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Top 10 best and worst draft picks of the Sean Payton era

With the NFL draft now under two weeks away we are zeroing in on finding out which new players will be in black and gold in time for training camp. Sean Payton’s regime has been in place since 2006, meaning this is the 9th year the Saints will be going through the draft on his watch. As we draw near revisiting some history sometimes helps us gauge the best and worst case scenarios of how this will all go.

All that said here is a quick recap of the top 10 picks in the Sean Payton era:

1. G Jahri Evans, Bloomsburg, 4th round 2006 – As a 5 time Pro Bowler still in his prime that’s won a Super Bowl, he’s currently in my eyes the one draft pick of Payton’s that has a legitimate shot at the Hall of Fame. He’ll need about 4-5 more years of playing at that level most likely, but many linemen play well into their mid to late 30s.

2. TE Jimmy Graham, Miami, 3rd round 2010 – Don’t rule out the Hall of Fame for him either. He’s taken the Antonio Gates/Tony Gonzalez torch and raised the ceiling higher. He’s been to two Pro Bowls already and he’s about to get the richest deal for a tight end in NFL history.

3. WR Marques Colston, Hofstra, 7th round 2006 – Hofstra doesn’t even have a football team anymore, but with 6 1,000 yard seasons out of 8 (943 yards last year) and no Pro Bowls in his career he has claim as one of the most underrated and underappreciated players in league history. Hard to believe he turned out so good as a 7th rounder.

4. DE Cameron Jordan, California, 1st round 2011: He’s just hitting his stride, fresh off his first Pro Bowl thanks to a 12.5 sack season. He’s a complete player and a home run selection thus far.

5. P Thomas Morstead, SMU, 5th round in 2009: He’s a star punter for the team and he’s been to the Pro Bowl. One of the very best in the league at what he does.

6. T Jermon Bushrod, Towson State, 4th round 2007: In six years with the Saints he was firmly on the bench for two seasons before taking hold of the left tackle positions. His two trips to the Pro Bowl would ultimately land him a huge deal with the Chicago Bears.

7. S Roman Harper, Alabama, 2nd round 2006: He had his limitations in coverage but gave the Saints eight seasons of physical play with two Pro Bowl appearances.

8. G Carl Nicks, Nebraska, 5th round 2008: Nicks made two Pro Bowls in four years with the Saints and his career was on a Jahri Evans type path after getting a massive contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unfortunately he’s had health problems ever since.

9. CB Tracy Porter, Indiana, 2nd round 2008: Porter has had an injury filled inconsistent career, but his big plays in both the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl in 2009 are enough to place him squarely on this list. Frankly, what he did in those two games alone would have made him worth of a 1st round pick sacrifice, and the Saints got him in the 2nd.

10. T Zach Strief, Northwestern, 7th round 2006: He’s still on the roster and continues to be a quality starting right tackle.

Keep in mind guys in Akiem Hicks, John Jenkins, Kenny Vaccaro, Kenny Stills and Terron Armstead are just too little into their NFL careers to belong on this list, but at least a couple of them will unseat those listed above very soon.

Top 10 worst picks:

1. CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State, 1st round 2010: This may seem harsh but unless he’s able to revive his career, the 2013 ACL tear may be the death blow to what was a largely miserable four seasons. He did show some progress in a nice year two (2011) after really struggling as a rookie, but he was one of the most victimized in the historically bad Steve Spagnuolo defense.

2. T Charles Brown, USC, 2nd round 2010: Without Graham the 2010 draft would have been a disaster. Brown was supposed to be the left tackle of the future but you saw the product on the field after years of slow grooming in 2013. Not good.

3. LB Martez Wilson, Clemson, 3rd round 2011: What made this pick so bad for me was the fan craze that surrounded him. He’s a prototypical Jim Haslett draft pick in the Payton era. Fast, big (at least tall) and on paper he looks like he could be a star. That’s why every Saints fan fell in love with him. Problem was he didn’t have the head for football. Wilson was the king of the special teams penalty. I don’t have any stats to back this up, but I’d venture to guess he’s in the top 10 in NFL history for % penalties to snaps played ratio.

4. CB Johnny Patrick, Louisville, 3rd round 2011: He registered 30 tackles in 2 years with the Saints before getting cut. A 3rd round pick just has to be better. Come to think of it the Saints have a very poor track record with drafting defensive backs in the Payton era.

5. DT Sedrick Ellis, USC, 1st round, 2008: Ellis was a good football player and possibly on his way to being a Pro Bowler for three years. Then, he turned awful. Two disastrous years lead him to crash and burn into retirement. He did start on the Super Bowl team but that was the beginning of the end for him. This one is by far the most confusing because his play as a rookie was good and there seemed to be steady progress for a couple years. But trading up to get him 7th overall was a poor decision in the end.

6. DT Al Woods, LSU, 4th round 2010: The Saints traded up for him and he was so bad he never made the team. He was waived before the 53 man roster was set in his rookie season.

7. RB Antonio Pittman, Ohio St., 4th round 2007: Like Woods he was waived before ever making the team despite the team trading up to get him. At least he has the excuse of losing out on a roster spot to undrafted rookie Pierre Thomas, who turned out to be one of the best backs in team history.

8. S Chip Vaughn, Wake Forest, 4th round 2009: He spent his rookie season on injured reserve, then he was waived. He had 1 career NFL tackle for the Colts.

9. S Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio St., 1st round 2009: I know this might surprise some given the contract he just received, but Jenkins to me was a failed experiment. The Saints held onto Jenkins much longer than they should have due to the investment. The reality is he was always too slow to be a starting corner and he didn’t make the adjustment to free safety that the Saints hoped he would. Was he a terrible player? No. But he never came close to living up to his draft status despite every chance to do so. Despite occasional flashes here and there, there was just no consistency to his play.

10. K Taylor Mehlhaff, Wisconsin, 6th round 2008: He couldn’t beat out a washed up Martin Grammatica. When Grammatica couldn’t make a kick, and got injured, Mehlhaff was brought back long enough to miss one of four chip shot field goals and an extra point. The Saints would end up cutting him in favor of Garrett Hartley.

Honorable mentions: WR Mike Hass, CB Josh Lay, G Andy Alleman, CB David Jones, LB Stanley Arnoux, WR Nick Toon, C Matt Tennant, QB Sean Canfield

I didn’t include Reggie Bush on either list because while he never produced in line with the 2nd overall pick, he was a big part of the Super Bowl champion team, including a huge game in the playoffs against Arizona. Robert Meachem is another one that was not good enough to be top 10, not bad enough to be worst 10. But overall I’d say he didn’t live up to his draft status.

Anyone you disagree with? Who’s missing?