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!
Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.
Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.
The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.
“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”
With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.
“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”
Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.
A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.
MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.
“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”
Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.
Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.
“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”
While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.
“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”