National media doesn’t like New Orleans’ draft, but Saints laid groundwork for this season and beyond
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton did his homework before selecting DE Marcus Davenport with the 14th overall pick in the 2018 draft.
“The New Orleans Saints gave up too much!”
That seems to be the chorus coming from the national sports media following the 2018 NFL Draft. They are talking about the team trading first and fifth round picks in this year’s draft and a first rounder in next year’s draft to the Green Bay Packers to move up from No. 27 to No. 14 overall to pick up Texas-San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport.
“Too much for an underdeveloped player.”
“Too much for a player from a non-major conference.
“Too much for a player from a program that just started in 2011.”
Yahoo Sports graded the Saints draft with a D- for their “impulsive” pick.
As famed ESPN college football prognosticator Lee Corso famously says, “Not so fast, my friend!”
The Saints did give up a lot, but they didn’t throw away those picks. The Saints did their homework, and may have just picked up a player who can start immediately and anchor the defense for years to come. The Saints’ brass first got to know Davenport at the Senior Bowl and shared some of their concepts with him. In later pre-draft meetings he was knowledgeable about their previous discussions when asked.
The Saints weren’t alone in the excitement for Davenport. In the magazine’s NFL Draft issue, Sports Illustrated predicted Davenport would be the 10th overall pick. The NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said he was the second best edge rusher in the draft.
Frank Wilson, who prepped at St. Augustine High School and got his first head coaching job in 2001 at O. Perry Walker High School in New Orleans before serving as an assistant at Ole Miss, Tennessee, and LSU, has served as UTSA’s head coach since 2016. Well know to the Saints, Wilson said rushing the quarterback is what Davenport does best.
“I think his upside is out the roof,” Wilson said. “He sees himself as a constant work in progress. He has a huge desire to want to learn and get better.”
Think about the last time the Saints were on the field, losing on a last second play that no one expected to be completed, much less a game winner. The Saints D line was able to pressure Vikings QB Case Keenum, but it wasn’t enough. He completed a 61-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs, and the Vikings won 29-24 to advance to the NFC Championship.
If the Saints would have had another explosive 6-foot-5, 263-pound pass-rusher opposite Cameron Jordan, it’s more probable that Keenum would have gone down in a pile and the Saints would have advanced to play the Philadelphia Eagles.
While Davenport’s addition will hopefully pay immediate dividends, this draft wasn’t all about capitalizing this season. Third-round pick WR Tre'quan Smith was picked to fill the slot left by Willie Snead. Tackle Rick Leonard and center Will Clapp will provide depth on the O line. Clapp – who was steal in the seventh round – will have the ability to work under C Max Unger, and hopefully keep the middle of the line as solid as it has been. Safety Natrell Jamerson and CB Kamrin Moore will provide additional depth in the secondary – a need after the injury bug hit the team last year. Running Back Boston Scott will give depth in the backfield and, likely, special teams.
The Saints 2017 first round pick, defensive back Marshon Lattimore, was a known commodity coming out of Ohio State last year. Their third round pick, running back Alvin Kamara, was an afterthought at Tennessee who was in fact a diamond in the rough. They ended up defensive and offensive rookies of the year a year ago.
Head Coach Sean Payton often says, “Don’t eat the cheese,” meaning don’t buy into the trap of press clippings.
The Saints have a team that can compete and win now. While a defensive end might not have the same electrifying pizazz as a Heisman winning quarterback, Davenport will likely play this fall and could bring the Saints what they need most. For now, we’ll have to wait well into the coming 2018 season to see what type of players the team picked up as they fight for another Lombardi Trophy.
Saints 2018 Draft
The New Orleans Saints selected seven players in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Black & Gold mystified many when they traded their first and fifth round picks in this year’s draft and a first rounder in next year’s draft to the Green Bay Packers to move up from No. 27 to No. 14 overall to pick up Texas-San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport.
Player Pos. University Round Pick No.
Marcus Davenport DE Texas – San Antonio 1 14
Tre'quan Smith WR Central Florida 3 91
Rick Leonard T Florida State 4 127
Natrell Jamerson S Wisconsin 5 164
Kamrin Moore CB Boston College 6 189
Boston Scott RB La. Tech 6 201
Will Clapp C LSU 7 245