The Saints have made 53 1st round selections in their team history if you include rookies Marshon Lattimore and Ryan Ramczyk this year. During that period there’s been a lot of busts and a lot of success stories. Below I’ve ranked them 1-51 (the two new guys are unranked for now) giving you a sense of how the Saints have fared with their 1st round choices over the years.
51. Shawn Knight, BYU DE, 11th overall in 1987: I struggled with who to put dead last as there are lots of candidates. Ultimately I went with Knight because he only played 10 games for the Saints and never started. He was never remotely close to NFL quality. He played for 3 teams in 3 years as a backup and retired.
50. Johnathan Sullivan, Georgia DT, 6th overall in 2003: This was really hurt because the Saints gave up two 1st round picks to move up to get him. He played three seasons, starting just 16 of 36 games. He recorded just 1.5 career sacks.
49. Russell Erxleben, Texas K/P, 11th overall in 1979: Drafting a punter/kicker 11th overall was ridiculousness all on its own. But Erxleben was also struggled mightily. He only attempted 8 kicks in his career, making half. He did punt for 5 seasons, once being 6th in the NFL in average in 1982. So he did a reasonable job at times as a punter, but the pick can’t be characterized in any good way.
48. Kevin Hardy, Notre Dame DT, 7th overall in 1968: Expensive to draft a guy 7th and have him never play for you. Hardy would play for 3 teams in 4 years before fizzling out without making any impact.
47. Ken Burrough, Texas Southern WR, 10th overall in 1970: He played just one season for the Saints, finishing with 13 receptions for 196 yards. The Saints should have kept him, though, because he would go on to have a fantastic career with the Houston Oilers with two trips to the Pro Bowl.
46. Vaughn Dunbar, Indiana RB, 21st overall in 1992: Injuries decimated his career from the very start. He averaged 3.7 yards per carry over 3 very modest seasons.
45. Larry Burton, Purdue WR, 7th overall in 1975: He produced ~600 yards over 3 seasons.
44. Royce Smith, Georgia G, 8th overall in 1972: He played just two season for the Saints and only started in 13 of 24 games played. He would then go to the Falcons and be a backup.
43. Les Kelley, Alabama LB, 26th overall in 1967: The Saints’ first pick in team history. He played 3 seasons without making an impact before his career ended.
42. Kurt Schumacher, Ohio St. G, 12th overall in 1975: Over three seasons he only started 13 of 41 games played.
41. Lindsay Scott, Georgia WR, 13th overall in 1982: The Saints tried hard to turn him into something but he only produced 864 receiving yards over 4 seasons.
40. John Shinners, Xavier G, 17th overall in 1969: He ended up being a decent starter for the Bengals but was a backup and bust for the Saints. Over 3 seasons he played in 25 games and only started 4.
39. Rick Middleton, Ohio State LB, 13th overall in 1974: Only played two years for the Saints. He was decent in his second season as a full time starter but then he left for the Chargers and made no impact.
38. Alvin Toles, Tennessee LB, 24th overall in 1985: His only good season was 1986 when he was a decent full time starter. Only started 17 times in 55 games played with the Saints.
37. Joe Campbell, Maryland DE, 7th overall in 1977: In 3 seasons he only started 26 of the 45 games he played.
36. Dave Wilson, Illinois QB, 1st overall in supplemental draft 1981: The Saints held on to Wilson for a very long time hoping he’d develop. Being the first overall pick in the supplemental draft was a big investment. He was a career backup, though, and finished his career 12-19 in 31 starts. His rookie year he threw 1 touchdown and 11 interceptions. For his career he threw 36 TDs and 55 INTs.
35. Stephone Anthony, Clemson LB, 31st overall in 2015: I had him at 29 after his rookie season and now he’s down 6 spots. Honestly, if he doesn’t rebound he becomes one of the huge 1st round busts in Saints history. It’s too bad because he had was felt like a pretty decent rookie season with some flashes of real potential.
34. Patrick Robinson, Florida St. CB, 32nd overall in 2010: He never really lived up to his draft status, though he’s still a serviceable player in the league. Injuries and inconsistent play, particularly early in his career, hurt his development.
33. Alex Molden, Oregon CB, 11th overall in 1996: He played 5 seasons for the Saints and was a starter for two of them poorly. The rest of the time he was a mediocre nickel type corner. He finished his career with the Saints with 8 interceptions. He wasn’t awful but he was never close to as good as his draft status.
32. Irv Smith, Notre Dame TE, 20th overall in 1993: A career marked by inconsistency. He showed flashes of potential but would regress. His most productive season was 1995 when he had a decent 466 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns.
31. Sheldon Rankins, Stanford DT, 12th overall in 2016: Despite only playing 9 games last year due to a broken leg in camp, he bounced back to show real promise with 4 sacks.
30. Donte’ Stallworth, Tennessee WR, 13th overall in 2002: Never lived up to his enormous potential in 4 seasons due to professionalism issues. Had flashes of brilliance, though.
29. Andrus Peat, Stanford T, 13th overall in 2015: He had a good season and seems to be becoming a solid NFL player. This is a big season for him.
28. Chris Naeole, Colorado G, 10th overall in 1997: A reasonably good starter for 5 seasons. Wasn’t worth the 10th overall pick but he wasn’t a major bust either.
27. Craig Heyward, Pittsburgh FB, 24th overall in 1988: Powerful running back with a distinct playing style that fans absolutely loved. “Ironhead” was a load to bring down. Versatile player that could block, catch and run. He’s 15th in team history for rushing yards.
