On Tuesday, Oct. 2, the Saints cut recent fourth round pick Rick Leonard. After 2017, why was the 2018 NFL Draft such a throwaway for New Orleans?The 2017 NFL Draft for the New Orleans Saints was epic. One of the best if not the best in team history and one of the better drafts the NFL has seen in some time. But the 2018 NFL Draft, sketchy looking to being with, has turned into a big nothing burger. It’s a curious affair and was highlighted by the team’s release on Tuesday, Oct. 2, of fourth round pick, Florida State tackle, Rick Leonard.To be clear, the Saints weren’t going to follow up 2017 with anything comparable in 2018. There was no second round pick. That went for Alvin Kamara last year. And the big payoff is in the first and second round.The fact that the Saints scored on Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams and Alvin Kamara in 2017 is rare. But the 2018 draft for the Saints stands out in the seeming throwaway manner in which they made their picks. It was as if a new scouting department and coaching staff had taken over.I’m not going to quibble with the selection of Marcus Davenport or how the team got there. I still like it and think Davenport will be a monster well before the end of this season. But the handling of the rest has just been odd.With no second rounder, wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith was taken in the third round. Love the pick and the player. He was penciled in early on as Ted Ginn Jr.’s replacement and, throughout training camp and preseason, looked like the next super value, amazing talent pick by Payton and Loomis.Yet here we are, four weeks in, and Smith has one catch for 18 yards. He’s getting some snaps. But either Brees has him too far down his reads to get to him or he’s simply not into the gameplan enough yet. That needs to change.Then there’s sixth rounder Boston Scott who flashed some return ability in preseason but sits on the practice squad as the Saints went through several poor performing running backs trying to find Mark Ingram’s replacement through his September suspension.Fifth and sixth round picks cornerback Kamrin Moore and safety Natrell Jamerson were both asked to switch positions and then, ultimately, released. Both are with other teams already at their original positions. That was the classic move where you see a good looking safety and think what if he was a cornerback? And you see a good looking cornerback and think, what if he was a safety? Weird.LSU guard/center Will Clapp is still on the team after being drafted in the seventh round and looks to have a lot of promise.But then there’s the seriously odd case of Florida State tackle Rick Leonard. Leonard was taken in the fourth round by the Saints. And the pick sent draft analysts scrambling. You’d be hard pressed to find any publication putting Leonard in the seventh round. Much less the fourth. In my post-draft analysis, I gave this selection an F grade.Not only were there much better tackles available on the board, there were also players available at positions the Saints actually needed to address like tight end and linebacker. Writing a blog, you get a pretty decent share of counter-opinion via social media. And the blowback I’ve gotten about my grade on Rick Leonard was that there was a buzz about him and other teams were looking to take him around where the Saints did. For future reference, let them.The board I pay most attention to heading into a draft is at Drafttek.com. They had Rick Leonard rated their number 29 tackle and 443 best player available in the 2018 NFL Draft. Only 21 tackles were selected in the draft’s seven rounds and there are only 256 picks in those rounds. Long story short, Rick Leonard wasn’t a good pick. Would he have been a decent pick up as an undrafted rookie free agent? Well, obviously not since he’s not even on the practice squad any more.So, which year was the fluke? Was it 2017 or 2018? The jury is still out on whether or not Marcus Davenport, Tre’Quan Smith, Boston Scott and Will Clapp will develop. But in 2017, the Saints were getting immediate production from that year’s class from Week 1.With no first or third round picks in 2019, the Saints will be under extra pressure to get things right next year. The first rounder was traded for Marcus Davenport and the third rounder for Teddy Bridgewater who may never take the field as a Saint. Next: Saints who sizzled and Saints who fizzled against Giants So figuring out what led to this most recent draft class being mostly disposables is going to be key for the future of this team. Whoever upvoted Rick Leonard might need to be employed elsewhere. That was a fail.
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