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The Saints’ Draft History, or: How to Break (and Fix?) a Team

The Saints’ Draft History, or: How to Break (and Fix?) a Team

When you’re in the middle of a storm, it can be hard to notice that incremental changes have caused big results.

Sean Payton rolled into town, signed Drew Brees, and had the best draft in team history. He and Mickey Loomis rode that reputation as kingmakers of the draft until well after they’d done anything to earn it. One draft was then supplemented by good free agent signings, then we won a title, and then middling drafts and bad free agents caused the post-2011 slump we find ourselves in now.

And sure, the Saints have mostly been bad since the Bountygate bullshit went down; but with the exception of a truly miserable 2014 draft, they have quietly put together a nice run of draft talent. It might not be enough to make this team a juggernaut, but at no point in the Sean Payton era has the team had so much homegrown depth. (Funny though, it took salary cap hell to finally force this team to develop better drafting habits.)

You don’t really care about all that, what you want to see are the cold, hard numbers. The crack team at B&G here have spent MINUTES crafting an unimpeachable Saints drafting scale that has already revolutionized the way future drafts will be judged.

We’re back, and ready to cast judgement. We’ve graded every single draft pick the Saints have made since 2006 on a scale of -3/+3. Grades take into account where the player was drafted and how the player performed for the team. Here’s a few examples:

B&G’s Perfect Draft Grading Scale

3 – Reserved for only the best value and performance. (Marques Colston, Jimmy(!) Graham)
2 – A good pick. Value is clear and the player contributes to the team. (Kenny Vaccaro, Mark Ingram)
1 – Good for you kid, you made the roster and competed for a season or two (John Jenkins, Sean Canfield)
0 – Zeroes are for weak-minded nincompoops. If you want zeroes, go read a Falcons blog.
-1 – It’s fine, you were a middling pick and you never actually dressed for the team. (Davis Tull)
-2 – We’re getting into stinkier territory here. This is for picks that should have done something but failed to do anything. (Antonio Pittman)
-3 – Stanley Jean-Baptiste-level disaster (Stanley Jean-Baptiste)

**Fine Print: After grading all the drafts, I realized that the missing component is a curve. Every draft should yield your team a few assets and overall be positive so I’m setting the yearly curve at 3 points. Let’s go!

2006 Draft = 7 Points

Cumulative Era Score = 7

I’m not going to get into this too much. The fact that we could have also had Rob Ninkovich from this draft class is a borderline crime. It’s too good, and that’s why we had to let him go. Somehow Zach Strief is STILL PLAYING WELL. We’re never (ever, ever) getting a draft this good again.

Grade Player  Pick
2 Reggie Bush (RB) 1 (2) If he were the second pick in the 4th round, he’d be everyone’s favorite Saint. Instead, he’s Reggie Bush.
3 Roman Harper (SS) 2 (43)  Fun story, Roman Harper was 46 when we drafted him.
3 Jahri Evans (G) 4 (108) Jahri is better at everything than you. He deserves all the points.
-1 Rob Ninkovich (DE) 5 (135) Don’t even with me.
-1 Mike Hass (WR) 6 (171) Apparently Mike Hass played in one game in 2007 for Chicago and one game in 2009 for Seattle. That is all I know about Mike Hass.
-1 Josh Lay (CB) 6 (174) I just typed Josh’s name into and it laughed at me.
3 Zach Strief (T) 7 (210) A strange career arc. But he’s still good, and loves beer and sushi. The man can do no wrong.
3 Marques Colston (WR) 7 (252)  Marques Colston is arguably the best 7th round pick in the history of the NFL. I almost broke the scale to give him a 14.

2007 Draft = -3 Points

Cumulative Era Score = 5

When you begin to look at draft classes as connected events, you can see that one bad class isn’t enough to sink the ship.

Grade Player  Pick
2 Robert Meachem (WR) 1 (27) He gets a point for that one time he gave a touchdown ball to a nun.
1 Usama Young (CB) 3 (66) Did you know Usama Young had 6 interceptions in his career as a Saint? That almost puts in the ring of honor.
-2 Andy Alleman (G) 3 (88) Every failed lineman the Saints draft must be REALLY bad, right?
-2 Antonio Pittman (RB) 4 (107) Pierre Thomas >>> Antonio Pitmann
2 Jermon Bushrod (T) 4 (125)  A competent starter at LT for a while. For bonus points, we tricked Chicago into overpaying him after his rookie deal.
-2 David Jones (CB) 5 (145) Just one example of a Saints-drafted DB flaming out in New Orleans before having a semi-decent career (played 6 seasons for a few teams).
1 Marvin Mitchell (LB) 7 (220)  Marvin Mitchell had 23 tackles for the championship 2009 Saints season. Yeah I forgot about that too.

