passes for 62 yards and 2 TD’s.

After transferring and eventually becoming the starting quarterback at Mississippi State, Stevens completed 60.2% of his passes for 1,155 yards and 5 interceptions last season in 2019; and had 381 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 83 carries, in spite of dealing with several injuries last season. In order to make himself more attractive to NFL teams as a draft prospect, Stevens allowed his agent to put together a video of him running WR routes, after a handful of teams (including the Saints reportedly) had inquired about the possibility of him playing at the receiver position.

He actually had run routes at Penn State when he was a back-up QB initially, and former Saints assistant Joe Brady (who helped lead LSU to the National Championship last season and is now the offensive coordinator for division rival Carolina) was one of the coaches that the Saints spoke to before deciding to trade back into the 7th Round to get him. In high school at Decatur Central in Indianapolis, Indiana, Stevens started out on the defensive side of the ball as a safety, until the school’a head coach decided to move him over to the offense to be the team’s starting quarterback as a sophomore.

Essentially, the Saints have themselves a virtual “carbon copy” of Taysom Hill, with almost eerily similar athleticism and foot speed (he runs  a 4.49-second 40-yard dash). With the Saints now having signed veteran QB Jameis Winston to be the presumed #2 back-up behind Brees for at least this season, and then subsequently having just re-signed Taysom to a brand new 2-year deal; chances are better-than-average that Stevens might not make the final roster as the #3 QB — although it appears he should have a solid opportunity to eventually end up on the Practice Squad — with a chance to make an impact at some point down the line.




Marquez Callaway, Wide Receiver, University of Tennessee

Calvin Throckmorton, Offensive Guard, University of Oregon

Joe Bachie, Linebacker, Michigan State University

Darrin Paulo, Offensive Tackle, University of Utah

Juwan Johnson, Wide Receiver, University of Oregon

Tony Jones, Jr., Running Back, Notre Dame

Jordan Steckler, Offensive Tackle / Guard, Northern Illinois University

Malcom Roach, Defensive Tackle, University of Texas

Keith Washington, Defensive Back, West Virginia University

Gus Cumberlander, Defensive End, University of Oregon

Adrian Magee, Offensive Guard, LSU

Tino Ellis, Defensive Back. University of Maryland

Blake Gillikin, Punter, Penn State University

A “quick take” on the a few of the Undrafted Free Agent signings: this year’s undrafted rookie class at first glance doesn’t really jump out at you as it has in previous off-seasons, although there still (as it usually happens every year with previous famously-undrafted Saints players such as RB Pierre Thomas and current wide receiver / kick returner Deonte Harris) are a few players that have the potential to become “gems”.

The Saints notably didn’t draft a wide receiver as it was believed that they would, but with the signing of outstanding veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders in Free Agency last month, there wasn’t a sense of urgency by team management that it was something that they were forced or absolutely had to do. And given the wide variety of “weapons” at Brees’ disposal, there didn’t really need to be.

That said, the signing of undrafted rookie wide receiver Marquez Callaway from the University of Tennessee could be an interesting one, considering that the former Volunteers star was 4th overall in the SEC last year in deep receiving yards (targets of 20 or more yards downfield) with (365).

Another intriguing prospect is Michigan State linebacker Joe Bachie; who as Pro Football Focus notes was a defender who had two consecutive college seasons with “elite-caliber” run defense grades (90.7 in 2017, 93.1 in 2018).

Additionally, they also note that the 6-foot-2, 235 pound thumper is only one of just two players in the entire 2020 NFL Draft class (and the only LB) to earn that distinction. If he can catch the attention of the defensive coaching staff and new first-year LB position coach Michael Hodges, he has a legitimate shot at making the roster.

However, if there’s any one player from this particular Saints undrafted rookie class this year that you’d say has THE best chance to make the the team’s permanent roster, it would have to be versatile O-Lineman Calvin Throckmorton, one of 3 players that were signed by New Orleans from the University of Oregon Ducks program in the Pac-12 Conference.

Throckmorton can play all 5 positions (left or right tackle, center, and left or right guard) on the O-Line, but made the majority of his starts at right tackle (2,706 out of a career 3,650 career snaps) and only allowed just one sack in his final 45 games. To further the point of his versatility (which the Saints value highly), the team gave him a fully-guaranteed base salary of $123,500 and a $12,500 signing bonus, according to Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football

One important thing to keep in mind regarding all of these undrafted players is that with the Saints and the rest of the NFL cancelling their typical off-season work-outs and OTA’s due to the on-going COVID-19 health crisis/ caronavirus pandemic, it will be very difficult this year for most teams to fully evaluate each player as they normally would. Which means that many of these players will be facing a much tougher road in trying to make a team’s final roster, this season more so than in any of the previous ones.


Photo Credit: University of Michigan Wolverines Football on

In the entire 53-year history of the New Orleans Saints franchise, there arguably have only been a total of 4 draft classes that you legitimately could say deserved the highest possible rating or an “A” grade.

Those classes in order by year were: 1981 (that season’s Rookie of the Year RB George Rogers, future NFL Hall of Fame LB Rickey Jackson, long-time team veteran DE’s Frank Warren and Jim Wilks , TE Hoby Brenner, and FB Hokie Gajun); 1986 (future Pro Bowl selections RB’s Dalton Hilliard and Reuben Mayes, LB Pat Swilling); 2006 (RB Reggie Bush, FS Roman Harper, LG Jahri Evans, RT Zach Strief, and WR Marques Colston); and 2017 (All-Pros and current starters CB Marshon Lattimore, RT Ryan Ramczyk, and RB Alvin Kamara),

And despite only having selected a grand total of 4 picks in this past weekend’s Draft because of the compensation they had to give away to make those few trades that they eventually did, it’s hard not to think that this 2020 Saints Draft Class doesn’t merit similar recognition.

Barring any serious or career-threatening injuries, there’s no reason to think that Ruiz, Baun, and Trautman wouldn’t all eventually become key pieces for the franchise’s future for nearly all of this entire new decade, and possibly well into the next one.

And while Stevens at this early point in time seems likely to be more of a developmental player whose role with the team could change over the course of time — which is assuming that he’s able to stick around — it’s his pure athleticism and skill-set alone that may be enough to secure himself a permanent spot on the roster.

A sizable portion of Saints fans were upset or unhappy with this draft mainly because they were only a few picks made and that they weren’t any “big-time” names selected, specifically at the wide receiver position. But once again, it needs to be stressed that Saints team brass places a priority upon quality over quantity; and that’s exactly what they were able to do this past Thursday and Friday Night.

The Saints were hoping to land some players that not only can help Drew Brees win a Super Bowl before he retires, but yet at the very same time “set the team up” for success in the future after he’s long gone. Just based on the facts alone, that appears (at least for now anyway) to be exactly what they were able to accomplish, when it all was said and done…..


Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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