Payton Turner had a good pre-draft process. He was climbing up draft boards rapidly, and defensive end is always a position of need in the NFL. Still, most people expected Turner to end up as a Day Two pick. Instead, he went at the end of the first round to the New Orleans Saints at 28 overall.
Payton Turner was a second team All-AAC defender in 2020, who had 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He also possesses ideal size for a defensive end, at 6-foot 6 inches and 270 lbs. Still, he didn’t jump out as a first round talent while at Houston.
The Saints must have fallen in love with him during the pre-draft process, however, because they reached up and grabbed him at 28. Turner had a great week at the Senior Bowl, impressing a lot of people. Then, he really grabbed everyone’s attention at the Houston Cougars Pro Day. It was there that Turner showed off a 4.48 40-Yard Dash, 4.25 20-yard shuttle, and 23 reps on the bench.
For the Saints, it’s a bit of an odd pick. Defensive end wasn’t a major need, and Turner would be available in the second round. They must love his ability to pressure, which is always important in a quarterback driven NFC South. After all, the only way to beat Tom Brady is by hitting him and the Panthers just picked up a potentially high-upside Sam Darnold. It also wasn’t long ago Matt Ryan won the MVP.
If Turner can come in and make an impact in the pass rush then this will be a fine pick. It just seems like they could have gotten him later in the draft.
Turner is the first Houston Cougar to be taken in the first round since Ed Oliver in 2019. Turner is the 15th Cougar overall to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft and the 13th player to ever be taken from the AAC in the first round.