THE BIG EASY

The 2018 New Orleans Saints draft recap

The Saints went all-in on Marcus Davenport. Neworleanssaints.com

Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is over, fans naturally will examine and evaluate how their favorite team did. Just as important, they’ll consider how their team’s rivals did.  As a native New Orleanian and lifelong Saints fan, I’m locked in on the Saints’ haul of next year’s rookies. However, this is my maiden voyage at putting my thoughts out there for all to see. So let’s take a look:

1st Round, #14 Overall: Marcus Davenport, DE, UT San Antonio

This was a classic high-ceiling, low-floor, and may I add bold move. The Saints have been searching for a pass rusher to play opposite Cam Jordan for the past two or three years. Swapping first-round positions with the Packers, plus throwing in a fifth-rounder this year and first-rounder next year was a hefty price to pay. That, and passing on quarterback Lamar Jackson to go all-in on a position of need makes this pick ultra risky. Here’s to hoping it pans out. If it does, the Saints could find themselves in another deep playoff run.

3rd Round, #91 Overall: Tre’Quan Smith, WR, UCF

Wide receiver definitely wasn’t a position of need. Actually, this pick crowds the receiving corps meeting room. Sure, Ted Ginn Jr. is 33 years old and free agent acquisition Cameron Meredith is coming off a season-ending injury. But why not look at a tight end instead? Smith may work out, but I don’t agree with the pick.

4th Round, #127 Overall: Rick Leonard, OT, Florida State

The good news is, the Saints probably won’t need Leonard to play right away. The bad news is, possibly they may. With multiple injuries along the offensive line last year, depth is a major worry heading into 2018. Losing Swiss Army Knife backup Senio Kelemete is going to hurt. Leonard has played the O-line only two years, which could prove troublesome if he’s thrust into duty early on.

5th Round, #164 Overall: Natrell Jamerson, S, Wisconsin

If you look at Jamerson as a safety only, it’s a head-scratcher. They signed Kurt Coleman and have incumbents Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell at safety. But if you look at Jamerson’s two seasons at corner, this pick makes more sense and potentially could be another solid pick that was underestimated.

6th Round, #189 Overall: Kamrin Moore, CB, Boston College

Moore is the kind of guy who gets drafted because he doesn’t mind sticking his nose in it when tackling. The Saints’ man defense is not one of his strengths, however. Depth at defensive back will allow him time to develop, without having to be called upon to play too soon. If he makes the 53-man roster, it’ll be because of his contributions on special teams.

6th Round, #201 Overall: Boston Scott, RB, Louisiana Tech

File this under “what in the hell are they doing?!?” The Saints had an all-time great season from their running back duo last year. The backfield already is crowded, so why add to it? Why not take a project quarterback, or a converted tight end? Heck, take a chance on a guy who fell because of character concerns! Strengthening a strength is the only explanation for this pick.

7th Round, #245 Overall: Will Clapp, C, LSU

As current starter Max Unger continues to go further on the wrong side of age 30, finding a suitable replacement is necessary. Clapp was an All-SEC performer at center and guard during his time at LSU. I believe he has a higher probability to play before fouth rounder Leonard because of his experience and versatility.

I don’t assign grades to a team’s draft because it takes a few years to evaluate picks. Overall, I think the Saints filled holes with decent players and perhaps one or two future All-Pros. Not picking up a backup quarterback - or eventual Drew Brees replacement - leads me to believe Sean Payton is all-in on Taysom Hill being that guy. This draft, and next draft’s success, will rest on the shoulders of Davenport. The team gave up a lot to get him, so he has to pay off big time. Some of their mid and late-round selections have potential to be immediate contributors, which is always a plus. Training camp can’t get here fast enough. Preseason seems like eons away. I’m eager to see what these guys look like once the pads are on!

 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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