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Impact & Potential From The 2018 Saints Draft Class

There were many teams that made an impact in their present and future predicament in the 2018 NFL Draft. The New Orleans Saints are one of those teams that found help in multiple needed positions while also taking multiple big risks. The Saints needed to make a few big moves as they found themselves falling in the power rankings to teams they beat like the Los Angeles Rams, who made huge additions to the team via free agency. This 2018 NFL Draft needed to be big for the New Orleans Saints and time will tell for the answers to be discovered. Make no mistake, the Saints made multiple big picks that they think can make an impact immediately.

 

Marcus Davenport and Cameron Jordan to lead a high-velocity Saints pass rush

New Orleans was not going to get a top playmaker with the 27th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, so they traded up to the 14th pick with the Green Bay Packers. Through this trade, the Saints traded away their 27th overall pick, the 147th overall pick (5th round) that originally belonged to the Miami Dolphins, and the Saints’ 1st round selection of the 2019 NFL Draft. By trading up, the Saints were expected to draft LB Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech) or 2016 Heisman Trophy-winning QB Lamar Jackson (Louisville). Instead, the Saints surprised everyone by selecting a raw but physically gifted Defensive End in Marcus Davenport (UTSA).

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Linebacker and Quarterback were positions that were high on the Saints’ list of needs, but they also needed a pass rusher. Last season, 2017 All-Pro DE Cameron Jordan accounted for 13 total sacks in the 2017-2018 regular season. Outside of Jordan, the next highest sack leader was S Vonn Bell and DE Alex Okafor with 4.5 sacks each. Okafor is a playmaker for the Saints but too much is expected from a pass rusher when he is primarily a run stopper. Last season with the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners, Marcus Davenport accounted for 17.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. While he accounted high solo stats, his teammates were not as developed as he was giving him not as much opportunities to make the plays.

Davenport is an excellent pass rusher and a stout run stopper at the line of scrimmage much like Cameron Jordan is for New Orleans. You add in Davenport’s 6’6, 264 lbs. measurements, this makes Davenport a special player with talent and potential of impact too good of a player for New Orleans to pass up with the 14th overall pick. Davenport does have durability issues to go along with his inconsistencies at the beginning of the play. Through a strong rookie mini-camp and a training camp setting, Marcus Davenport could find himself a starter come week 1 of the 2018-2019 NFL regular season. Likely Sheldon Rankins would have to move from the End position to his natural Defensive Tackle position. This also leaves Tyeler Davison and David Onyemata to spilt reps at the other Defensive Tackle position in the Saints 4-3 defensive front.

 

Saints get their #2 Wide Receiver in UCF’s Tre’Quan Smith

The biggest immediate offensive need for the Saints is for them to get another deep threat Wide Out for QB Drew Brees. Two of the top four leaders in receiving yards last season for New Orleans were Wide Receivers. Outside of WR Michael Thomas, the Saints do not have a dominant deep threat Wide Receiver. Ted Ginn Jr. accounted for 787 yards and 4 touchdowns on 53 receptions but can create much more of an impact as a slot receiver. Another top Receiver was needed to deal with the loss of WR Willie Snead via free agency. It would only be fitting that the 2nd player selected by the Saints with the 91st overall pick in the 3rd round was the Saints’ potential #2 Wide Out in UCF’s Tre’Quan Smith.

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Photo by; Underdog Dynasty

Last season, the Saints were 5th in the league in passing yards per game (261.8). This is due to the high-power passing ability of Quarterback Drew Brees, who threw for 4,334 yards and 23 touchdowns on an NFL season record 72% completion ratio. Last season, Tre’Quan Smith accounted for 1,171 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns on 59 receptions with a Knights team that was ranked 7th in passing yards per game (339.3) and 5th in total yards per game (540). Having Smith bring his durability and explosiveness as a high-velocity Receiver will be an instant impact in the passing game. Smith not only compliments Thomas as a co-deep threat Receiver but it also opens the field for Ginn to be a more diverse target and finally for RB Alvin Kamara, who was the Saints 2nd leading Receiver last season (826 yards).

 

Saints get help and depth at multiple positions later in the Draft

On top of some high picks for the Saints, the midround to late rounds of the Draft is where teams usually build on their depth. The Saints made 5 picks in the 4th to 7th round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Of those five players, two of them were Offensive Linemen in Florida State’s OT Rick Leonard (127th overall pick in the 4th round) and LSU’s C Will Clapp (245th overall pick in the 7th round). Another two players selected in the later rounds by New Orleans were Defensive Backs in Wisconsin’s S Natrell Jamerson (164th overall pick in the 5th round) and Boston College’s CB Kamrin Moore (189th overall pick in the 6th round).

Having those players not only builds depth for those position groups but it also provides security for when those starters go down. Each one of the Saints main Defensive Backs (excluding S Vonn Bell) missed a small number of games that still made a negative impact in the Saints ability to defend against high efficient passing offenses. 2017-2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in CB Marshon Lattimore missed 3 games, CB Ken Crawley missed 3 games, and rookie S Marcus Williams missed one game. Having Jamerson and Moore come in and fill in slots left by the departed players in Kenny Vaccaro and Rafael Bush will be big for New Orleans.

The Offensive Line for the Saints last season improved significantly, much like the Defensive Backs from the previous season, but they too were not immune to the long slate of injuries. OT Terron Armstead got injured early and OT Zach Strief experienced multiple injuries. G Andrus Peat played much more consistently than the previous seasons but had some injury scares as well. Saints brought in depth and security much like they with the Defensive Backs in Rick Leonard and Will Clapp. Perhaps in the future, if the Saints could not afford to keep the former Pro-Bowl Center in Max Unger, Will Clapp could be groomed into a starting spot for New Orleans.

 

6th rounder RB Boston Scott might be able to contribute early for New Orleans

One late round prospect of the Saints that could make an immediate impact on the field is former Louisiana Tech Running Back Boston Scott. The former Bulldog was selected in the 6th round with the 201st overall pick as the Saints needed to add talent and depth to the Saints backfield. The selection of Boston Scott is also important to the Saints due to the possible unavailability of 3rd year Running Back Daniel Lasco after he suffered a bulging disc in his spine in mid-November. Last season at Louisiana Tech, Boston Scott rushed for 1,047 yards and 8 touchdowns on 138 rushing attempts. Scott is a very elusive back due to his speed, motor, and ability to rush for more yards after contact despite his small 5’6 height.

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Scott might be able to make an early with the New Orleans Saints in his rookie season since the starting Running Back in Mark Ingram is currently suspended by the NFL for 4 games from PED violations. The only Running Backs left on the main roster outside of Ingram are Alvin Kamara, Lasco, and Jonathan Williams, who is looking to sticking with a team in a second consecutive season in his 4 years in the league. If Scott makes a big impression in the Saints rookie mini-camps, team workouts, and offseason training camps, he will earn a potential role as a contributing player in the Saints run game come week 1 of the 2018-2019 NFL regular season. If Mark Ingram’s suspension by the league stands then the speedster in Boston Scott can get an early impact and chance with the Saints.

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