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2019 NFL Draft

Saints 2019 Draft Goal: Quality Depth a Top Priority Over Finding an “Immediate Impact” Player

If you are a Saints fan that's hoping for the team to find a player that will become a starter as a rookie later this year during this weekend's 2019 NFL Draft that officially gets underway tomorrow night in Nashville, Tennessee, you could be setting yourself up for some major disappointment.

At least that would seem to be the case in this year's draft in particular, since the Black and Gold don't have a 1st Round pick in the annual event after trading it away for last year's 1st Round pick, rookie edge pass rusher / defensive end Marcus Davenport.

The Saints only have a grand total of 6 picks in this year's Draft as a result of the variety of different trades that they made last year, and also don't have a pick in Rounds 3 or 4 either; meaning that the chance of them landing a player that can come in and make an "immediate impact" as has been the case in some previous years past, will be a lot more unlikely this upcoming season.

As it's been well documented, New Orleans only had a grand total of 3 out of their 7 picks in last season's 2018 NFL Draft, who actually ended up making the team's Final 53-man roster; the afore-mentioned Davenport, 3rd Round pick WR Tre’Quan Smith and 7th-rounder O-lineman Will Clapp.

Rick Leonard (4th Round), running back Boston Scott (7th Round) and defensive backs Kamrin Moore (6th Round) and Natrell Jamerson were all either released on the team's final cut at the end of the Pre-Season on Labor Day weekend, or a short time right after.

And as Saints Assistant General Manager and Director of College Scouting Jeff Ireland noted in a one-on-one interview with NOLA.com / The Times-Picayune beat writer Luke Johnson, the organization isn't really looking to find an "immediate impact" player, but rather to continue adding quality depth to an already deep roster that had the Saints one referee's blown no-call away from their 2nd Super Bowl appearance a few months ago.

Photo Credit: Michael C. Hebert

“Most of those kids that didn’t make our team are now playing for some other teams,” Ireland said to Johnson. "When you draft a kid, he’s got to come in and show you what he can do right away. We’re all instant evaluators at certain times."

"(Last year) we felt like we had really strong depth. I heard that many times, not from ourselves but we heard from many colleagues around the league that we had a really deep team”, Ireland added.

The good news is that the Saints don't really NEED to do all that much more with the roster that they already have in place currently; and other than making a few minor "tweaks" here and there at a few specific positions, find themselves in a situation where there's no urgency for them to act out of complete desperation.

Now granted, that doesn't necessarily mean that the organization won't get lucky; and perhaps still end up landing a player at a position such as wide receiver (like Ohio State's Parris Campbell or Iowa State's Hakeem Butler for example), who could come in and have a bigger-than-expected impact upon the 2019 Season later this year.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

However, you also probably wouldn't want to hold your breath waiting for it to happen, especially since the team has filled several other of their off-season team needs, through Free Agency, including a tight end (Jared Cook), center (Nick Easton), and on the defensive line (Malcom Brown and Mario Edwards, Jr.)

Bottom line: given the depth of their current roster, the Saints simply can take the best player available on Friday Night (when the 2nd Round gets under way), and won't be pressured to find the next NFL "superstar".

That sentiment was echoed by Ireland's boss, Saints GM Mickey Loomis, at his Pre-Draft press conference this past Monday afternoon.

“I think for the most part, yes. That is always our goal. We have a list of items we want to get accomplished in the offseason and I think for the most part we did that. We’ll go into this draft and it is a little different when you do not have that first round pick. We are picking at 62, so it's a lot tougher to predict who's going to be available to you. But I like the position we're in.”

Photo Credit: Barry Hirstius, Saints News Network / Big Easy Magazine

“I think when you have a good roster and had success, it’s harder for young players to make your team and yet there were some players we really liked a year ago. We were hoping to get them to the practice squad and then have them become contributing members to our team and somebody else claimed them. That is just the nature of the system. But it’s harder for young players to make a team when you have a good roster.”

“(But) I think our view is it's a fairly deep draft and we're pretty confident that we're (still) going to get a good player at #62."

To Loomis' point, Davenport wasn't an "immediate impact" player as some Saints fans had been hoping for or expecting; and instead of feeling pressured to play him before he was truly ready to start at the next level, the team opted instead to bring him along slowly so that he could develop naturally.

Davenport had 4.5 sacks while only playing 13 games and wasn't an every down player; instead serving in a 2-man rotation at right defensive end with former veteran defensive end Alex Okafor; who left last month in Free Agency and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Now that Okafor is gone, Davenport likely will see an increase in snaps and playing time this upcoming season, and the team is hopeful that he will continue to blossom and continue to show glimpses of the God-given natural talent and ability that led the Saints to trade away last year's 1st Round pick to the Green Bay Packers, to move up to the 13th overall spot to get him.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

But nevertheless, Davenport didn't have the "immediate impact" that some Who Dats had been hoping for; and (fair or unfair) has been labeled a "bust" already by some of those fans who simply just didn't understand the organization's draft 'philosophy'.

It's the very same philosophy that you can expect the team to utilize once again this weekend, since they realize just how close they are at getting to the Super Bowl. 

So if you're one of those fans that's expecting the team to go out and land an instant superstar this weekend, you might find yourself extremely disappointed. But if the Saints are able to truly achieve their main objective over the course of these next few days, it's very possible that come next January, your disappointment could actually end up turning into excitement....

 

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Big Easy Magazine contributing writer and Saints News Network columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer 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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