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  1. linkage Saints might have landed 'an absolute steal' in undrafted tight end Deon Yelder BY JOEL A. ERICKSON | JERICKSON@THEADVOCATE.COM MAY 19, 2018 - 3:30 PM (1) Facebook Twitter Email Buy Now Associated Press Nearly all the experts believed the New Orleans Saints would target a tight end in April's draft. For months, the mock drafts kept predicting the position to New Orleans. An obvious need existed, and the 2018 draft class was deep at tight end, full of big names like Hayden Hurst and Mike Gesicki and Dallas Goedert. New Orleans ended up passing on the position through seven rounds of the draft. Need and name never matched up with the way the board looked in the Saints' war room. The Saints waited to strike until the frenzied minutes after the draft, offering $90,000 in guaranteed money to win a whirlwind sweepstakes for Western Kentucky's Deon Yelder, whose name might not carry as much recognition as the rest of the tight ends in his class but represents an impressive talent just coming into his own. "I felt like I belonged with those guys," Yelder said. "They have more years, but talent-wise, I feel like we’re equal. We’re neck and neck. I feel like I’ve got things to work on, but who doesn’t?" Yelder has always been a little overlooked. A basketball player who decided not to play football until his junior year at Southern High in Louisville, Ky. — in part, Yelder said, because he didn't think the football program was good enough, an idea he now thinks was ridiculous — Yelder arrived at Western Kentucky as a preferred walk-on. He looked only a little like the player he'd become. Yelder started out at Western Kentucky as a wide receiver, grew into a tight end and found himself stuck behind players like Tyler Higbee and George Fant, who are both in the NFL now. When Ryan Mahaffey took over as tight ends coach under new Hilltoppers coach Mike Sanford last season, Yelder was headed into his senior season without a single catch to his name. He was one of only two tight ends on the roster. Mahaffey, who spent a couple of seasons as a fullback in the NFL, instantly saw the potential. "Right from the moment we went out to winter workouts and had the chance to see him run and move around in space, and see the way that he worked, I thought he had a great chance," Mahaffey said. "You could see he had the ability, you could see he had the movement skills, and more importantly, you saw he was committed to making himself a better player." Yelder was also walking into an offense perfectly suited for him. Sanford likes to use sets with two tight ends, and Western Kentucky had Mike White, a future fifth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys. Mahaffey saw a breakout coming. A 6-foot-4, 255-pound athlete who can run, Yelder had the tools. More importantly, he had the mentality. "I’m still very impressed by Deon’s devotion to getting better each and every single day, considering where he started and the path he took to become a starter at Western Kentucky," Mahaffey said. "But I’m not surprised by the production he had, because you could see it in practice." Yelder, unheard of by almost anybody outside of Western Kentucky's program at the start of the season, exploded for 52 catches, 688 yards and seven touchdowns, and he scored another touchdown on the ground. A little-known prospect at the start of the draft process because of his late start, Yelder played well enough at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl to earn a late invite to the Senior Bowl when some of those bigger names pulled out of the game. "I just wanted the opportunity," Yelder said. "That’s all I’ve ever asked for, is an opportunity to go forward and do what I do." On the third day of the draft, Yelder found himself caught between the disappointment of not being drafted and exhilaration at the flood of calls that came in to his agent as soon as the draft ended. Yelder started consulting Mahaffey. Tight end and coach had grown close over the course of the season, and given Mahaffey's NFL experience, Yelder wanted to know what his college coach thought about which team he should pick. Mahaffey's mind immediately went to Dan Campbell, a coach he'd admired during his days with the Miami Dolphins. "I was playing fullback at the time, I spent more of my time with the running backs, but I knew that he had a great rapport with his players," Mahaffey said. "I know that he was a great fundamental coach who built really strong relationships with his players, that he was going to be extremely honest about how Deon needed to improve his game, and he also has the insight of playing that position for a very long time in the NFL." New Orleans also ponied up a large guarantee for an undrafted free agent, and the combination of coach and cash dropped Yelder in New Orleans. The Saints liked what they saw out of Yelder's breakout season. "He’s big and he can run," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "We think he catches the ball well. We have to work and get up to speed a little bit in the blocking." Yelder knows he must become a better blocker. A lack of playing time probably contributed to his shortcomings, but he wants to be a complete player. "Coach Campbell’s a great coach," Yelder said. "He can help me develop my game and become a true tight end, a true Y tight end, an all-around tight end who can catch and block." The good news is he has the most important part. Yelder likes to hit. “He’s very aggressive, shows the ability to play with great leverage and hand placement," Mahaffey said. "He’s flashed the ability to be a dominant in-line blocker." Yelder might be in the perfect spot to develop. Besides Campbell, he also joins a tight end room that includes veterans Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill, both talented two-way players at the position. If he can earn a spot on the roster, Yelder will have a chance to prove he belongs with the bigger names in his class. "Deon is just scratching the potential of what he can become,' Mahaffey said. "I think Deon’s best ball is well in front of him. I think the New Orleans Saints got an absolute steal." Wouldn't be the first time the Saints found a talented player after the draft had ended. FOLLOW JOEL A. ERICKSON ON TWITTER, @JOELAERICKSON.
  2. I had no idea what this kid had been through. Hard not to root for him.
  3. I know this video is about Kamara but you can't help but be impressed by the blocking this offense provides for him. That includes the tight ends and receivers as well. Josh Hill is an absolute beast blocking one-on-one on the outside. I don't think he gets enough credit. I hope we are fortunate enough to watch this special talent for many years to come.
  4. Went and saw it last night, it did not disappoint. The only plot criticism I had is, Starlord's faux pas. It seem too contrived. Definitely agree though, Thanos was impressive.
