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2018 Saints Rookies

Saints 7th Round Draft Pick O-Lineman Will Clapp Looks to Continue the Team’s “Late Round Steal” Tradition

Danny Abramowicz. Hokie Gajun. Jim Wilks. Eric Martin. Toi Cook. Marques Colston. Zach Strief. Carl Nicks. If you're a fan of the New Orleans Saints and older than the age of 35, then chances are that you've heard of all of those names (and maybe have seen most of them play) and are aware of what they represent: the classic term "late round steal" in the yearly NFL Draft.

And with the selection of former LSU center / guard and Metairie native (located in suburban New Orleans in neighboring Jefferson Parish) Will Clapp in the 7th Round of the recently-completed 2018 NFL Draft, the Saints may have another name to add to that very notable list.

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.

Photo courtesy of The New Orleans Times-Picayune

He was named 1st-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 1st team in 2017.

In his time as a Tiger: Clapp allowed only 1 single sack in 3 years in the SEC arguably college football's toughest conference  and blocked for two of the best RB's in the nation (Leonard Fournette, now with the Jacksonville Jaguars; and Derrius Guice, who was selected by the Washington Redskins).

For the Saints, getting a player of Clapp's caliber and notable versatility is considered a "steal" in the eyes of many observers, who feel that the selection of Clapp will likely continue the Saints' recent success of developing late round O-Linemen such as Strief and Nicks, into capable (and even All-Pro caliber) NFL players.

As noted by WWL New Orleans 870 AM Radio NFL Draft Analyst Mike Detillier after the pick of Clapp was made:

"Clapp is a gritty, smart, technically sound offensive lineman," Detillier said. "Big body interior player who will start early in his career at either center or guard."

Photo courtesy of The New Orleans Times-Picayune

The selection of Clapp is expected to provide the Saints an opportunity to groom him as the eventual "heir apparent" at the Center position, to current starter Max Unger, who enters his 10th NFL season this year.

However, Clapp won't be simply handed the role on a proverbial "silver platter", and with the club still thought to be very high on last year's undrafted signee Cameron Tom of Southern Mississippi, Clapp will have to compete hard to nail down that spot in the next few seasons ahead.

But what he could provide immediately is a player who possibly could see some early snaps as a back-up at either of the guard positions behind current starters Andrus Peat and Larry Warford; although recently re-signed veteran free agent Jermon Bushrod is expected to fill that role to begin the 2018 regular season.

“He has played a lot of games at a high level competition", Saints head coach Sean Payton said to reporters following the Draft's conclusion.

"We know he can give us center snaps. We're very familiar of course with the program. And to play as many games as he's played and SEC competition and he's been very reliable. He's got outstanding football IQ. Our vision initially would be at center.”

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

"I think center is the cleaner vision. He's played guard, but the vision we have initially is at center. If you go to the game, you're hopeful that he's got that position flexibility, but I think his length will help him at that position." 

Besides providing the team with a player whose versatility will give them quality depth at multiple positions, the best part of his selection is that it will give fans of the team who notably are HUGE fans of nearby LSU, to see "one of their own" stay at home and play for their life-long favorite professional team as well.

Perhaps the most ironic part of the selection of Clapp is that he grew up as a Saints fan himself.

As noted in a co-written article by New Orleans Advocate writer Joel A. Erickson and Baton Rouge Advocate writer Ross Dellenger, Clapp grew up going to Saints games. When he was young, his father's company had a suite at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and he remembers going to one or two games a season. As he got older, his girlfriend's family had season tickets, and he got to go to two or three games per year in high school. 

Clapp told Erickson and Dellenger that he remembers playing out in the backyard and pretending to be Drew Brees after the quarterback signed in 2006. He remembers a Christmas where a Brees jersey, a Jeremy Shockey jersey, Marques Colston's No. 12 and Reggie Bush's No. 25 all emerged from packages. 

"I had a Drew Brees jersey growing up. Going into high school, I still had them," Clapp said. "Now I’ll be lucky enough to walk into a locker room for training camp with him there."

Obviously, now Clapp won't have to travel very far, to play with the team that he loved growing up.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Joked Payton to the media after the Draft was completed about Clapp's local ties to the region and surrounding  New Orleans area: 

"So we got an LSU player and so we — or I rather — called him and I always ask everyone: 'Where you at'?".

"And he's like: 'I’m in Metairie'. And I said: 'all right!'. So he's local, and he probably can save some money on rent (laughter).”

Watching Clapp get to play in a Saints uniform after the past 8 years of having seen him play in a Brother Martin Crusaders uniform and a LSU Tigers uniform will undoubtedly be a treat for his family and friends.

But for Saints fans everywhere, they're hopeful that the selection of Clapp now gives the franchise another name that very possibly one day can be added to the list of the team's continuing tradition of "late round steals"......

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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