Brian Allee-Walsh

The Saints better hope their first NFL Draft pick is the missing piece for a Super Bowl run

Some will question the hefty price the New Orleans Saints paid to move up in the first round of the 83rd annual NFL draft Thursday night to acquire UT-San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport.

The Green Bay Packers were the beneficiary of the Saints' generosity, pocketing first- and fifth-round picks this year and a No. 1 in 2019.

Pricey, indeed.

"(The) compensation was fair,'' Saints coach Sean Payton concluded. "Periodically, you see correct (trade) compensation that gets bumped out of whack. But this was one that was easy (to make). Hopefully, it's a late (first) round pick next year.''

In other words, if the Black and Gold win Super Bowl LIII — which is what ultimately motivated Saints GM Mickey Loomis and Payton to leapfrog 13 spots to No. 14 in the first round to snag Davenport — then next year's compensation to the Packers would be well worth it.

Folks, the Saints are thinking big. It's all or nothing next season. Close won't count. Oh, it might placate some in Who Dat Nation, and life will go on if they don't win a second Lombardi Trophy in '18.

But the future is now.

Right now!

The clock is winding down on Drew Brees' Hall-of-Fame career, albeit slowly. But 8 1/2 months shy of 40 is still "old'' by NFL standards. The time to strike was yesterday, and Loomis and Payton believe wholeheartedly that acquiring an edge rusher like Davenport to complement defensive end Cameron Jordan ultimately will get them to football's promised land.

Next season, or the season after.

Who am I to poke holes in the Saints thought process anyway?

Last year's prolific draft, which produced the likes of Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams, Alvin Kamara and Alex Anzalone, earned Loomis, Payton and assistant GM/college scouting director Jeff Ireland at least one year of lagniappe, maybe two.

Sure, Davenport is raw and will undergo growing pains. What rookie doesn't? But he has all the physical and mental qualities that NFL teams seek in their top prospects — size, speed, football IQ, work ethic, etc. No, he's not a technically proficient pass rusher yet but he has the potential to become a difference-maker sooner than later.

Even if Davenport can't justify his selection this season, or next, the Saints' current roster still appears to be good enough and deep enough to defend their NFC South title, capture the NFC championship and win the whole enchilada in the Atlanta Falcons home stadium.

Call Thursday night's bold move by Saints officials to get Davenport whatever you want — risky, frivolous, brilliant, regrettable, gutsy.

I call it a leap of faith.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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