2008 Draft = 3 Points

Cumulative Era Score = 8

If your team is functioning correctly, a bad draft (like 2007) is a blip in the radar and the team recovers nicely. So while it’s impossible to live up to the 2006 draft, 2008 was net positive, and yielded some key players for a championship team, so not many complaints here.

Grade Player  Pick
1 Sedrick Ellis (DT) 1 (7) It’s a tough pill to swallow when the 7th overall pick is merely an okay lineman for a few seasons.
2 Tracy Porter (CB) 2 (40) Tracy Porter is still playing football! None of that’s important because one time he intercepted Peyton Manning and won the Super Bowl. Go watch.
1 DeMario Pressley (DT) 5 (144) He’s not the most successful player named DeMario.
3 Carl Nicks (G) 5 (164) Carl Nicks was a demi-god brought down by a staph infection because the Bucs don’t know how to keep a clean house. What a shame.
-2 Taylor Mehlhaff (K) 6 (178) He would have a better score if he’d been cut in camp.
1 Adrian Arrington (WR) 7 (237) Adrian Arrington  hung around the roster until 2012 and caught 9 passes. Good for you, Adrian.

2009 Draft = -1 points

Cumulative Era Score = 7

It’s really hard to knock a draft out of the park when you only pick four players. Look, were Jonathan Vilma and Jeremy Shockey REALLY worth our 2nd, 3rd, and 5th round draft picks? Maybe, but it’s moves like this that stack your roster with older, more expensive players that are great…until they’re not.

Grade Player  Pick
2 Malcolm Jenkins (DB) 1 (14) I’m borderline convinced the Malcolm Jenkins that plays for the Eagles isn’t the same guy we drafted.
-1 Chip Vaughn (SAF) 4 (116) You know what’s bad? Not having picks in the second and third round. We had four picks and our second one didn’t even dress for a game with us.
-1 Stanley Arnoux (ILB) 4 (118) No linebacker ever got better while being coached by Joe Vitt. So Stanley Arnoux never played.
2 Thomas Morstead (P) 5 (164) Is a punter that successfully converted a surprise onsides kick in the Super Bowl worth two fifth round picks AND a seventh? I guess? The outcome worked, but the initial decision was a little stupid.

2010 Draft = -3 Points

Cumulative Era Score = 4

The fact that one of the scouts was sober enough after Lombari Gras to pick Jimmy Graham at pick 95, is a minor miracle. Someone get the pope on the phone and we’ll get him canonized. The rest of the class is a mess though.

Grade Player  Pick
-1 Patrick Robinson (CB) 1 (32) Is it Patrick Robinson’s fault that our cornerbacks are under a voodoo spell? At pick 32 you want more here, but he’s now on his seventh NFL season.
-2 Charles Brown (T) 2 (64) I always wanted Charlie Brown to be great so we could make jokes about the fact this name was Charlie Brown. You let me down Charlie.
3 Jimmy Graham (TE) 3 (95) I loved Jimmy Graham so much that we crafted a one-act play out of emails between Bradley and I where he tried to lure me into trading him away. It was a much more fun game in concept.
-1 Matt Tennant (C) 5 (158) It’s not Matt’s fault that every other fifth round pick on the interior line turns into an All-Pro.
1 Sean Canfield (QB) 7 (239) Yep, he was a player.

2011 Draft = -3 Points

Cumulative Era Score = 1

Turns out four shallow draft classes in five years is a bad thing. Sure, 2011 was one of the best teams of the Sean Payton era, but four shallow drafts began to catch up with us, starting in 2012, as the team had no depth and everything hinged on the success of big free agent swings.

