The New Orleans Saints 2018 Draft is now officially in the books, and here's my personal take on each pick with an individual grade, as well as my Final Grade for the entire class (all 7 picks) as a whole.
1st Round (#27 overall) Marcus Davenport, DE, UT-San Antonio
The Saints gave up their top pick in next year's 2019 NFL Draft as well as their 5th Round pick (#147 overall) in this Draft to move up 13 spots from #27 to #14 and swap picks with the Green Bay Packers, to select Davenport.
The 6-foot-7, 264 pound Davenport is seen as a "project" player by some analysts, while others see him as an athletic "freak of nature" with the potential to become a DOMINANT player at the next level. But until we actually see him play in the games this Fall, it's hard to accurately gauge just where he is with regard to being "ready" for competition at the professional level.
Nevertheless, the Saints got the "pressure player' that they so desperately wanted and needed for their pass rush, and if the comparisons of Davenport to Texans All-Pro DE Jadaveon Clowney are accurate, the Saints may have actually made a very shrewd and sound investment, instead of a "bad" deal as it's been seen by some critics.
3rd Round (#91 overall) Tre’Quan Smith, WR, Central Florida
The Saints went into this Draft looking to add depth at the WR position, and not only did they get depth but also may have gotten THE most underrated player at the position in the entire Draft Class with University of Central Florida WR Tre'Quan Smith.
Smith is a legit "burner" and big-time play-maker, and he looks to be the guy that will eventually replace veteran Ted Ginn, Jr. as the Saints designated "speed" / deep ball receiver. At 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, the addition of Smith also will give the team four WR's all 6-foot-2 or taller (Michael Thomas, Cam Meredith, Brandon Coleman are the others) and give teams that feature smaller DB's. potential match-up nightmares.
Smith is actually still leaning how to play the WR position and needs a lot of work in some areas such as route-running and better hand-eye coordination, but working with Saints WR coach Curtis "CJ" Johnson should help in that regard. He's already an outstanding down-field blocker and if he's able to polish up those other aspects , he could become a legitimate star in Sean Payton's offensive scheme.
4th Round (#127 overall) Rick Leonard, OT, Florida State
The Saints went into this Draft with the intent of adding depth along their offensive line, but the player that they decided to do it with was to say the least: a bit of a "head scratcher". New Orleans selected Florida State offensive tackle Rick Leonard, who was a former defensive end who converted to the O-Line in 2016.
Leonard started six games that season at right tackle and all 13 games at the same position last season, so he can play the position just fine. However, he was one ofTHE LOWESTrated O-Linemen in the entire Draft. He was projected to be an undrafted free agent by NFL.com, while he was ranked as the #498th overall and 34th best tackle by NFLDraftScout.com. For a "project' player to be taken that high, seems to be quite a reach.
Now to be fair: perhaps Saints brass knows something that we don't, and they obviously felt strongly enough about Leonard's potential, to take him at this spot in the Draft.
But they also passed on the chance to select Wisconsin TE Troy Fumagalli, Memphis inside linebacker Genard Avery and Virginia Tech DT Tim Setttle — any of whom would have likely become eventual starters in due time (although they eventually signed versatile Western Kentucky TE Deon Yelder as an undrafted free agent).
For all of the success this regime has had in the Draft the past few years, this one particular pick just seems to take a littler bit of the "bloom off of the rose".
5th Round (#164 overall) Natrell Jamerson, Safety / Cornerback, Wisconsin
The Saints followed up a "bad" pick with possibly their best pick of the class, by selecting Wisconsin safety Natrell Jamerson. The 5-foot-11, 201-pound Jamerson played multiple positions while at Wisconsin, moving from wide receiver to kick returner to cornerback, and then finally over to safety, where he stayed for the remainder of his college career.
Jamerson played his final college season at safety, starting all 14 games with 51 total tackles, 10 pass breakups and two interceptions. He also returned one interception for a touchdown. The Saints obviously love his versatility, which as we've mentioned previously is something that they place a high value on. That's likely the reason why Payton told reporters that Jamerson will begin his pro career at cornerback on the outside boundary, as a back-up for Marshon Lattimore.
