Heading in to the 2018 NFL Draft, New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton acknowledged four major needs for the 2018 Saints team: defensive end, offensive lineman, tight end, and linebacker.
Even after bringing back Alex Okafor, the Saints have Okafor, George Johnson and Hau’oli Kikaha to mix and match at Defensive End opposite Cam Jordan. Trey Hendrickson and Al-Quadin Muahammed, both 2017 NFL Draft selections, would also shuffle into the mix.
But other the Cam, the Saints’ plan at Defensive End looked to focus on quantity rather than quality. Okafor is far from a lock to return to form after suffering an Achilles tear, and the rest of the lot is uninspiring.
So the Saints made the jump to select Marcus Davenport in the middle of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and hopefully, this position is now locked down for the foreseeable future.
The Saints lost Zach Strief to retirement and Senio Kelemente to the Houston Texans in free agency during the offseason. For the second time in two years, the Saints brought back a member of the 2009 Super Bowl season’s offensive line on a one-year deal. This time, it was Jermon Bushrod.
Still, the Saints used their third pick (127th overall) to select a raw and unproven offensive lineman, Rick Leonard out of Florida State.
Rick Leonard ranks as https://t.co/tp76mcuZOz’s 498th best prospect. Saints picked him at No. 127.— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) April 28, 2018
they screwed up https://t.co/cnNZWt3mzE— Playoff Thor (@john_siglerrr) April 28, 2018
Between Leonard and Bushrod, it’s possible the Saints have an answer to the depth question on the offensive line, but this looks like a situation similar to their pre-Davenport position on Defensive End: multiple players, but no clear starter.
Status: Possibly Filled
The Saints declined to address Tight End in the 2018 NFL Draft after bringing back the 50 year old Benjamin Watson. The Saints still have Coby Fleener, but there are questions about his health after multiple concussions throughout his career. Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui are still on the the team as well, but outside of occasional moments of usefulness, neither appears to be a longterm starter.
The Saints have signed Deon Yelder out of Western Kentucky, but little is known about the UDFA at this time.
Biggest UDFA guarantee I've heard so far: $90,000 for TE Deon Yelder with the #Saints ($15K bonus, $75K base guarantee) and CB Tarvarus McFadden with the #49ers ($20K/$70K).— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 29, 2018
Status: Still Likely Needed
This is another position the Saints failed to address in the 2018 NFL Draft, even in the later rounds. The Saints did sign Demario Davis from the New York Jets this offseason to group with Craig Robertson and the resurgent Manti Te’o. A.J. Klein should also be fully healthy and ready to retake his starting role in the middle of the Saints linebacker corps, and Alex Anzalone should be ready to show the team what they have in him.
Status: Still Needed
The Saints are also known to still be lacking help at Defensive Tackle and a developmental Quarterback.