Grade Player  Pick
3 Cameron Jordan (DE) 1 (24) In retrospect, Cam Jordan at the 24th pick overall is a steal.
2 Mark Ingram (RB) 1 (28) Another instance where a bad trade yielded good results, but was still a bad trade. But then again, the great running back plague of 2010 meant an ancient Ladelle Betts had 45 carries for us, so it’s hard to blame Sean and Mickey.
-1 Martez Wilson (LB) 3 (72) Another wasted linebacker. It’s probably not Joe Vitts fault, but it’s also 100% Joe Vitts fault.
-1 Johnny Patrick (DB) 3 (88) Someone looked at this blown second-day cornerback pick and said, “probably can’t do worse than him.” And so God invented Stanley Jean Baptiste.
-1 Greg Romeus (DE) 7 (226) PFR tells me Greg Romeus wore number 99. But if he never wore a jersey, did he really wear number 99?
-1 Nate Bussey (LB) 7 (243) The Saints had 6 picks in this draft, so it makes sense that by pick 243 Mickey’s draft board was empty. Who preps for more than 5 picks?

2012 Draft = -3 Points

Cumulative Era Score = -2

Turns out when you trade your first round pick and then arbitrarily have your second round pick taken from you as a penalty for a crime you didn’t really commit, then take Sean Payton out of the draft room, your draft really sucks. Go figure.

Grade Player  Pick
1 Akiem Hicks (DT) 3 (89) Loomis needed to swing big when the first pick was number 89 overall. Hicks at least whetted the appetite of the fanbase for a while, so that was nice.
1 Nick Toon (WR) 4 (122) Nick Toon let me down personally by never being good enough to fully incorporate Nicktoons jokes into this blog. YOU LET ME DOWN, NICK.
1 Corey White (SS) 5 (162) Corey White was bad in the same way nearly every Saints drafted defensive player is bad, but was still forced to play. Good times.
-1 Andrew Tiller (G) 6 (179) Andrew Tiller is still starting for the 49ers, so even our bad guard picks are good.
-1 Marcel Jones (T) 7 (234) Anyone who watched the 2011 Saints agreed that they should invest 60% of their draft assets on a receiver and two offensive linemen, right?

2013 Draft = 3 Points

Cumulative Era Score = 1

Behold! A light at the end of the tunnel! Admittedly, this draft isn’t the best in team history, but it provided us with our most consistent secondary player in a decade and a top five left tackle who gets hurt a lot.

Grade Player  Pick
2 Kenny Vaccaro (SS) 1 (15) Kenny Vaccaro is a solid pick at 15 and could still rise to the arbitary level of 3, but if we’re looking for value, he’s already about what you should expect out of a mid-first round pick.
2 Terron Armstead (OT) 3 (75) Injuries suck, man.
1 John Jenkins (NT) 3 (82) 2013 was so strange, this mostly useless blob looked like a great player.
2 Kenny Stills (WR) 5 (144) Kenny Stills was a good receiver for one season for the Saints and got flipped for 12 games of Dannell Ellerbee and a third round pick. Good work, Kenny!
-1 Rufus Johnson (LB) 6 (183) Among Tarleton State alumni, only long snapper James Dearth has had a better NFL career than Rufus (1 career tackle).

2014 Draft = -9 Points

Cumulative Era Score = -8

Hoooo boy, the 2014 draft class is bad. It’s somehow worse than the 2006 draft class was good. It’s a testament to bad football. I shudder to think what would’ve happened if Brandin Cooks hadn’t been good. Let’s break it down in all its glory.

Grade Player  Pick
2 Brandin Cooks (WR) 1 (20) An angel falls from heaven every time the Saints trade up in the first round.
-3 Stanley Jean-Baptiste (CB) 2 (58) Generally regarded as a 4th or 5th round reclamation project that converted from WR to CB, Stanley Jean-Baptiste is the most perplexing pick in modern Saints history.
-2 Khairi Fortt (OLB) 4 (126) Pretty sure he accepted the call from Mickey on draft day from a hospital bed.
-1 Vinnie Sunseri (DB) 5 (167) Turns out just drafting potential special team help with no knees is a bad idea. Yeah, I know.
-1 Ronald Powell (LB) 5 (169) Like every other linebacking prospect coached by Joe Vitt, Powell will forever be lost in time and space.
-1 Tavon Rooks (T) 6 (202) Tavon Rooks was shocked to be drafted.

2015 Draft = 3 Points

Cumulative Era Score = -5

We’ll get into bad draft classes, free agent luck, and cap hell soon, but in 2015 the Saints did an interesting thing: The front office began commoditizing the only assets we have – over-hyped skill players that look 25% better because of Drew Brees. From Jimmy(!) Graham to Brandin Cooks, the Saints are selling high on players for cold-hard draft picks. There’s a good chance that this strategy pays off in 2017, but first, let’s check out the 2015 draft class, which featured NINE picks.

