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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Let's make a deal. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The NFL trade deadline is less than a week away, and the Houston Texans have a significant decision to make regarding their franchise star, J.J. Watt. The Texans are 1-6 through the first seven games of the season, and the next few years of the franchise seem a bit bleak.

No player or staff member has encapsulated Houston's frustration quite like Watt. Excluding the Texans' victory over the Jaguars, the future Hall of Famer has looked miserable in every post-game press conference. Each week, it's the constant look of despair. And in hindsight, closing the chapter on Watt's career in Houston seems to be best for both parties.

At 31-years-old, the All-Pro defensive tackle should be spending the twilight of his career competing for Super Bowls — not playing for a team who is clearly about to hit the reset button at the conclusion of this season.

By departing from Watt, it would allow the Texans to get a jumpstart on their rebuilding project — one that has the potential to bring back quality draft picks, a young prospect, and clear close to $20 million in cap space.

If they decide not to move on from Watt, the Texans risk putting themselves in a situation where they may miss out on obtaining higher draft picks and strapped for cash heading into the 2021 free agency market. And with one year left on his contract following 2020, the Texans also risk losing leverage in a potential deal if forced into trading Watt come next season.

At this stage of his career, the Texans may not receive a haul for Watt's services but could maximize his trade value by dealing him to a championship-contending team. A move that would give Watt the best chances of adding a championship title to his luxurious resume in return.

With the future of the franchise in mind, here are three potential trade ideas that would be best if the Texans are truly considering moving on from Watt.

Watt returns home to Wisconsin and joins the Packers

Texans receive: 2021 first-round pick and LB Kamal Martin

Packer receive: J.J. Watt

The Green Bay Packers are one of a handful of teams who has a realistic chance to stamp their ticket to Super Bowl LV. Following a win over the Texans on Sunday, the Packers stand first in the NFC North with a 5-1 record and possess one of the NFL's best offensive teams.

Green Bay's offense can compete in a shootout with just about any team in the league, but their defense may be the reason why they fall short of representing the NFC in Tampa Bay come February. They have only accumulated a total of 10 quarterback hits and are currently 30th in the league in pass rush through the first six games. The Packers' lack of ability to get to the opposing team's quarterback could be an immense problem during a playoff game that could feature Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson.

So what do the Packers have to lose by acquiring their Wisconsin native?

The addition of Watt would allow the Packers to add one of the best pass rushers of all-time. Although Watt is nowhere near the player that finished second behind Aaron Rogers for league MVP honors in 2015, he has illustrated that he is still a disruptive defensive lineman five years later.

Through the first seven games, Watt has accounted for 11 pressures, six quarterback hits and three sacks — which would make him Green Bay's second most reliable pass rusher trailing only Za'Darius Smith.

For the Texans, receiving a first-round pick for Watt is self-explanatory and would be the most suitable return for the aging star. However, for a team that is building for the future, the Texans should consider obtaining a young and raw prospect to evaluate.

Kamal Martin, a fifth-round draft selection in 2020, made his NFL debut against the Texans on Sunday and left an exceptional first impression. He recorded six tackles and one tackle for loss in 29 snaps inside NRG Stadium, and could be a building block should the Texans begin to make modifications to their linebacking corps.

Seattle sends multiple draft picks for Watt

Texans receive: 2021 second-round pick and fourth-round pick

Seahawks receive: J.J. Watt

If the Packers do not take advantage of improving their pass rush with Watt — perhaps the Seattle Seahawks will. Both NFC teams mirror each other with a high-powered offense, but a feeble defense may hinder one another from advancing to the Super Bowl. In a deal for Watt to the Seahawks, the Texans would miss out on the chance to acquire a first-rounder, but obtaining multiple picks would be just as prominent.

Seattle's general manager John Schneider is no stranger to taking a significant risk, and appears willing to make any moves that will put his organization closer to their long-overdue second title with Russell Wilson. Perhaps, Watt would be that missing key.

The Seahawks are pretty solid at stopping the run but need a tremendous upgrade in their pass defense. Seattle has given up the second-most passing yards on the season (2,212), and the reason seems to be their inability to get to the quarterback. Seattle has only implemented pressure to the opposing team's quarterback on 20.1% of their dropbacks, while only recording a total of nine sacks.

The Seahawks pass defense may not become elite, but the disruption of Watt on their defensive line could be enough to limit the devastation they have experienced through the first seven weeks of the season.

Watt to the Big Easy for Brees' last dance

Texans receive: 2021 second-round pick and Marcus Davenport

Saints receive: J.J. Watt

Seven weeks into the season, the New Orleans Saints are not sitting near the top of the NFC nor their division when compared to recent years. A bevy of injuries have been attributed to their minor decline this season — mainly to their All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas.

However, the Saints have prevailed through the injury bug to march their way to a 4-2 record. If New Orleans can get healthy during the second half of the season, they will be in the running to represent the NFC in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl LV. But unlike the Packers and Seahawks, this could be the Saints last chance to recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy in what is likely Drew Brees' last dance.

The addition of Watt to the Saints would give general manager Mickey Loomis a chance to create the most disruptive defensive line in the league. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen would be able to shift the five-time Pro-Bowler to the interior — allowing the Saints to trot out a d-line of Watt, Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson.

This trade would give Watt arguably the most help he has ever had on the defensive line — which would allow New Orleans to maximize what is left of his career.

This trade would have the Texans missing out on obtaining a first-rounder, but a sound-round pick would be just as valuable for Watt. However, Houston should consider adding a young prospect in a potential swap, and Marcus Davenport would be their best return.

Drafted in 2018, Davenport is a former first-round talent who can help transition the Texans into the post-Watt era. He has showed promise of a bright future through his first two seasons, but injuries have prevented the 24-year-old prodigy of San Antonio from establishing himself as one of the league's top young talents.

This season, elbow and toe injuries have limited Davenport to just a pair of games in 2020. Although there is an immense concern regarding Davenport's health, the Texans cannot pass on adding a player who has already registered 11.5 sacks and 31 quarterback hits through his first 28 career games.

Coty M. Davis is a reporter for ESPN 97.5 Houston/SportsMap covering the Houston Texans. He is also the co-host of Locked On Texans, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network. Follow Coty on Twitter @CotyDavis_24.

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