26. Sedrick Ellis, USC DT, 7th overall in 2008: Ellis was off to a fast start and promising young career after 3 seasons. Then, he seemed to fall of a cliff and retired after two more poor years.
25. Renaldo Turnbull, West Virginia DE, 14th overall in 1990: It was going to be tough for Turnbull to replace the Dome Patrol. In that regard he was set up to fail. His off the field temperament was the biggest problem. He was a decent player in his own right, though. He made the Pro Bowl in 1993 after posting 13 sacks. He had 44.5 sacks over 7 years in New Orleans, making him 11th in team history for sacks.
24. Robert Meachem, Tennessee WR, 27th overall in 2007: Explosive deep threat that was a nice component to the high powered offense. Over 6 seasons in New Orleans, though, he never had more than 722 yards receiving in a year. 13th in team history in receiving yards.
23. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas S, 15th overall in 2013: His rookie season was very good, his second year was horrible, and his third season was back closer to the first. Then he was playing well until he got suspended last year. He’s a bit of an enigma at this point but a good player. He could move up in value on this list with another good season.
22. Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State FS, 14th overall in 2009: Never put it all together with the Saints but had great moments. He’s now a star for the Eagles, though. He finished with 6 interceptions in 5 years with the Saints.
21. Ricky Williams, Texas RB, 5th overall in 1999: What the Saints gave up to get him was positively absurd. But Williams was a good player for the Saints and he returned two 1st round picks. He was never going to live up to the unrealistic expectations but it’s important to remember Williams rushed for 884 yards as a rookie and then 1,000 yards+ twice. He was productive in three seasons and brought a good return.
20. Wes Chandler, Florida WR, 3rd overall in 1978: He only played 3.5 seasons with the Saints before getting traded but his short time in New Orleans was positive. He made the Pro Bowl in 1979 after posting a 1,000 yard receiving season.
19. Chuck Muncie, California RB, 3rd overall in 1976: Drug problems really prevented him from having a superstar career with the Saints. Despite just 4.5 seasons with the Saints he’s 6th all time in team history for rushing yards. He made the Pro Bowl in 1979 thanks to 1198 yards rushing.
18. Brandin Cooks, Oregon St. WR, 20th overall in 2014: He had a truly special three season run before he was traded. It’s too bad to see him go, it really seemed like he was developing nicely into a premiere playmaker. He could have been at the very top of this list had he stayed a Saint.
17. Mark Fields, Washington St. LB, 13th overall in 1995: Solid linebacker that made the Pro Bowl in 2000. A productive player for 6 seasons.
16. Reggie Bush, USC RB, 2nd overall in 2006: Like Ricky Williams he was never going to live up to the hype. He is 11th in team history for touchdowns scored, though, and his 4 punt returns for TDs are a franchise record. His 88 receptions in 2006 is also 5th best in franchise history for a single season and best by a running back.
15. Kyle Turley, San Diego St. T, 7th overall in 1998: He was one of the better right tackles in the NFL during his 5 years with the Saints. He was a 1st team All Pro in 2000.
14. Charles Grant, Georgia DE, 25th overall in 2002: His 47 sacks over 8 seasons is 8th in team history.
13. Mark Ingram, Alabama RB, 28th overall in 2011: Last year was a big season for Ingram. He’s clearly become the player we hoped he might be, or at least close to. He’s now 29 yards away from passing George Rogers for 2nd all time in team career rushing yards.
12. George Rogers, South Carolina RB, 1st overall in 1981: He played only 4 seasons with the Saints but made the Pro Bowl in 2 of them. He’s second in team history for rushing yards. His rookie season he rushed for 1,674 yards, which remains a Saints single season record.
11. Jammal Brown, Oklahoma T, 13th overall in 2005: Played just 4 seasons with the Saints before suffering a serious injury. He made the Pro Bowl twice and was an elite left tackle.
10. Cameron Jordan, California DE, 24th overall in 2011: He’s already been to 2 Pro Bowls and his production is climbing. He has 46.5 sacks in 6 seasons.
9. Joe Johnson, Louisville DE, 13th overall in 1994: 6th in team history with 50.5 sacks. Made 2 Pro Bowls and was once named NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
8. Jim Dombrowski, Virginia G, 6th overall in 1986: Started 137 of 151 over 11 seasons. Extremely solid blocker.
7. Stan Brock, Colorado T, 12th overall in 1980: Started 182 of 186 games played. 4th in team history for games played. The best player in team history to never make a Pro Bowl along with Marques Colston.
6. Will Smith, Ohio St. DE, 18th overall in 2004: 4th in team history with 67.5 career sacks. 1 Pro Bowl in 9 seasons with the team.
5. Wayne Martin, Arkansas DE, 19th overall in 1988: 2nd in team history with 82.5 career sacks. 1 Pro Bowl in 11 seasons with the team.
4. Archie Manning, Ole Miss QB, 2nd overall in 1971: The face of the franchise for over a decade. Manning went to 2 Pro Bowls and is 2nd all time in franchise history for passing yards.
3. Vaughan Johnson, North Carolina St. LB, 15th overall in supplemental draft 1984: Dome Patrol member and 4 time Pro Bowler.
2. Deuce McAllister, Ole Miss RB, 23rd pick in 2001: Rushing yards leader in franchise history. Rushed for over 1,000 yards four times and went to 2 Pro Bowls.
1. Willie Roaf, Louisiana Tech T, 8th overall in 1993: Hall of Famer. Went to 7 Pro Bowls in 9 seasons.
Marshon Lattimore, Ohio Stat CB, 11th overall in 2017 and Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin T, 32nd overall in 2017: left “unranked” for obvious reasons.