Let’s Get Down To Business
With selection of Davenport, Saints plan is to win now
When the Saints gave up first and fifth round picks in this year’s draft and a first rounder in next year’s draft to move up from No. 27 to No. 14 overall, the prognosticators were drooling all over themselves at the idea of the New Orleans Saints drafting University of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. They assumed the Saints were looking to solidify their future with a player who, in 2016, won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell and Walter Camp awards, Associated Press Player of the Year, and was a unanimous All-American selection. Their eyes glazed over at the thought of Jackson in head coach Sean Payton’s explosive offense, and they gushed about how dangerous the black & gold would be when Drew Brees eventually handed of the ball to his heir apparent. Then NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to the podium at center stage and announced the Saints selected University of Texas – San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport.
The surprise was immediate and palpable. So was the message New Orleans sent to the rest of the league – THE SAINTS ARE COMING!
After being a play away from the NFC Championship game last season, the Saints are all in on winning now. Rather than selecting a player who likely wouldn’t see playing time as long as Brees is on the roster, the team selected a 6-foot-5, 263-pound pass-rusher who should have an immediate impact on helping this team earn its second Super Bowl championship.
Now Saints fans eyes are glazing over at the idea of Davenport coming in as a defensive line bookend to established playmaker Cameron Jordan. Plugged into a unit that has seen improved play in the secondary, his presence should immediately improve the team’s ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
Even though draft experts projected Davenport to be selected near the middle of the first round, some analysts were surprised the Saints gave up so much on a player from a small school. Yahoo Sports has gone as far as to grade the Saints with a D- for their “impulsive” pick, but scouts say he is everything a team would want in a prospect and that his potential is “off the charts,” according to NFL Network’s Mike Mayock.
Many of those same analysts thought the Saints missed opportunities to move up in last year’s draft to improve their roster, and they weren’t afraid to say it then. When the season was done, however, New Orleans had both the defensive and offensive rookies of the year in defensive back Marshon Lattimore and running back Alvin Kamara.
The Saints proved last year that they have the talent to be among the NFL’s best. Brees, even in his late 30s and approaching 40, remains one of the league’s elite QBs, Kamara and Mark Ingram are a scary rushing duo behind a solid offensive line. Under Payton, the defense has always played second fiddle to the team’s offense. Over the past few years, much attention has been given to improving the D. The secondary, long the bane of many Saints fans existence, has improved and, arguably, become one of the league’s best. Combined with the solidifying defensive backfield, the line, featuring Jordan and Davenport, has a pair of edge rushers who should put fear and a fast ticking stopwatch in opposing quarterbacks’ minds.
The remaining questions on the Saints roster are at tight end and depth at receiver on offense and at linebacker and the interior of the line on defense. All can be addressed in the remainder of the draft and free agency.
For what it’s worth, Jackson slid to the 32nd and last pick in the first round. He’ll sit behind Baltimore’s Joe Flacco for now. In the years to come he may prove to be a great pick for the Ravens. But for now he likely won’t be adding anything on Sundays.
The Saints have a team that can compete and win now. They need players not projects. 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 now as they fight for their second Super Bowl championship.