When the Saints traded up from the #27 overall pick to the Packers’ #14 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, giving up a 2019 first round pick to do so, almost everyone thought they were going to select QB Lamar Jackson to be the successor to Drew Brees. To everyone’s surprise though, they selected defensive end Marcus Davenport out of UTSA. Davenport was “their guy” from the beginning, and the Saints believe that he was the missing pieces to a superbowl. But was it worth it though? Davenport is an excellent fit for the Saints, and should develop into a solid NFL player. The answer however is no, giving up a 2019 first round pick to get Davenport was not worth it.
According to ESPN’s trade machine, the Saints lost this trade to the Packers by a significant margin. Risks like this are usually only taken to draft quarterbacks. To put it in hindsight of how bad of a trade it was for the Saints, the Packers traded back up to #18 with the Seahawks, and all they had to give up was a third and sixth round pick compared to the first and fifth round pick the Saints gave up. Is four spots that much of a difference? If the Saints wanted a pass rusher, Harold Landry out of Boston College is a polished edge rusher, and was available at pick 27. Heck, there is no guarantee Davenport would’ve been picked before #27. Defensive players such as Derwin James and Tremaine Edmunds fell, which meant Davenport wasn’t one of the top defensive players available when he was taken at #14. Not many teams were in a big need to draft an edge rusher in between #14 and #27, and the teams that did decided to address bigger needs. The fact that Landry, a mid first round talent, didn’t get drafted until the beginning of the second round shows that teams were not targeting pass rushers in this year’s draft. The Saints clearly didn’t pay closer attention to how the draft was going to play out, and therefore made a desperate move to acquire the guy they wanted badly.
While many agree that Davenport’s athletic ability give him the chance to be an elite edge rusher one day, the overall consensus is that he isn’t NFL ready. If he’s not NFL ready, how can it be the missing the piece to a superbowl? There is no guarantee Davenport even wins the starting job next season, as the Saints resigned DE Alex Okafor to a two year deal. Obviously, Davenport is the team’s edge rusher of the future opposite Cameron Jordan, but he probably won’t make as big of an impact this season as the Saints are hoping for. There was some depth at edge rusher in the middle rounds with Harold Landry (2nd Round), Sam Hubbard (3rd Round), Lorenzo Carter (3rd Round), Chad Thomas (3rd Round), and Josh Sweat (4th Round). None of these guys have Davenport’s potential, but none of their teams are investing two first round picks in them either.
Don’t get me wrong, Marcus Davenport is a great scheme fit for the Saints and should develop into a terrific player. However the timing of this trade couldn’t be any worse. The Saints have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL next year, so making the playoffs isn’t a sure thing. This means their 2019 first round pick may be a lot higher and much more valuable that they expected it to be. Also, next year’s draft is stacked with defensive ends, so if the Saints were patient, they would’ve gotten just as good of an edge rusher as Davenport without investing two first round picks to fix that position. Lastly, it’s no secret that the Saints need to draft QB Drew Brees’ successor soon. Well now they can’t even look into the idea of doing that in 2019, as they don’t have a first round pick. They’re gambling that Brees can give them two more years and the QB they draft won’t need Brees’ mentoring, which isn’t a very smart gamble.
The Saints shouldn’t have traded up to select Marcus Davenport. Even if Davenport develops into a great player, it will take a while, which means he’s clearly not the missing piece to a Super Bowl. Also, this puts them in a tough position moving forward as they have to wait till 2020 to draft the successor to Brees. This is a high risk scenario, with no clear reward.