SATURDAY EVENING POST
NEW ORLEANS — While covering the new and improved Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana for several media outlets as well as this website, I watched the annual NFL draft with keen interest, especially the first round in primetime from Philadelphia the night of April 27.
I love the wheeling and dealing as well as seeing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell make a silly fool of himself chest bumping with the league’s newest millionaires.
By now, you know everything there is to know about the draft, the winners and losers, successes and failures, boons and busts, hits and misses. And yet there’s always room for draft dessert.
I like what the Saints have done to improve their roster, thinning and fattening the herd in free agency and bringing on new blood via the draft.
Still no marquee edge-rusher to support defensive end Cameron Jordan but they did secure Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore, whom many draft analysts ranked first at his position and among the best players overall in this year’s draft class.
I also like the additions of veteran running back Adrian Peterson, veteran right guard Larry Warford and blue-collar defensive end Alex Okafor.
If the Saints stand pat and don’t make another move, on paper, they appear to be better equipped to eclipse the .500 mark, reclaim supremacy in the NFC South and qualify the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
And while I give the Saints’ draft a solid B, I’d like to weigh in on three decisions made by GM Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Payton:
(1) Payton said he would have taken Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes III at No. 11 if he were there, instead of Lattimore. Kansas City traded up into the 10th slot to get Mahomes, likely knowing full well of the Saints’ interest. Last time I looked Mahomes plays offense — he certainly isn’t ready to play in the foreseeable future nor would he see the field as long as Ironman Drew Brees is under contract in New Orleans — and the Saints have a historically bad defense.
(2) Again, another team sabotaged the Saints plans. Poised to make a move at No. 32 and select Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster (Payton even called him moments before), the San Francisco 49ers beat the Saints to the punch by trading up with the Seattle Seahawks at No. 31. Foster had dropped from top-10 consideration to the bottom of the first round because of potentially troubling shoulder issues. Apparently, offseason surgery to repair right rotator cuff damage “didn’t take” and Foster might need additional surgery, which, in turn, would place his rookie season in jeopardy.
Instead, Payton went offense at No. 32, taking Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk, presumably as the heir apparent to replace veteran RT Zach Strief down the road.
(3) And finally, with the 67th overall pick, the Saints selected Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara after making a pricey trade with the 49ers to move into the third slot of the third round. Loomis dealt next year’s No. 2 pick and this year’s seventh-round pick to get Kamara, a versatile RB who’s seen as a poor-man’s Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles and will be used in the team’s “Joker” role as a third-down back.
Keep in mind, Kamara ran a disappointing 4.56 in the 40 at the combine, relatively slow by Bush and Sproles standards.
Payton acknowledged that he and Loomis tried to get Kamara earlier but couldn’t find a willing trade partner.
The pressure is on Kamara to justify the Saints’ selection because a second-round pick is extremely valuable in and of itself or when used as extra ammo in a trade.
I hope the soon-to-be 21-year-old is up to the challenge.
Loomis and Payton better be ready to defend this move if it doesn’t pan out.