Saints must repeat magical drafts of recent years
Is the worst over?
For the New Orleans Saints, it is a legitimate question.
For a franchise that was arguably the NFL’s best from 2009 to 2011, the 2015 season was humbling. Despite a favorable schedule, the Saints won only seven games and lost nine, including an embarrassing home loss to the Tennessee Titans.
There is only one way to fix it – accumulate good, young players, and as quickly as possible.
The Saints have done it before. The nucleus of the 2009 Super Bowl champions was home grown.
The 2006 draft included Reggie Bush, Roman Harper, Jahri Evans, Marques Colston and Zach Strief.
Colston and Strief were both seventh-round picks. Colston played 10 years with the Saints. Strief is in his 11th.
In 2007, the Saints added Robert Meachem and Jermon Bushrod in the draft, and running back Pierre Thomas as an undrafted free agent.
In 2008, the Saints drafted Super Bowl hero Tracy Porter and Carl Nicks who, along with Evans, formed the best guard tandem in football.
In the Super Bowl season, the Saints drafted defensive back Malcolm Jenkins and punter/kickoff specialist Thomas Morstead.
Fast forward seven years later, and this question comes up a lot: Do you think Drew Brees can still do it?
There was nothing in his 2015 resume that says he can’t. An oblique injury limited Brees to only 16 pass attempts in the preseason. Yet, Brees finished the regular season with 32 touchdown passes and only 11 interceptions.
Brees was only 130 passing yards shy of 5,000.
He was one of six quarterbacks with a passer rating above 100 (101). New England quarterback Tom Brady, who is recognized as the position’s gold standard, had a passer rating of 102.2.
In the meantime, the draft should not only yield talent but numbers. That’s because the ability to weather injury is a huge part of the NFL game.
In the first 10 days of camp, cornerback Keenan Lewis was activated from the physically unable to perform list, practiced and then didn’t. Fullback Austin Johnson was carted off the practice field. His injury prompted the Saints to sign former Packers fullback John Kuhn. And, wide receiver Brandin Cooks was injured and left practice early in the second week of camp.
The early skinny on the 2016 draft looks quite promising. Second-round picks – wide receiver Michael Thomas and safety Vonn Bell – appear to be quality selections.
Running back Daniel Lasco, a seventh-rounder, could be a special teams contributor and get snaps as a runner.
First-round pick Sheldon Rankins appears to be a solid choice.
The Saints are improving. So, is the worst over?
I would say it is.