The 2023 draft class for the New Orleans Saints was initially graded well by many who follow the team. While unfair to accurately assess a draft until two or three years, the better teams usually get some production from a few of their first-year players
This year's rookies have made a minimal impact for the Saints through 10 games. While a few have shown potential, they may be counted on for more in the last seven games if the 5-5 Saints are to have a chance for the postseason.
The team's two fourth-round picks, QB Jake Haener and OL Nick Saldiveri, seem unlikely to see significant playing time barring utter disaster. Here's a look at the other five New Orleans draft choices, along with an undrafted rookie, and how they could affect the outcome of this season.
BRYAN BRESEE, DT
• 1st Round (#29 overall)
Bresee has been a big part of a successfully rebuilt New Orleans defensive tackle spot. Despite some recent vulnerability, this is a much-improved run defense. Nathan Shepherd, Khalen Saunders, Bresee, and holdover Malcolm Roach have been stout in the middle. The position has also combined for 3.5 sacks, 11 QB hits, and 10 tackles for loss.
Bresee himself has 1.5 sacks, four QB hits, seven pressures, and four tackles for loss. He also leads the team's defensive linemen with five passes deflected. He's been in a slump with no sacks, no QB hits, and only one pressure in his last six contests.
A terrific blend of power and agility, Bresee looks like he has a bright future. For the New Orleans defense to break out of its own slump, they'll need Bresee to be at least as disruptive as he was early in the year.
ISAIAH FOSKEY, DE
• 2nd Round (#40 overall)
Unlike Bresee, Foskey got off to a horribly slow start. He was inactive in the season opener and played 10 or less defensive snaps in four of the next seven games. He was starting to come on a little before suffering a quadriceps injury early in Week 9 that sidelined him the following game against Minnesota.
On the year, Foskey has just one pass deflection along with no sacks, pressures, or stops for loss. However, he's had a few nice plays nullified by penalty and has flashed some disruptive potential.
The Saints have only 18 sacks through 10 games, ranking near the bottom of the league. Their defensive ends have combined for just eight sacks, 25 QB hits, and 12 tackles for loss. The athletic Foskey could provide a major jolt to the entire unit with a rapid development down the stretch.
KENDRE MILLER, RB
• 3rd Round (#71 overall)
Few can deny the explosive potential that Miller has flashed early in his career. There also aren't many that can say that his penchant for injuries isn't increasingly concerning. A variety of leg injuries cost Miller valuable reps in the preseason, sidelined him for three complete games, and limited him to fewer than 10 snaps in four others.
When on the field, the TCU product has shown he's capable of big plays. Miller has picked up only 83 rushing yards and averaged just three yards per carry in limited duty. However, he's caught nine passes for 111 yards, showing impressive burst and vision in the open field.
Miller's touches will be limited with the Saints reliance on Alvin Kamara and with Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams taking short yardage duties. If Miller can stay healthy, he could add a big-play element to an offense that's struggled with consistency all season.
JORDAN HOWDEN, S
• 5th Round (#146)
Many were surprised when the Saints released veteran CB Bradley Roby prior to the start of the year. The abilities of CB Alontae Taylor in the slot and surprising development of Isaac Yiadom played a part in that move. So was the versatility of Howden, who has impressed since training camp.
Howden quickly carved out a role in a deep New Orleans secondary. He's broken up three passes, allowed just 50% completion percentage when targeted in man duties, and has shown excellent range at safety. He has been out of position on a few plays, but that was mostly because of inexperience.
It's clear that the coaches have as much confidence in Howden as they do veteran safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye. Don't be surprised if Howden makes a few big plays for his defense in crucial moments during the stretch run.
A.T. PERRY, WR
• 6th Round (#195 overall)
Perry was projected by most to be a Day 2 selection because of his impressive combination of size, speed, and elite collegiate production. After surprisingly slipping to late in Day 3, the Saints certainly have a potential steal.
Easily making the team after a strong training camp, Perry has been buried on the WR depth chart behind Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, and Rashid Shaheed. He's only appeared in the last three games, but appears to have surpassed Keith Kirkwood and is now competing with Lynn Bowden Jr. for the fourth spot.
When Thomas was injured early in Week 9 against Minnesota, Perry saw his first significant action of the season. He responded with two catches for 38 yards, including an impressive touchdown grab. Perry can possibly provide another legitimate receiving threat for Carr to test defenses even further in upcoming games.
BLAKE GRUPE, K
LOU HEDLEY, P
Hedley has been wildly inconsistent and ranks near the bottom of the league in both gross and net average. However, he's flashed some pinpoint accuracy in pinning an opponent deep inside their own territory.
Grupe missed a 46-yard game-winner at Green Bay and shanked a short attempt at Houston, but otherwise has been fairly accurate with good range. His incredible leg strength is consistently on display. He's converted nine field goals over 40 yards and put over 92% of his kickoffs out of the end zone.
New Orleans plays excruciatingly close to the vest under coach Dennis Allen, especially in crucial situations. Hedley will be counted on for a field position advantage. Grupe must show that he can be counted on in crucial moments from any range.