When you look back across NFL Draft history, you can undoubtedly find more busts and failures than gems and successes. Despite having one of the best drafts in recent years in 2017, the Saints are absolutely no exception to the rule. New Orleans has made some head-scratching picks in their franchise's existence, and most all fans can agree that the likes of Jonathan Sullivan, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, and Russell Erxleben hold a special place in the All-Time Hall of Blunders, but we're focusing on the past five years of drafting.
Here's some thoughts from the Saints News Network Krewe.
Kyle T. Mosley
I was torn between offensive tackle Rick Leonard and tight end Alize Mack. I have to go with Leonard because he was a 4th Round choice in 2018. He never materialized as a player in the NFL. New Orleans could have selected defensive tackle Kentavius Street (the next pick after Leonard) or safety Tre Flowers.
The Saints most confounding draft decision over the last five years, possibly in the entire Sean Payton era, has to be drafting (alleged) offensive tackle Rick Leonard in 2018. Leonard reportedly wasn't even on the radar of most teams to be drafted at all, let alone in the 4th Round where New Orleans selected him.
Leonard didn't even make the team out of training camp. He spent just a month on the Saints practice squad before being released from that. Since then, he's spent time on the practice squad of five different teams without seeing regular season action. Other players who were still on the board when Leonard was selected with the 127th overall pick:
- Kentavius Street, DT
- Josh Sweat, DE
- Maurice Hurst, DT
- Bilal Nichols, DT
- Tre Flowers, S
- Genard Avery, LB
- Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
- Marcell Ateman, WR
Wow…looking back at the past five NFL drafts for the New Orleans Saints (2016-2020) the front office has really knocked it out of the park. However, looking at the worst pick I will have to go based off of where they were selected and what value they have brought to the team. With that being said, my worst pick for the Saints over the last half decade is linebacker Alex Anzalone (3rd Round Selection, 2017).
Anzalone showed promise for the Saints in his early NFL career, however injuries derailed the Florida standout’s development. He missed the majority of the 2017 and 2019 season for the Saints and was ultimately replaced in 2020 by Kwon Alexander, who the Saints traded for at the deadline.
This selection for worst pick since the 2016 draft is very nitpicky, as most teams would love to see a third-round selection play in 38 games, making 20 starts in his first four NFL seasons. “Thor” just couldn’t stay healthy though and now departs the Bayou for Detroit where he will look to prove once again he is a quality NFL starter.
Fans will easily tell you that the most disappointing pick of the past five years would have to go to Marcus Davenport. Considering what the Saints traded to get him at 14th Overall (1st Round - 27th Overall, 5th Round - 147th Overall, 2019 1st Round Pick - 30th Overall), the return hasn't been what anyone expected. He's certainly a blemish on the first round picks the team has made under Sean Payton, and really has a lot to prove in the final year of his rookie contract.
A legitimate argument could be made for him being the worst pick for sure, but he does consistently grade out strong in the analytics department from Pro Football Focus.
- 2020 - 74.8 Overall Grade (20th out of 109)
- 2019 - 84.1 Overall Grade (17th out of 104)
- 2018 - 69.7 Overall Grade (36th out of 104)
Looking at this from a logical standpoint, Davenport has one final season before we can really render a final verdict, and others like Zack Baun and Cesar Ruiz still have plenty of time to make something of themselves. The choice has to be either Alex Anzalone or Rick Leonard, because anyone typically drafted after the 4th Round is a real toss-up. You could even say that players after the 3rd Round don't always yield the highest expectations.
Anzalone was drafted 76th Overall, and what makes someone lean more towards picking him here would be the one point of emphasis Sean Payton always talks about, and that's availability. He missed all but four games in 2017 while missing all but two in 2019. 2018 was arguably his best season, but his final year with the Saints just wasn't the strongest, and the drop-off between him and Kwon Alexander was more than noticeable.
Given all of the front office, coaching, and player losses the Saints have had over the offseason, they enter this year's draft needing to hit a home run. The first round is scheduled for Thursday, April 29th.