Sean Payton started to believe that Marcus Davenport might be the player to help get the Saints back to the Super Bowl not all that long after their 2017 season ended in bizarre, heartbreaking fashion by blowing a late lead on a miracle play by the Minnesota Vikings.
Sean Payton said this offseason that the New Orleans Saints would come into the draft looking to address three “must” positions: tight end, wide receiver, and edge rusher. With their first round pick, the team upgraded the third when they selected defensive end Marcus Davenport.
With the draft short of elite edge rushers, and such players in their prime basically never available in free agency, Marcus Davenport, from football outpost Texas San Antonio, continued a steady rise up the Saints' draft board. Davenport was considered by many the second-best edge player in the draft. The first, Bradley Chubb, was a sure-fire top-five pick and would cost far too much to move up and take. And Davenport would ultimately become their first-round pick, as the team moved up from 27th overall to pick 14 while parting with their 2019 first-round pick.
"It's something we felt that could help our team right now," Payton said of the trade that rocked the first round. "And obviously there is downside and you give up some compensation and you give up some flexibility next year. But we are worried about this year, too, and our focus is on winning this year, and that was the cost to move from where we were in the first round to getting really into a different part of that round."
In four seasons at school, Davenport recorded 185 tackles, 37.5 tackles for loss, and 21.5 sacks, emerging as among the most elite pass rushers in the nation.
“I was aware of him early on, and you’re looking closely at the position fit and looking at the prototype and size,” Payton said. “He’s someone that we felt fit a lot of the things we were looking for and he can also play defensive end, and we kind of put a premium on that position. Looking over the league’s draft history, the Saints’ move was nearly without precedent.
The last time a club sent two first round picks to move up and select a defensive player was 15 years ago, in 2003, when the New York Jets shipped two first rounders to the Chicago Bears in order to draft former Kentucky defensive tackle Dewayne Robinson at No. 4 overall. What’s more, according to ESPN Stats and Information, this move was the first time since the NFL/AFL merger that a team surrendered two first round picks in order to obtain a pick outside the top dozen.
Moreover, it was just the third time over that span that a team involved two first round picks in a trade and didn’t draft a quarterback as a result, with Atlanta’s moves for former Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones in 2011 and Buffalo’s deal for former Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins in 2014. According to Pro Football Reference, the Saints’ trade for Davenport was the 10th time a team dealt two first round picks to move up in the draft order in any capacity since 2004.