Jamerson's selection should give the Saints even more solid depth for their secondary, and his ability to play in the "slot" CB position could be a godsend should the team incur any injury problems like the ones that they faced back during the 2016 season. NFL Network's Mike Mayock even went so far to say that Jamerson was the biggest steal of the entire 5th Round, just to drive home the point that New Orleans made a great pick at this spot.
6th Round (#189 overall) Kamrin Moore, CB, Boston College
New Orleans gave its rapidly improving defensive secondary another additional "chess piece" when they selected Kamrin Moore, who was a three-year starter at cornerback at Boston College; where he started 10 games as a senior before a shoulder injury ended his season. Prior to that, a fractured tibia ended his 2015 season after eight games.
The 5-foot-11, 203-pound Moore told reporters via teleconference that he had "a great interview" with the Saints at the Senior Bowl, and that the team had worked him out after the Boston College Pro Day. Moore said he played inside at the "slot" CB spot and on the outside boundary position in college, and he can also play free safety.
But besides his versatility, the Saints appear to have been more drawn to his prowess on special teams; something that he excelled during his time with B.C. Just like the Jamerson pick, Moore will give the secondary some "insurance" in case of injuries, though he will still need to actually make the final 53-man roster first, in Training Camp.
6th Round (#201 overall) Boston Scott, RB, Louisiana Tech
Saints brass before the Draft had said that adding depth at the RB position behind starters Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara was an off-season priority, and they did just that when they selected Louisiana Tech RB Boston Scott. The 5-foot-6, 203-pound Scott has drawn many comparisons to former Saints RB Darren Sproles due to their similar size and skill-set.
Scott became the Bulldogs' primary tailback during his senior season last year with 1,047 yards on 183 carries and eight touchdowns, while averaging a very impressive 5.7 yards per carry. But his biggest impact could come as a kick returner, since he also returned 29 kickoffs in the last three seasons. While it's unlikely that Scott will see any extensive action at RB other than giving Kamara or Ingram the occasional "breather", he could possibly become a key contributor in both the kick return game, as well as kick and punt coverage.
Scott's best attribute is breaking tackles (Pro Football Focus noted on Twitter that Scott broke 51 tackles on 199 total touches last season), which made him the 4th-highest rated elusive player in college football in 2017. It's that combination of power and elusiveness, that could make him another "toy" to play with for Sean Payton's offense.
7th Round (#245 overall) Will Clapp, OT, LSU
Last but not least, the Saints actually selected a player from nearby LSU when they selected offensive lineman and New Orleans native Will Clapp. Clapp played for Brother Martin High School of New Orleans, and is the first LSU player drafted by the Saints since defensive tackle Al Woods in 2010.
During his time in Baton Rouge, Clapp started 13 games at center, 12 games at left guard and 11 games at right guard. He was named first-team ALL-SEC following the 2016 season, at left guard; before moving full time to the center position last year where he played and started in all 13 games and was again named All-SEC first team.
This is actually where I personally believe that 4th Round pick Rick Leonard SHOULD have been taken, and given that Clapp has the versatility to play multiple spots just as former Saints OL Senio Kelemete did before he signed with the Texans in Free Agency, they could have made these picks in inverted order (Clapp in the 4th and Leonard in the 7th) and STILL have gotten both players. In any event, Clapp will likely continue the Saints' recent success of developing late round O-Linemen, into capable (and even All-Pro caliber) NFL players.
FINAL OVERALL GRADE FOR THE 2018 SAINTS DRAFT CLASS:
Clearly we won't know until they actually play the games, but I seriously doubt this 2018 Class will measure up to the last two classes from 2016 and 2017, that yielded a total of EIGHT STARTERS.
From this class, I can envision two new starters (Davenport and Smith), with possibly at least 5 out of the 7 players making the final roster.
Player for player, I actually like every single one of the picks; but taking a "project" O-Lineman in the 4th Round — especially when there were much higher rated players available — kinda spoils it just a bit.....