It’s tough to argue with this one. Draft Wire’s Luke Easterling put together a re-draft of the 2020 NFL draft’s first round, and the gift of hindsight guided him to a different pick for the New Orleans Saints at No. 24. Instead of surprising everyone with the selection of Michigan center Cesar Ruiz, Easterling had the Saints choose LSU Tigers linebacker Patrick Queen. Ruiz, ironically, ended up with Queen’s real-life Baltimore Ravens.
That introduces quite a ripple effect. New Orleans was comfortable cutting three-time Pro Bowl alternate Larry Warford after picking Ruiz, who struggled in the move to right guard (Warford opted out of the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and has yet to sign with a new team), and later traded for Kwon Alexander after their in-house options at linebacker didn’t meet expectations. Now they’re hoping Ruiz finds his footing in his second year while rookie linebacker Pete Werner settles into the defense.
If they had chosen Queen last year, it’s possible he would have enjoyed similar success to what he found with Baltimore, who picked him at No. 28. Queen racked up 106 tackles as a rookie (66 solo, 9 tackles for loss), also chipping in three sacks and 10 quarterback hits on passing downs. He intercepted a pass and recovered two fumbles, too, returning one of them for a defensive touchdown. That’s playmaking ability the Saints are still searching for.
Maybe Warford would have still opted out had the Saints not released him, which would have put either James Hurst or Nick Easton in his spot. Guard would be a need now (depending on how pessimistic any given Saints fan is feeling, it still might be), but that’s an easier spot to fill than linebacker. New Orleans has invested top-100 picks in the position twice in two years, hoping for either Werner or Zack Baun to cut the mustard. One of them should be competent, but just being capable is very different from being an impact defender like Queen.
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