How Good Are the New Orleans Saints at Building Their Roster Through the Draft?
The downtime between OTA/minicamps and the start of training camps gives us a chance to ask some big-picture questions about teams.
Looking at each roster to see exactly how much a role of the draft played in its composition can tell us about how well that team utilized their draft picks. It can also tell us how much of a correlation there is between drafting well and overall success when we apply this analysis to the majority of teams.
Let's start with the Super Bowl XLIV Champion New Orleans Saints.
The Saints signed Drew Brees in free agency and added backup Chase Daniel after the Redskins cut him. 2010 seventh-round pick Sean Canfield will be lucky to make the team after they signed Luke McCown.
The Saints did a terrific job here not in the draft, but in the time immediately following the draft when teams sign undrafted free agents. Two—Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory—have stuck and made significant contributions.
The Saints laid down a 2011 second and 2012 first to get Mark Ingram, which looks like an ill-advised move so far. Their best running back, Darren Sproles, was a free-agent signing.
Mainstays Jimmy Graham (2010 third) and Marques Colston (2006 seventh) represent two of the best picks of the last decade for the Saints. Devery Henderson hasn't quite been worth the second-round pick the Saints spent on him in 2004, but he has stuck and contributed nonetheless.
2008 seventh-round pick Adrian Arrington has bounced between the active roster and practice squad and contributed very little during his four years with the team.
Both of the team's starting tackles, Jermon Bushrod (2007 fourth) and Charles Brown (2010 second), and top-notch guard Jahri Evans (2006 fourth) were drafted by the Saints. It's also worth mentioning that Evans and Bushrod were successful small-school finds.
The Saints also drafted Carl Nicks, who started for them through 2011 until he broke the bank in free agency this year with Tampa Bay.
The Saints, in turn, signed Ben Grubbs away from the Baltimore Ravens. Their success at finding starters in the draft has to be a big part of how they could afford Grubbs.
Three first-round picks—Will Smith (2004), Sedrick Ellis (2008) and Cameron Jordan (2011)—should occupy starting spots this year.
The team spent their 2012 third-round pick (and first of the draft) on defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, but otherwise, no spots of significance beyond the starter are filled with draft picks.
The team has no draft picks in the two-deep depth chart at linebacker now that 2011 third-round pick Martez Wilson is playing defensive end.
First-round picks are in two of the four starting spots—free safety Malcolm Jenkins (2009) and cornerback Patrick Robinson (2011).
In addition, 2006 second-rounder Roman Harper starts at strong safety, and 2011 third-rounder Johnny Patrick should play a big role in subpackages.
The Saints drafted punter Thomas Morstead in the fifth round of the 2009 draft. None of their other special teams specialists were added via the draft.
The Saints have actually done an excellent job building through the draft. The majority of their offensive line, defensive line, and secondary starters were Saints picks, as were their top two pass-catchers.
The team has successfully identified running back talent after the draft, which should also earn points in an exercise such as this one. Linebacker has really been the only sore spot, with quarterback being a spot they have neglected by design.
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