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New Orleans Saints: Best and worst draft picks

  • By Alex Gelhar NFL.com
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In the days leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, NFL.com will allow users to determine the best and worst draft picks for every team. We continue the proceedings with the team that owns the No. 15 overall pick in this year's draft, the New Orleans Saints.

Examining the New Orleans Saints' draft history is like sifting through a lifetime full of bad decisions. I imagine it is what most reality TV stars feel like when looking back on their life. Thankfully, the 2000s brought around enough drafting success to help the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV. Below are some of the picks that pushed the Saints into the promised land, as well as those that made it feel so very far away for a very long time.

Top picks

Marques Colston -- 2006 (No. 252 overall)
Talk about a steal. Only three players were drafted later than Colston in 2006, and as of the writing of this article none are on an NFL roster. The Saints had been looking for a game-changing wide receiver for years, but little did they know they'd find him in the seventh round out of Hofstra. Colston was a critical piece in the Saints' only Super Bowl run, catching 15 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown during the postseason. Colston is currently the Saints' all-time franchise leader in receiving touchdowns, and he still has plenty of gas left in the tank to add to that total.
» 2006 NFL Draft

Willie Roaf -- 1993 (No. 8 overall)
The Saints made Roaf the first offensive lineman selected in the 1993 NFL Draft and were not disappointed. The eventual Hall of Famer anchored the blind side of the Saints' offensive line for eight of his nine seasons in the Big Easy, and was selected to the Pro Bowl in seven of those seasons as well. Sadly, Roaf was traded to the Chiefs after helping the Saints win their first playoff game, but his mark on the Saints franchise is unmistakable.
» 1993 NFL Draft | Photos: Roaf through the years

George Rogers -- 1981 (No. 1 overall)
The Saints were the laughing stock of the NFL for their first 14 seasons of existence, with only one non-losing season to their name (an 8-8 effort in 1979). In comes Rogers as the No. 1 overall pick in 1981, and while he didn't set the world on fire, he was the first glimmer of hope in the Bayou. Rogers led the NFL in rushing as a rookie and also went to the Pro Bowl. Injuries cut short his sophomore campaign, but he was very productive in his last two years in New Orleans. Unfortunately for Saints fans, Rogers was part of an ill-fated trade for a past-his-prime Earl Campbell, and Rogers finished his playing days in Washington. Nevertheless, Rogers was the spark that helped get the Saints out of the NFL cellar, earning him a spot on this list.
» 1981 NFL Draft

Jahri Evans -- 2006 (No. 108 overall)
Nabbing Evans in the fourth round of the 2006 draft was a savvy move by the Saints front office. They had just acquired Drew Brees and needed to build an offense around him (and keep him standing). In comes Evans as the starting right guard from day one, a job he has yet to relinquish due to injury or performance. Evans has blossomed into one of the league's best guards, and has been recognized as such by being named to four straight Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams.
» 2006 NFL Draft

Morten Andersen -- 1982 (No. 86 overall)
Sure, sure, it seems like blasphemy to include a kicker on this list, but when said kicker has scored the most points in NFL history, you have to let it slide. The Saints were almost perpetually in a rebuilding phase until Jim Mora came to town in 1985, but one of the things they could always rely on from 1982 on was the steady leg of Andersen. Over his 25 years in the NFL, Andersen maintained a field goal percentage just shy of 80 percent (79.7 to be exact). Not too shabby.
» 1982 NFL Draft

Worst picks

Jonathan Sullivan -- 2003 (No. 6 overall)
Many would argue that Sullivan is the biggest draft bust in Saints history, and it'd be hard to disagree. The Saints had two first-round picks in 2003 thanks to their trade with the Miami Dolphins for Ricky Williams. Rather than use those picks to add more talent to their depleted roster (thanks to the original Ricky Williams trade), they traded away both of those picks to move up to the sixth overall spot and draft Sullivan instead. During his time with the Saints, Sullivan recorded just 1.5 sacks and 77 tackles in three years. The Saints had a chance to start rebuilding after dealing Ricky Williams, but they blew that chance on Sullivan and suffered yet again as a result.
» 2003 NFL Draft

Ricky Williams -- 1999 (No. 5 overall)
Everyone knows the story by now - Mike Ditka trades every pick the Saints have in the 1999 NFL Draft, as well as two picks in the 2000 NFL Draft to move up and draft Ricky Williams. And the result was not pretty. Ditka was fired at the end of the season after posting a 3-13 record. Williams on the other hand stayed in town all the way until 2002, when he was traded to the Dolphins for four draft picks to try and recoup some of the damage done by the 1999 trade. All told, Williams accumulated just 3,129 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Saints. He did help the Saints win their first playoff game as a franchise in 2001, but the handicap he put on this team lasted years, which is why he lands on this list as one of the Saints' worst draft picks of all time.
» 1999 NFL Draft

Kevin Hardy -- 1968 (No. 7 overall)
You remember Kevin Hardy the Saint, right? Oh wait, no you don't, because the Saints' seventh-overall draft pick in 1968 never played a snap in a Saints uniform. Instead, he washed around to four different teams before eventually drifting off into NFL obscurity, only holding a place on lists such as this and in the nightmares of diehard Saints fans. 1968 was the Saints' second year as a franchise, and the second straight year they whiffed on their first-round selection.
» 1995 NFL Draft

Russell Erxleben -- 1979 (No. 11 overall)
Draft picks like Erxleben are the reason why the Saints had to wait 20 years for a winning season. Rather than drafting an offensive lineman to protect their beleaguered quarterback, or God forbid an offensive weapon for said quarterback to target such as, I don't know, Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow (who was selected two spots later by the San Diego Chargers) the Saints elected to draft a punter (who could also kick). That is not a misprint. With the 11th overall pick they drafted a punter. In the first round. It pains me to even write that. And to think we made fun of the Jacksonville Jaguars for taking a punter in the third round last year.
» 1979 NFL Draft

Archie Manning -- 1971 (No. 2 overall)
When examining the Saints' painful drafting history, it'd be too easy to simply throw another first-round disaster at the end of this list (i.e. Les Kelley, Shawn Knight, Alvin Toles, etc.), so instead I picked Manning. Why would I besmirch the Manning name like this you ask? The Saints had many, many needs in 1971, and quarterback was among them. While Manning was a great athlete in college, he wasn't exactly a "can't-miss" prospect. And while the 1971 draft wasn't loaded with quarterback talent, there were a number of other options to be had in later rounds such as Lynn Dickey or Ken Anderson (both of whom posted better numbers than Manning). Now, you could argue Manning was on an inferior team, but in reality, he might have just been an inferior quarterback who should not have been drafted second overall. The Saints could have chosen an offensive lineman to protect a later-round quarterback project, or even bruising Hall of Famer John Riggins to make any quarterback's job easier. Since he never lived up to his high draft selection, and never posted elite stats, Manning lands on the list as one of the Saints' worst picks of all time, but not necessarily a bust.
» 1971 NFL Draft

Follow Alex Gelhar on Twitter @AlexGelhar

Best and worst draft picks
April 3: Chiefs | Jaguars
April 4: Raiders | Eagles
April 5: Lions | Browns
April 8: Bills | Cardinals
April 9: Jets | Titans
April 10: Chargers | Dolphins
April 11: Bucs | Panthers
April 12: Rams| Saints
April 15: Cowboys | Steelers
April 16: Bears | Giants
April 17: Bengals| Redskins
April 18: Colts | Vikings
April 19: Packers | Seahawks
April 22: Broncos| Texans
April 23: Falcons| Patriots
April 24: 49ers| Ravens

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