Saints finish draft early with flurry of trades and picks
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Saints traded up twice in the third round of the NFL draft on Friday night, moving up 14 spots to and take Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun 74th overall, and then trading back into the third round again to select Dayton tight end Adam Trautman 105th.
“If we have a vision and an affinity for someone we’ll put a target on them and then we’ll go get them,” Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said. “So, that fits in with the philosophy that we’ve had.”
The Saints traded with Cleveland in order to select the 6-foot-2, 238-pound Baun. He was the second overall draft choice by New Orleans, which took Michigan center Cesar Ruiz in the first round on Thursday and did not have a second-round choice.
The Saints also got a seventh-round pick from the Browns in exchange for New Orleans’ 88th overall pick in this year’s third round and a third-rounder next year.
New Orleans then used its seventh rounder (244th overall) from Cleveland, along with its own fourth- (130), fifth- (169) and sixth-round (203) picks in a trade with Minnesota in order to draft the 6-5, 255-pound Trautman.
The deal left New Orleans with no slated picks on the final day of the draft, barring yet anther trade for either current players or future years’ draft picks. The draft concludes Saturday with Rounds 4-7.
“It’s difficult to make our roster, so I think for us it’s more about quality over quantity,” Loomis said. “Sometimes there’s a little bit of a downer when you only add three players. I don’t look at it that way.”
Baun was a dual-threat quarterback in high school who converted to linebacker at Wisconsin and rounded into dominant form as a senior in 2019, when he had 19 1/2 tackles for losses, 12 1/2 sacks, intercepted a pass and caused two fumbles. He also was named second-team AP All-America and first-team All-Big Ten last season.
“We lost a lot of production after the 2018 season and I just knew that someone had to step up as a leader and in production on the field,” Baun recalled of his mindset entering his final season at Wisconsin. “I went up to my position coach and I said, ’Hey coach, I’m trying to be the best player I can be and I know I have the athletic ability and gifts to be one of the top players in this league and I’m going to do whatever it takes, whether that’s getting stronger in the weight room, extra film study, NFL study. …’
“I did that all throughout the season and it really paid off,” Baun said.
While Baun’s 2017 season was wiped out by a foot injury, he was viewed by some analysts as a prospect who could have been drafted earlier than the middle of the third round.
“I really don’t have any idea and as a matter of fact I don’t really care what the reason was,” he said. “But I’m just so happy I’ve gotten picked and fulfilling a lifelong dream.”
Trautman never played any position but quarterback before he arrived at Dayton. He also played basketball, however, a sport — particularly as it pertains to rebounding and agility — that requires skills known to translate well to the tight end position in football.
Last season, Trautman was named AP FCS All-America as a senior this past season, when he caught 70 passes for 916 yards and 14 touchdowns. Loomis said the Saints had ranked Trautman among their top 40 overall prospects.
“I feel like I’m polished in several areas as it is, but I definitely have a very high ceiling and have a lot of room to grow and a lot of potential,” Trautman said. “It was kind of like a mindset switch I had to have when I switched positions my freshman year.
“I definitely pride myself on I took huge leaps and bounds over the last three years,” Trautman said.
The Saints have most core players back from the past three seasons, all of which included NFC South Division crowns — and 13-3 records each of the past two regular seasons.
With no glaring holes on the roster, the Saints had the flexibility to choose the player they liked best, regardless of position.
However, it appeared that a playmaking linebacker or receiver could help New Orleans most in the short term.
While linebacker Demario Davis has emerged as a defensive leader in New Orleans, the Saints lost fellow linebacker A.J. Klein in free agency, while two of their other top linebackers — Alex Anzalone and Kiko Alonso — both are recovering from injuries.
The Saints ranked 11th defensively last season, allowing 333.1 yards per game. They ranked fourth in the NFL against the run, yielding an average of 91.3 yards on the ground. New Orleans gave up 241.8 yards passing per game, which ranked 20th.
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