  5. Yeah, not so much.......came in at 24th in the rankings last year.
  6. linkaroo Compiled 2018 grades says Saints had worst haul of all 32 teams By: K.D. Drummond | May 1, 2018 5:38 pm ET The Saints have been widely crucified for their trade up in the first round that left many fans and pundits scratching their heads. The truth is, if Marcus Davenport turns into an NFL sackmaster, the move will be lauded. If not, the criticism will remain justified. No one truly knows at this point. That’s how it is when it comes to evaluating drafts. There are right-now reactions, which are about as important as makeup at a masquerade party, and there are down-the-line evaluations. Still, there’s plenty of fun in judging and grading the draft after completion. Last year, New Orleans was lauded. This year, not so much. Below is a collection of 18 different outlets who graded the draft haul of all 32 teams. In nine of the 18 exercises, the Saints were given the worst grade, or tied for worst. They ended up with the worst composite score of all teams; worse than the Raiders who were reportedly using dueling big boards between the GM and the coaches. Ouch. Not only did the Saints pass up a chance to select a QB of the future this year, but they traded away their best chance at acquiring one next year when they used their 2019 first-round pick. From there, they went on to select players who some services viewed as priority free agents, meant to be signed after Saturday concluded. For all of the head nods and hand shakes they earned on first look in 2017, 2018 seemed like the bizarro version. Only time will tell whether it was being veiwed in a regular or funhouse mirror though.
  7. linky There was a method to the Saints’ draft madness. Really. 2 The Saints’ confusing draft moves were a reflection of a team that thinks differently about its picks. By Thomas George May 1, 2018, 12:04pm EDT SHARE Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports DALLAS — A common, lingering question at the top of the NFL Draft is what were the New Orleans Saints doing? What were they thinking? The Saints moved up 13 spots in the first round in a trade with the Green Bay Packers to select Texas-San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport at No. 14. The cost included their 2019 first-round draft pick. Too much for a developing player from a small school, critics offered. A reach, others scolded. But the Saints’ NFL peers know better. They are noticing the Saints’ recent method of draft business. The Saints in last year’s draft found instant defensive (cornerback Marshon Lattimore) and offensive (running back Alvin Kamara) playmakers along with other distinguishing rookie contributors. I believe Davenport is a strong bet to continue the trend. What was New Orleans thinking? The key is they were thinking. The Saints are drafting now with player learning methods at the forefront. Head coach Sean Payton believes players’ learning methods cross section in four ways — never struggles in education and in football learning; never struggles in education but struggles in football learning; struggles in education but never in football; struggles in both. He calls it good-good, good-bad, bad-good and bad-bad. He is fascinated in gauging the mental side of young players. Payton recently told me this about the Saints’ newfound draft philosophy: “We are working in the area of processing to help us as we try to become better in this area of identifying. We are measuring mental traits that have developed and finalized in that way since the player was probably 13 or 14 years old. You are testing focus, retention, re-focusing. You are testing attention. I’m excited about this area and we are exploring it fully. It may become a standard for learning about all rookie players.” Payton said the Saints choose from a variety of 16 different tests, for example, one on a computer screen that shows 12 dots, three red and moving and players attempt to recall their original locations. Another shows letters on a computer screen that pop up in red and blue and rotate, slowly then faster. How does the player retain those colors and that movement? The talent, the skill of the potential draftee is of course critical. But how does he learn? Is he mentally wired, in a football sense, to succeed? Those are the specific type of questions the Saints are asking. Those are the type of players they are drafting. So, it was little surprise that the Saints took particular interest in Davenport, when Davenport — who is a hulking 6’6, 264 pounds of power, speed and promise — said this immediately after he was drafted: ”I was surprised when we first met at the Senior Bowl that they had me learn some of their stuff on defense. And then when I saw them again later in the draft process, they asked me about it and I remembered most of it.” He spoke their language. He nailed one of their biggest, developing draft metrics. He became their target. An edge rusher, a primary need the Saints identified after last season. An effort player. A fortunate product of availability when NFL teams’ franchise quarterback needs early in the draft pushed him downward toward the middle of the first round. An explosive player. An aggressive player. And here is the real key — a guy who fits right in with what the Saints are building in terms of talent mixed with mental temperament and learning makeup. Every NFL team uses some facet of this approach. But the Saints are exhibiting a knack for it that is prominent. I expect Davenport to roll right in and create havoc on the Saints’ defense. I expect him to continue a trend of rookie impact players for the Saints. He is big, he is fast, and he displays special football gifts. And this will help push him over the top — he pays attention. He’s a fast football learner. He’s hungry. “They showed a lot of faith in me,” Davenport said. “I’m going to show them it was worth it.”
  8. New Orleans Saints: Rick Leonard, OT, Florida State Uhh... what? Rick Leonard was not a draftable prospect. He's a super-raw tackle who's still learning the position. He wasn't on many teams' radar as a non-UDFA player. He could've been acquired following the draft. Read more: http://walterfootball.com/nfldraftgrades4.php#ixzz5DzOo3TeC Read more at http://walterfootball.com/nfldraftgrades4.php#fVvhsDQs7cRKQqxF.99
  9. All the speculation will be over today. This isn't who ya want, it's who they'll pick. So who ya got? I'm goin with: Hayden Hurst TE South Carolina
  10. Doh! You are correct sir, gave up a 2 to move up and take him in the 3rd. Would be nice to get that back.
  11. I'm all for this scenario. If they could recoup the 3rd rounder they gave up for Kamara that would be sweet. Unfortunately, in the Payton/Loomis era, rarely, if ever, do they trade down.
  12. I'd say we got one at 32 last year. Hopefully lightning will strike twice.
  13. Yes ugh. I didn't say the position shouldn't be upgraded. I just don't want it to be at the expense of a first round pick.