The New Orleans Saints are skilled at finding diamonds in the rough – both in free agency and in the NFL draft – and no prospect exemplifies that like rookie defensive back Alontae Taylor. The No. 49 pick has a clear duality: Taylor the person, and Taylor the player. Both check a lot of boxes that the team not only searches for in draft prospects but covets in veteran players. A cursory search on Day 2 of the 2022 NFL draft left me impressed by Taylor’s traits on and off the field. He fits New Orleans’ athletic prototype at 6-foot-1 and 199 pounds – with 32 1/4-inch arms – Taylor certainly has the physical makeup you’d covet in a defensive back.
Yet, the initial reaction focused on, frankly, irrelevant factors in evaluating the prospect. Mainly, team-based need and previously-traded draft capital. After losing their No. 101 pick in the pre-draft trade with the Philadelphia Eagles (along with a slew of future picks), the team sent Washington Nos. 16, 98, and 120 picks to trade up for Chris Olave. This left New Orleans with no picks after Taylor’s selection until Round 5; a consequent skewed importance was placed on the Tennessee player. If you take a step back, assess the team’s draft history in the secondary, and look past initial grades, it’s all but a quintessential Saints pick. I was intrigued by the potential and already-tested versatility of Taylor, so I spoke with someone who has worked closely with him since the seventh grade: former Florida Gators wide receiver and Taylor’s trainer, Lorenzo “Zo” Spikes.