The New Orleans Saints struggled against the pass to open the 2018 season. The team gave up a number of big plays over the top, and would finish the season ranked near the bottom of the league rankings against the pass. The Saints used their 4th round pick to draft Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, an athletic cover safety from Florida. New Orleans then surprised many with their next draft selection, and the subject of today's player profile.
Saquan Hampton, S (Rutgers)
6'1 206 6th round (#177)
Hampton was a top recruit coming out of Nottingham High School in New Jersey, choosing to stay close to home by going to Rutgers. After redshirting his first year, he played in 12 games with one start in 2015, intercepting a pass, racking up 23 tackles and breaking up two passes. Limited by a shoulder injury, he started seven games as a sophomore and had 46 tackles (3 for loss) and an interception. He again struggled with shoulder injuries in 2017, limiting him to eight games played and 34 tackles with 2 pass breakups. Hampton put together a solid campaign as a senior in 2018, finishing with 64 tackles (3 for loss), 13 passes defensed, forcing a fumble, and intercepting 3 passes. He showcased his athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, placing ninth among defensive backs with a 4.48 40 time and sixth with a 125 inch broad jump.
Saquan Hampton is an exceptional athlete on the back end. He has good range and excellent recovery speed, coupled with good size but the frame to add bulk. He has the versatility to play in the box, as a double high safety, or take on an opposing tight end in the slot. He tracks the ball well in down field coverage, and possesses good read and react skills. Hampton closes fast on plays in front of him, and can deliver physical hits to create fumbles. He's extremely aggressive close to the line of scrimmage, and takes smart angles in pursuit of the ball carrier.
Hampton has the athleticism to match up with most receivers in the slot, but is tight hipped in his change of direction and has just average coverage instincts, so a smaller quicker receiver could give him problems. He struggles as a tackler in space, and will sometimes get burned with a poor angle. He had shoulder injury issues through his college career, something that caused his drop in the draft because of his physical play, but did put together a healthy 2018 campaign.
Strong safety Vonn Bell is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the 2019 season. Free safety Marcus Williams tied for the team lead in interceptions with 2, but down from his rookie total of 4, and he wasn't the playmaker he was during an impactful first year. Chris Banjo has given the defense solid depth in the last two seasons, and is one of the Saints finest special teams players. The draft selections of Gardner-Johnson and Hampton not only solidifies depth at safety, but gives the Saints several more coverage options throughout their secondary. Saquan Hampton was a good special teams contributor during his time at Rutgers, and will be expected to do the same with New Orleans. Although capable of playing a tight end or bigger wideout in the slot, Hampton will most likely be most effective as an in the box defender and off ball coverage for the Saints defense. New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis claims that his staff had Hampton ranked within their best 70 players in the draft, making him a possible steal at the 177th pick. Hampton and Gardner-Johnson could each work out as potential starters if the team is unable to retain Bell after the season, or even if Williams doesn't play up to his rookie form.