New Orleans Saints rookie running back Boston Scott (pictured) makes a reception during a practice in the offseason. Photo courtesy of New Orleans Saints/Twitter
This is part of a series -- Finding the Fits -- in which NFLDraftScout.com will review the more intriguing picks made during the 2018 NFL Draft. The goal is to identify one relatively unheralded player per team who appears to be a good schematic fit and, therefore, more likely to be a surprise contributor early in his pro career.
New Orleans Saints' best fit:
Boston Scott, RB, Louisiana Tech, selected No. 201 overall (sixth round)
No NFL team enjoyed a greater immediate impact from their rookie class a year ago than the Saints, who used breakout campaigns from a number of first-year players (including stars Marshon Lattimore and Alvin Kamara) as a springboard to the NFC South crown.
New Orleans may eventually grow to like its 2018 NFL Draft class just as much, but this year's crop was clearly designed as more of a long-term investment with several draft picks -- including No. 14 overall -- used on relatively raw prospects who may need more time than last year's group to acclimate to the NFL.
One of the few exceptions could, surprisingly, be Scott, who was not invited to the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine. At 5-foot-7, he was the shortest player drafted this year.
With Kamara and former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram already forming one of the league's best 1-2 punches at running back, it would seem there would be few opportunities for Scott or any of the other four backs currently on the Saints' roster, including veterans Terrance West and Shane Vereen.
That is partially due to the common misperception that the Saints rely on the right arm of Drew Brees to get their offense moving. In reality, New Orleans' offense jumped to another level last year because no team did a better job of keeping opponents off-balance, with the Saints being the only team in the league to finish among the top five in passing (261.8 yards per game) and rushing (129.4) in the regular season.
Perhaps most impressive is just how effective Saints head coach Sean Payton's offense was with running the ball, leading the NFL in yards per attempt (4.7) and rushing touchdowns (23) last season, while ranking 13th in attempts (444).
Kamara, a rookie Pro Bowler who generated over 1,500 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns, won't be catching anyone by surprise this year. Ingram, a pending free agent, is suspended for the first four games of the season due to a violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. That could open up a crack for Scott, whose diminutive size and pinball-like running style have earned frequent comparisons to former Saints star and longtime NFL standout Darren Sproles.
Scott did not generate a great deal of pre-draft buzz at Louisiana Tech in part because he does not come with the flashy production Kamara, and certainly Ingram (the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama), enjoyed during their college careers in the SEC. This is because Scott sat behind another legitimate NFL back in Kenneth Dixon, who is now with the Baltimore Ravens.
Scott accumulated 1,228 combined rushing and receiving yards (along with nine touchdowns) for the Bulldogs in 2018 once given an opportunity. He wowed at Louisiana Tech's Pro Day on March 22, recording a 4.40-second 40-yard dash, a 38.5-inch vertical jump and an eye-popping 21 repetitions in the bench press.
Scott's vision, burst and elusiveness stand out on tape, as does his underrated power and soft hands. Like Kamara, Scott provides undeniable juice, perhaps because he enters the NFL fresher than most backs with just 320 career touches at the college level.
Fresh, fast and surprisingly physical, Scott could provide the Saints with a quality change-of-pace option behind Kamara as a rookie, with perhaps a significant role in the first month of the season while Ingram serves his suspension.
Other thoughts on the Saints' 2018 draft class:
Of course, the rookie Saints fans are most excited about is freakish first-round edge rusher Marcus Davenport, whom general manager Mickey Loomis thought of enough to trade up 13 spots to nab, giving up next year's top pick to do so.
On paper, the selection certainly makes sense as the 6-foot-5, 263-pound Davenport could be the complementary edge rusher to star defensive end Cameron Jordan -- the only defender in New Orleans to register more than five sacks last season. Davenport offers rare burst and bend off the edge and his intangibles are just as impressive as his physical traits, with scouts raving about his work ethic throughout the draft process.
I was skeptical about what scouts could take from Davenport's dominance of Conference USA, reserving judgment until watching him in person at the Senior Bowl. There, I saw a player with undeniable upside but one who lacked the upper-body strength and refined hand technique normally associated with productive NFL edge rushers.
Davenport's ability to quickly improve in these specific areas was further compromised after he suffered a hand injury during OTAs that required surgery and may threaten his readiness for the start of training camp. Optimism is high in New Orleans after last year's resurgence but plenty of questions remain as to whether Davenport will develop quickly enough for the team to take advantage of the window closing on 39-year-old quarterback Brees.
This is the same concern I have for the Saints' other draft picks, including third-round receiver Tre'Quan Smith and fourth-round offensive tackle Rick Leonard.
Like Davenport, Smith and Leonard boast NFL-caliber frames and athleticism. However, each is quite raw and appears unlikely to contribute much at two of the stronger, deeper positions on New Orleans' roster.
Similarly, while intrigued by the instincts and physicality shown by Day Three defensive backs Natrell Jamerson and Kamrin Moore, with the former making the transition to cornerback and upgrades already made via veteran free agency, the Saints are not likely to see anything close to the immediate impact from its 2018 draft class that it did a year ago.
New Orleans' 2018 draft class:
1st Round, No. 14 overall: Marcus Davenport, DE, UT-San Antonio
3rd Round, No. 91 overall: Tre'Quan Smith, WR, Central Florida
4th Round, No. 127 overall: Rick Leonard, OT, Florida State
5th Round, No. 164 overall: Natrell Jamerson, DB, Wisconsin
6th Round, No. 189 overall: Kamrin Moore, DB, Boston College
6th Round, No. 201 overall: Boston Scott, RB, Louisiana Tech
7th Round, No. 245 overall: Will Clapp, OL, LSU
Key Undrafted Free Agents Signed:
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
Henry Mondeaux, DT, Oregon
Deon Yelder, TE, Western Kentucky