The New Orleans Saints drafted Saquan Hampton out of Rutgers late in the 2019 NFL Draft. While he’s not expected to contribute right away on defense, he could be a huge value pick as a third safety.
David Anderson of SB Nation’s page for Rutgers, On the Banks, took some quick time to answer a few questions for Saints to get to know one of their late-round 2019 draft picks.
Let’s get this out of the way first: the Saints were able to grab Hampton in the 6th round, with the 177th overall pick. Do you think this is good value, a reach, or just right? When did you anticipate Hampton would go off the board?
The 6th round was an appropriate spot for Hampton to have been selected. At that point in the draft NFL teams are looking for players with upside and during the second half of the 2018 season, Hampton was as good a safety as there was in the Big Ten.
For years every head coach, defensive coordinator, and position coach raved about Hampton’s NFL potential but we never really saw it consistently until late 2018. Watch the first half of the game against Wisconsin and you will see him all over the field. He had two interceptions and made every other pass to his vicinity difficult. His dominance was so significant, Wisconsin did not attempt a pass in the 3rd quarter.
With the release of Kurt Coleman, the Saints have open snaps at Center. Is Hampton NFL ready?
Hampton’s ready right now to be a serviceable 3rd safety having experience at both spots. If you let Saquan play zone coverage he could become a ballhawk eventually, but the reason you didn’t see it at Rutgers is because they relied on him to play a lot of slot man to man coverage.
He’s a better man to man defender against wide receivers than Duran Harmon coming out of college, but lacks experience against the massive NFL tight ends he will have to see on Sundays. He has some Jay Bellamy skills who Saints fans should be familiar with, but Hampton is bigger.
The Saints drafted another safety with the pick right before Hampton, so it might be difficult to make the starting defense. What, if anything, could Hampton provide on special teams?
All Rutgers players have to play on special teams because the team hasn’t had any significant depth since 2014 when Hampton was redshirted as a true freshman. He has enough top end speed (4.48 40) plus agility to participate on any special teams unit even though he lacks experience as a gunner on punt team. He could probably fill some other role on punt team though.
On punt return, he has the size and speed to block opposing gunners, though he hasn’t done that in a few years. He is above average on kickoff cover team, though I don’t see much of a role for him on kick return. Rutgers has always been one of the nation’s best kick blocking teams, so he should be able to contribute there, though we don’t see nearly as many NFL field goals or point afters blocked these days.
What are Hampton’s biggest strengths and weaknesses as far as you could tell?
Hampton’s best skill is his recognition of what passing concepts the opponent is trying to execute against him, though that took him a few years to learn. He has a pretty good feel for the game in that sense so he closes ground quickly and times his contact with receivers well to break up passes contrary to what some draft analysts believed. If the ball is a duck, he has the awareness and quickness to turn it into an interception.
His biggest weakness is that he was inconsistent in run support earlier in his career, not playing aggressive enough and therefore playing slower than his combine times indicate he could. The fan base was always mixed on how they felt about him as a tackler (especially from the high safety spot) because some games he seemed to make a ton of them on the perimeter while other times he was making shoestring tackles in no man’s land and it was difficult to discern who on the Rutgers defense was out of position.
He’s also not as big a hitter in the run game as he is in the pass game, but improved in that area as he played faster as a senior. Playing with a team of other professionals will benefit him significantly, especially on a good team.
What is Hampton’s ceiling on the Saints?
Hampton has no glaring weakness if he lines up closer to the line of scrimmage, so it’s unlikely he will be vulnerable to a specific play, concept, or isolation. The talent and physical traits are there for him to eventually become a starter at strong safety for the Saints, perhaps by year three in New Orleans. He’s a gamer and the type of player that could make a game winning play in a shootout even if the defense as a whole had been getting burned all day.
Thank-you so much for your time and insight, David!
Saints fans, make sure you check out David and the rest of the hard-working guys’ work over at On the Banks. You can also follow their work on Twitter @OTB_SBNation. As always, you always follow me on Twitter @dunnellz.
What do you think about the Saints 6th Round selection? Are you optimistic in Hampton’s ability to contribute on special teams? Do you think he can be anything more than that? Tell us in the comments. Send me presents.