NFL Draft still entertaining despite Saints’ lack of picks
It’s the last weekend of April, which means it’s time for the NFL Draft and the first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Ordinarily, the two would cause the attention of the Big Easy to be split, but without a first round pick this year (they traded their 2019 first-round pick to the Green Bay Packers last year in order to move up and select defensive end Marcus Davenport with the 14th overall pick), excitement for the draft has been a bit subdued.
Despite not having a pick (and because NFL writers need copy to fill websites), at least one draft expert graded the Saints’ first round of the 2019 Draft a “C,” as in wait to see if Davenport’s continuing development is worthy of, essentially, two first-round draft picks.
Even without an iron in the fire, the first round was enjoyable. There were several surprises, many head-scratching moves, and even a bit of history.
The drama led off with the top overall pick. The Arizona Cardinals selected Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the first pick just a year after they traded up to select former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen with the 10th overall choice last year. Word is the team didn’t tell Rosen they were going with Murray. Worse, there is a report by Sports Illustrated’s Robert Klemko that they began trying to find a trade partner just minutes before they made the first pick last night. They didn’t even tell Rosen about their plan until after they selected Murray. While teams try to play their draft cards close to their chest, if true, this reeks of unprofessionalism. The Cardinals and the term “sustained success” aren’t often paired together, and this move shows why. Apparently the Cardinals wanted a first-round pick in exchange for Rosen. That’s understandable. But when no teams made a move for him, the Cardinals were stuck with an asset that has and is losing value. For Cardinals fans, they’ve watched their 2018 first round pick turn into a bust. They missed, badly, on a player that should be a building block for the next several years. Instead, it’s vanished, likely impacting the team’s success in the near future.
New Orleans supports its own, and no players have enjoyed that loyalty like the Manning brothers. While Peyton has retired from professional football, the city has kept an eye on Eli and offered support when it hasn’t conflicted with the hometown Saints. Although he led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl championships, the team has struggled recently, and many are questioning Eli’s ability to lead the team from the abyss. The Giants made waves by making Duke quarterback Daniel Jones the sixth overall pick and second QB taken in the draft. Giants management has already said Manning will likely be the starter, with Jones serving as backup and learning all he can. The team made three first-round picks, selecting Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence 17th overall and then traded into the bottom of the first round to take Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker at No. 30.
LSU linebacker Devin White, who won led the SEC in tackles and won the Butkus Award as the nation’s outstanding college linebacker, was picked by the Saints’ NFC South Division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While LSU fans will be happy for white, Saints fans won’t be too happy having to face two former tigers – White in Tampa and Deion Jones in Atlanta – making plays against the beloved Black & Gold.
One of the other big surprises was the lack of wide receivers and running backs taken in the first round. In fact, the University of Iowa had two tight ends taken in the first round (T.J. Hockenson by the Lions at No. 8 and Noah Fant to the Broncos at No. 20) before a back (Josh Jacobs at 24 by the Raiders) or receiver (Marquise Brown by the Ravens at No. 25) was selected! I was wowed to see Ole Miss’ Nasty Wide Outs – D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown – still available at the end of Round 1.
After not having a first-round selection for the first time since 2012, the Saints are expected to enter the fray this evening. They have one selection in Round Two, Pick 62 overall. They traded their 2019 third- and fourth-round picks to the Jets and Giants, respectively, last season to acquire quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and cornerback Eli Apple. Unless it makes deals to pick up additional picks, the team will return to action in Round 5 with Pick 168, Round 6 with picks 177 and 202, and Round 7 with picks 231 and 244.