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New Orleans Saints land linebacker, cornerback on second day of 2021 NFL Draft

Saints add Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner, trade up to select Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo

None can say they knew, for sure, that the New Orleans Saints would draft an Ohio State player in the 2021 NFL Draft.

But none could professed to be surprised that they did, either.

The Saints continued the Columbus, Ohio-to-New Orleans pipeline Friday night, when they made linebacker Pete Werner their second-round draft pick (No. 60 overall), as they look to bolster a position that lost the two players (Kwon Alexander and Alex Anzalone) who started alongside Demario Davis last season.

And after Werner, the Saints made another expected move: The team moved up in the draft, trading its two third-round picks this year (Nos. 98 and 105 overall) to Denver in order to move up to No. 76, where it selected Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo, fulfilling a need that Coach Sean Payton noted before the draft.

Werner will join safety Malcolm Jenkins, receiver Michael Thomas, cornerback Marshon Lattimore and tight end Nick Vannett as former Buckeye standouts on the Saints' roster.

"That's a place where they like Ohio State guys," Werner said. "You talk about a lot of guys coming from Ohio State, this is a top place. This is almost a capital for guys coming out of Ohio State, so it feels great to be one of those guys. Being a Saint is everybody's dream. Playing in a great place like New Orleans is unbelievable."

The three-year starter (6 feet 3, 242 pounds) finished his Ohio State career with 185 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, four sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

"Pete Werner, he's a guy that we thought a lot of," Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis said. "Very athletic, great instincts, tough. Played Will linebacker but we see him having some versatility. Real good in pass coverage and super smart. Really high, high football makeup. There's just a lot of things to like about this player."

"Going into this draft, I never thought that the Saints were going to be an option but luckily, it happened the way it did," Werner said. "I had a great talk with (linebackers) Coach (Michael) Hodges, and they were so great.

"I never thought I was going to get drafted here but when you talk to a bunch of different guys about their experience and going through the draft, you never really know where you're going to end up. That was kind of one of those situations, but I'm very thankful."

Werner said his versatility would be a plus in the NFL.

"I think that's one of the biggest pieces that I bring to the table," he said. "You talk about a guy that can fit in the A or B gap, as well as lock down a tight end or fit well in a zone. I think that's me in particular, and I think that versatility piece helped me a ton heading into this draft.

"I played a few positions in college, so I have that versatility piece where I can play a Sam, I can be inside the box, I can be outside in space. Wherever the coaches put me, I'm going to do and excel the best I can do."

Adebo, also, figures to have an opportunity to play immediately for the Saints. New Orleans released starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins this offseason and entered the draft with three players listed as cornerbacks (though P.J. Williams can, and has, played the position for the Saints).

"In the third round, Paulson sat there – his card sat up there at a position that we can use another player," Loomis said. "Once we got to the area where we could convert the two thirds and move up, we were able to do that with Denver, which is one of the teams that we talked to in the first round about making a deal and never could do it."

Adebo (6-1, 190), who opted out of the 2020 season, was highly productive in 2018-19, when he posted eight interceptions in 22 games, with 30 pass breakups.

"I think I'm a playmaker," he said. "If you look at my career, eight interceptions in 22 games, somebody who was extremely productive on ball, and I think that's something I can bring to the league and help make takeaways."

He said his preference was playing "straight-up man."

"Don't let the guy in front of you catch the ball," he said. "But obviously, playing at Stanford, we played a lot of different coverages so I feel comfortable whether I'm playing zone 3 technique or if I'm playing true squat technique. I feel like we played a lot of different things – man-under – so I feel really well versed."

Stanford Coach David Shaw said Adebo is prepared to play immediately.

"Paulson Adebo steps into a perfect situation in New Orleans," Shaw said. "For two years, Paulson was the most productive corner in America! Now he steps into a great opportunity to get playing time from the very beginning! He is long, he is fast, and he has great ball skills… he is ready!"

When the Saints were able to create a package to move up and draft Adebo, it ended two days of the team attempting to formulate a deal.

"I would say that we were trying to move up, really, all night," Loomis said. "We spent the afternoon trying to get toward the top of the second round. We got close a couple of times and weren't able to do it, then the players that we had targeted went off pretty quickly. So we decided to let the draft come to us at that point.

"I would say this: I don't think we've worked harder at trying to move up than we did (Thursday). We had a lot of conversations with a lot of teams. At the end of the day, I understand it; we were pick 28 (in the first round), it's a long ways back.

"I think in the last 20 years, I think there's only been four or five times where a team has gone from the 20s into the top 10. So that's pretty rare to begin with. For someone to do that, they want a ransom and we're about making a trade and making a fair trade, but we weren't interested in just giving up a king's ransom for that move and we weren't able to do it."


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