METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Saints went all in to try to snag a potential difference maker near the top of the draft.
As for their other six picks, time will tell.
In the days leading up to the draft, Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis were convinced the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Davenport was worth trading up to take in the middle of the first round. So they did that and had to give up next year’s first-rounder as part of the deal.
“This is the philosophy regardless of position: If there’s somebody we really covet and we have an opportunity to move up, then we’re just going to analyze the cost and the risk. And if we like it, we’re going to make a move,” Loomis said.
With their other picks on Friday night and Saturday, the Saints selected Central Florida receiver Tre’Quan Smith in the third round; Florida State offensive tackle Rick Leonard in the fourth round; Wisconsin safety Natrell Jamerson in the fifth; Boston College cornerback Kamrin Moore and Louisiana Tech running back Boston Scott in the sixth; and LSU interior offensive lineman Will Clapp in the seventh round.
The cost of drafting Davenport 14th overall arguably was a little high. In addition to next year’s first-round pick, the Saints gave Green Bay the 27th and 147th overall picks this year.
Payton and Loomis saw that as fair. After all, the Saints enter 2018 looking like a contender. They hope playing Davenport opposite All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan increases chances of winning enough to push their traded-away 2019 top pick toward the end of the first round.
“He clearly, for us, was a guy that we felt strongly enough about,” Payton said.
The Saints ranked 17th defensively last season — considerably better than the previous three seasons, but with room to improve. New Orleans’ offense, by comparison, ranked second in 2017.
Payton and Loomis say elite pass rushers can be tough to find in free agency and often have to be obtained in the draft.
“Pressure traits are hard to come by,” Loomis said. “When you have them, you protect them and you generally don’t let them out of the building.”
That’s what the Saints have done with Jordan. They’re hoping Davenport becomes a similar type of player.