Grade Player  Pick
2 Andrus Peat (T) 1 (13) Went from a joke of a top 15 pick who couldn’t play right guard or tackle to playing on the left side and ending up the most valuable pick of the year. Football is weird.
1 Stephone Anthony (LB) 1 (31) I’ll be honest, this could swing from 1 to -3, it really depends on if Mike Nolan can turn him into a serviceable linebacker. If so, that definitively means Joe Vitt’s to blame for everything.
1 Hau’oli Kikaha (LB) 2 (44) If his knees are healthy, he’s still a good pick. Please stay healthy, Hau.
-2 Garrett Grayson (QB) 3 (75) It’s fine, you’ve gotta take your quarterback replacement shots where you can, but at 75, this could’ve been a contributing player.
1 P.J. Williams (CB) 3 (78) I’m a P.J. truther, so sue me.
-1 Davis Tull (OLB) 5 (148) Fifth round outside linebackers from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga rarely work out well. Tull didn’t buck the odds.
2 Tyeler Davison (DT) 5 (154) Despite spelling his name like an 18 year old girl spells Krystyn, Tyeler is actually good depth and a GREAT pick in the fifth round.
1 Damian Swann (CB) 5 (167) I’m still not convinced Damian Swann and P.J. Williams aren’t the same guy, so here’s to hoping one his personalities wins a job on this team.
1 Marcus Murphy (RB) 7 (230) Marcus Murphy won a game by accident one time. This play at the end of the 2015 Giants game remains my favorite play by play analysis: (0:20 – 4th) B.Wing punts 46 yards to NO 29, Center-Z.DeOssie. M.Murphy to NYG 47 for 24 yards (C.Dahl). FUMBLES (C.Dahl), recovered by NO-W.Snead at NYG 47. W.Snead to NYG 47 for no gain (B.Wing). PENALTY on NYG-B.Wing, Face Mask (15 Yards), 15 yards, enforced at NYG 47. The ball was fumbled FORWARD, and ruled down at the 47 yardline. The penalty for a face mask moved it to the 32.

2016 Draft = 4 Points

Cumulative Era Score = -1

It’s still early and these scores reflect a conservative optimism, but it’s the first time in the era where we scored every pick as positive AND the first time the Saints have scored consecutive positive drafts. Every player from Rankins to Lasco is still on the team and contributed somewhere last season. It’s hard to find the silver lining in three straight 7-9 seasons, but I swear last year’s felt a little less hopeless.

Grade Player  Pick
2 Sheldon Rankins (DT) 1 (12) I know, 2 is very high considering he’s played 9 games, but all signs are bright and he’s not going anywhere.
2 Michael Thomas (WR) 2 (47) In August of last year, Bradley started referring to Thomas as Hype, sarcastically, because all the positive buzz around Thomas made Bradley’s cynicism come out. Now he’s commissioning a friend to draw custom art portraying Hype as a superhero. So, yeah, he’s a good draft pick.
1 Vonn Bell (SAF) 2 (61) The Saints have wanted to run three safety sets for nearly a decade and with Vonn Bell, Marcus Williams, and Kenny Vaccaro, that dream might become real.
1 David Onyemata (DT) 4 (120) A high ceiling, low floor pick, but Onyemata is still on the team and getting some buzz at camp.
1 Daniel Lasco (RB) 7 (237) He sorta, kinda, runs like Deuce McCallister if squint.

So you’ve made it to the end! Coming into the 2017 draft, the Saints have selected 66 players and finished this exercise with a cumulative score of -1. That puts the team in a precarious situation, but still, over the last two years, we’ve been a couple breaks and so maybe a good draft class away from fielding a team (and praise Jesus, maybe a defense) that’ll be better than 7-9.

Next up, I play good cop, bad cop on the 2017 draft class and we see what that means for our future.


Ryan Chauvin
A native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but with a surname that indicates his importance to the history of a tiny town in South Louisiana, Ryan Chauvin currently lives in Houston, TX, doing general (read: non-sports) internet things. Ryanwas on Jimmy(!)’s bandwagon before it was cool, and has never predicted that the Saints will lose a game.