NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Saints selected Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday night before trading up to add their third defensive player of the draft early in the third round with Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo.
The 6-foot-3, 242-pound Warner was a four-year player for the Buckeyes who was a coaches' pick for first-team All-Big Ten Conference and a Butkus Award Semifinalist last season, when he had a sack and two forced fumbles, along with 54 solo or assisted tackles in eight games.
“I’m a guy that’s a very intelligent football player, but shows the most effort on the field,” Werner asserted. “So, I’m very excited to show what I got. The Saints are bringing in a great prospect here.”
Four inside linebackers were drafted before the Saints took Werner with the 60th overall pick. Adebo was picked 76th overall following a trade with Denver that sent the Broncos both picks New Orleans had later in the third round at Nos. 98 and 105 overall.
Before the draft, coach Sean Payton had mentioned cornerback as a position the Saints “obviously” would have to address following the release of former starter Janoris Jenkins this offseason.
But the Saints were unable to trade up in the first round, and four cornerback prospects had been snapped up by the time New Orleans picked 6-foot-5, 270-pound Houston defensive end Payton Turner 28th overall.
Adebo wound up being the 11th cornerback drafted overall, but said his decision to opt out of the pandemic-altered 2020 college football season “probably had something to do with” his draft stock dropping after he had eight interceptions during his first two seasons at Stanford.
"If you look at my production — passes defended, interceptions, any stat that’s a make-up of good cornerback — you can tell that I’m going to have the opportunity to be a lock-down corner,” Adebo said.
Whether he's the answer for the Saints at that position, general manager Mickey Loomis couldn't say for sure.
“I don’t know that I would say we’re set" at cornerback, Loomis said. "This is a player that’s going to come in and compete and develop, and I think he does need some development. ... We’ll see where it lies at the end of training camp in terms of how much he gets to play.”
Werner’s selection comes after New Orleans released 2020 starting linebacker Kwon Alexander and allowed fellow regular linebacker Alex Anzalone to leave in free agency.
Werner described himself as a player versatile enough to play behind the line of scrimmage against the run, play outside in space or “lock down a tight end.”
He’s bound to be tested on that latter assertion, given the caliber of some the tight ends in the NFC South. They now include Kyle Pitts, whom Atlanta made the top tight end taken in draft early in Thursday night’s first round. Tampa Bay’s tight ends include Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard.
“The versatility piece helped me a ton going into this draft,” Werner said. “Wherever the coaches put me I’m going to do and excel.”
The 6-1, 192-pound Adebo intercepted four passes in each of his two seasons with the Cardinal. He had 27 passes defensed during his career and also forced a fumble.
“I’m a playmaker," Adebo said. “If you look at my career – eight interceptions in 22 games. Somebody who’s extremely productive on the ball and I think’s something that I can bring to the league."
Loomis said that although all three of the Saints' selections in the first two days of the draft play defense, he didn't necessarily see a theme there.
Loomis also stopped short of promising significant roles for Werner and Adebo in their rookie years.
“They’re prototype in terms of height, weight, speed and the variables you look at in terms of players playing in the NFL," the GM said. “Whether they can play or how much they play this year — look, that’ll be up to them and up to us in terms of their development.
“I wouldn’t say that when we’re drafting, we’re talking a lot about how much they might contribute in Year 1."
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