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New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) attempts to block a pass by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) during the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018. 

"With the 14th pick of the 2018 NFL draft, the New Orleans Saints select Marcus Davenport, defensive end, University of Texas at San Antonio."

As soon as those words came out of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's mouth, the Saints had shocked the NFL with perhaps the biggest surprise in the first round of last year's draft.

They probably won't make that type of first-round splash this time around.

For the first time since 2012, the Saints don't even have a first-round pick.

As a result, they may not factor into anything that happens on the opening night of the draft Thursday.

Saints GM Mickey Loomis: We're 'fairly confident' of getting a good player at pick No. 62

The Saints' first selection, in the second round (No. 62 overall), doesn't come until Friday.

"I think when you get 62 players out, a lot can happen," coach Sean Payton said. "But we feel comfortable there's going to be a good football player, someone who can help us sooner than later."

But barring a trade, that someone won't come in the first round.

The Saints traded this year's first-round pick to the Green Bay Packers last spring, when they slid up from the No. 27 spot to the No. 14 spot to take Davenport. It was a draft-day move that caught the television announcers by surprise — "Oh, wow" they said — and was criticized by many Saints fans.

Many thought the Saints gave up too much for a little-known player that was described by many draft experts as "raw."

Sports Illustrated graded the move a B. It was given a C-minus by NFL.com

But Payton says you can get a better evaluation of that trade now than you could a year ago.

The Saints basically gave up a No. 27 pick last year and the No. 30 pick (where the Saints would be drafting because of their 13-3 record this season) for Davenport.

"Hypothetically, (if) we finished with four wins this year, that's not a good trade because of the value," Payton said in March. "But (Nos.) 27 and 30 on any number chart, I don't think you're going to arrive at 14."

In other words, if the Saints had a bad season this past year and as a result would have been picking in the Top 10 of this year's draft draft, it would be easier to criticize the trade that left the Saints without a first-round pick this year. But that's not the case. 

And Payton likes what he saw from Davenport — especially in the first half of the season, before the rookie was hindered by a toe injury that slowed him in the second half.

"We saw some real good traits where we felt like this guy is going to be a dominant player for us," Payton said. "He played) exceptionally against Minnesota and exceptional two or three other games for us."

Davenport finished the season with 22 tackles and 4½ sacks. When healthy, he showed that NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. was probably right in his assessment of Davenport right after Goodell announced him as the Saints' pick last season.

"His upside is off the charts," Kiper said back then.

And it's why Payton doesn't mind having a first-round pick this year.

"We were real pleased with the ability to get up and get Marcus," Payton said Tuesday. "That's just part of it. Each year you may have multiple picks in a round or no picks in a round. It's more noticeable to the public when the first-round pick isn't there because we spend 90 percent of our time discussing the first round.

"And yet our scouts and everyone knows in this process, the key to having a good draft is finding players in these other rounds, which we have been able to do. Hopefully we can do that beginning Friday."

Not that the Saints are totally dismissing Thursday. It's the NFL draft, so there's always a chance something could happen.

"As we arrive for the first day of the draft, we are arriving knowing it's only one round," Payton said. "But nonetheless, we're putting our suits on."

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Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.