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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Watson's accusers appeared on Real Sports on Tuesday night. Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images.

HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’s heavily promoted and much anticipated examination of Deshaun Watson’s legal mess involving alleged sexual misconduct shed little new light and merely presented a summary of well worn he said/she (x22) said accusations and denials.

The episode debuted Tuesday night on the premium cable service and will be repeated dozens of times throughout the week on HBO’s platforms. Check your local listings for times and channel.

The segment was hosted by Soledad O’Brien who presented compelling face-to-face interviews with two of the quarterback’s accusers: massage therapists Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes. Their stories were detailed and graphic. Both cried during the interviews.

Solis: “As I’m working, he deliberately grabs himself and put his penis on my hand. I pulled my hand away instantly and I started crying. I told that I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Solis said she felt threatened when Watson, before leaving the session, allegedly told her: “I know you have a career to protect, and I know that you don’t want anyone messing with it, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”

Solis added, “That’s when I got really scared because that sounded like a threat to me.”

Hayes: “He wanted me to kind of make a V motion in his pelvic area. I just kept massaging and did what he asked, until his penis kept touching me repeatedly as I did it.”

Hayes said that Watson had an orgasm, which she said was “mortifying, embarrassing and disgusting.”

O’Brien asked Hayes why she continued to have contact via email with Watson after their encounter.

Hayes: "I wasn't sure what he was capable of. He could've physically assaulted me. He could've bashed my business, so I had to protect myself and my business the best way I saw fit. Did I ever see him again after that? No. Did I give him the runaround? Yes."

O’Brien pointed out that two separate grand juries in Texas heard criminal accusations against Watson and neither found enough evidence to indict him.

Solis and Hayes, and 20 other massage therapists have filed civil suits against Watson. The cases aren’t expected to reach a courtroom until next March. Both sides could reach a settlement before then which would effectively shut down any legal action against Watson. However, both sides say they aren’t interested in any pretrial settlements. That’s what they say now, anyway.

After being banished to the sidelines for the 2021 season by the Houston Texans, Watson signed a historic, 5-year fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Hayes said she feels Watson “is being rewarded for bad behavior." Solis said, "It's just like a big screw you. That's what it feels like. That we (the Browns) don't care. He can run and throw, and that's what we care about.”

Watson currently is participating in preseason workouts with the Browns and, at the moment, is cleared to play the upcoming NFL season.

That is unless the NFL suspends Watson for some, most or all of the 2022 season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league is nearing completion of its independent investigation into Watson’s case and will reach a decision “shortly,” probably this summer. The NFL and NFL Players Association mutually agreed to have former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson decide whether or not Watson violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy and what discipline should be handed down if he did.

The Browns are scheduled to play the Texans on Dec. 4 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

O’Brien said, while producing the Real Sports piece, she tried to interview Watson, his attorneys and the Cleveland Browns for their side of the story. All declined.

During a press conference in March to announce his joining the Browns, Watson denied any inappropriate behavior with the massage therapists.

Watson: “I never assaulted any woman. I’ve never disrespected any woman. I was raised to be genuine and respect everyone around me. I’ve never done the thing that these people are alleging. My mom and my aunties didn’t raise me that way.”

Leah Graham, a member of Watson’s legal team, sat for an interview after O’Brien’s segment was complete.

Graham: "It's 22 women. It's one lawyer. There's only one lawyer who was willing to take these cases. And as we know from Ashley Solis’ deposition, Mr. (Houston attorney Tony) Buzbee was not the first, probably not the second or third lawyer she went to, but he was the only one to take her case. Why? Not because it had merit, but because he would use these cases to increase his social media following and quite frankly to get on shows like this one.”

My reaction after watching the Real Sports segment? We weren’t in the room when the massage therapists worked on Watson. We weren’t in the grand jury room when evidence against Watson was presented. We don’t know what happened. We don’t know what will happen if these cases go to trial.

Until then all we have is one big, lurid, embarrassing mess. In American courtrooms, defendants are presumed innocent. That’s often the opposite in the court of public opinion. We’ll just have to wait while the wheels of justice grind painfully slow.

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