Thats the year that has been the benchmark for the New Orleans Saints in regards to a successful NFL Draft if you listen to any discussion on the matter from fans to local beat writers.
It was even a featured piece on Sports Illustrated’s MMQB in 2015 to take a look out how some of the selected players were still contributing in the NFL.
The Saints had eight selections that year that was headlined by the selection of running back Reggie Bush with the second overall pick and bookended with a little known wide receiver named Marques Colston in the seventh round with the 252nd overall pick.
In the end five of the eight selections, Bush, Roman Harper(2nd round), Jahri Evans(fourth round), Zach Strief(seventh round), and Colston helped the Saints build the foundation for a turnaround of the franchise and eventual Super Bowl championship.
Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it could have been six out of eight but several nagging injuries and a stint at long snapper(shakes head at coaching staff) led fifth round draft pick, linebacker Rob Ninkovich, on a different path with the New England Patriots.
Yeah let’s just ease on from that sore topic….
Understandably the “technical” successful percentage of that draft at 62.5% may not blow anybody away but considering the Saints hit on their first three picks in the high to mid rounds and then struck gold twice in the seventh round bumps that up.
Also considering how their drafts have panned out since that time, especially within the last six years, it’s no wonder why questions were mounting on the security of head coach Sean Payton’s job following a third consecutive 7-9 season in at the end of 2016 and a usually annoyingly optimistic Drew Brees giving a post-season interview on the future of the team where he was visibly frustrated.
Looking at the three most recent drafts, there is no one left from 2014 since receiver Brandin Cooks was traded and 2015 isn’t looking that much better with first round pick and offensive lineman Andrus Peat being the current “gem” of a class that boasted nine picks with five of those in the first three rounds.
I snicker a bit when I remember getting a little excited about that year…good times.
For the 2016 draft class things appear to be promising although first round pick Sheldon Rankins had a delayed start to the season if you consider the contributions from receiver Mike Thomas, safety Vonn Bell, and defensive tackle David Onyemata.
The jury might still be out on seventh round pick, running back Daniel Lasco, but at the very worst hopefully he’ll at least be a piece to use on special teams.
With five selections last year, four of those in the first to fourth round range, the Saints didn’t go their usual route of getting Joe Johnson from Wahk-a-Bahk Creek Community Prep College because he was “smart” or had “quick feet” or “heavy hands” or…well you get the picture.
Instead of overthinking themselves they simply went with the safe or best player available to them and I’ll throw Onyemata in there since I believe the talent ceiling will continue to rise for him.
Heading into the 2017 draft the Saints should apply the same approach and use a word what my fellow writer and podcast host of The Saints Nation Brian Pavech says very frequently:
Brian also like to use the word “caveat” but that’s for another discussion…
All joking aside it’s the value the Saints will get using their picks no matter how many or how few they have as long as they provide some sort of contribution.
Brees echoed this sentiment just recently in a NOLA.com article when he said while he wants the Saints to be successful when he leaves the franchise eventually, he is wanting whoever it is they draft in the next few weeks to help “right now”.
This was in reference to the speculation the Saints may use a high draft pick like one of their two current first rounders or even their second round selection to grab a quarterback like Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes in preparation to eventually take over in the future.
While I agree with the concept Brees is talking about, I’ll also side with the notion that The Advocate’s Nick Underhill subscribes to in finding a quarterback which is you simply “keep swinging until you hit”.
Even if the Saints do grab a signal caller early on I won’t have a problem with it as long as there is a clear sign he’s headed in the right direction unlike the team’s last attempt in 2015 with third round selection Garrett Grayson who ended up eventually on the practice squad.
Yeah remember that value thing…
In the past few months the market has been flooded with mock drafts ranging from the Saints taking running back Christian McCaffrey with the 11th overall selection to Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore or Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.
But staying with value in the early rounds will be the smart move for the Saints which is why I’m a huge proponent of selecting mock draft favorite Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett if he’s there with their first pick because he’s likely the safest option which Brian listed reasons why in an article just a few days ago.
Barnett may not be like potential first overall pick Myles Garrett in regards to a monster pass rusher, but he is more like current Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan in the area of consistency which I’ll take over a quick flash then crash player that the Saints may reach for.
Yet even say they take McCaffrey at #11 or they trade to move up in the draft, as long as the selection or move provides value and improves the team going forward into 2017 and beyond then that is what truly matters.
I understand that the player “Tre Down” is a popular theme for fans who want more picks but remember, a boatload of picks not only gives you more chances to hit but also more chances to miss.
Just ask the Cleveland Browns…