Saints need more value out of draft
Six out of 10 draft classes picked by Loomis & Payton have one player or fewer on current active roster
When general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton took over the Saints’ brain trust in 2006, their first few decisions on the club’s future appeared to be masterstrokes. The duo signed free agent quarterback Drew Brees and drafted one of the best classes, top to bottom, in NFL history. It included Reggie Bush, Roman Harper, Jahri Evans, Zach Strief, and Marques Colston. Each was instrumental in the team earning their first Super Bowl championship, and three – Evans, Strief, and Colston – are still on the roster 10 years later. The class also included Rob Ninkovich, who landed with New England in 2009 and is entering his seventh season with the Patriots this year. Out of eight picks in their first year together only two were misses.
For as amazing as that first class was, the team has struggled with keeping its draft picks on the roster since. Only 31 percent (19/61) of Saints’ draft picks since 2006 are still with the club. Just 36 percent (19/53) of players on the Saints current active roster were drafted by the team.
Compared to 2006, only two other draft classes have more or an equal number of players on the team. There are eight from this year’s class and three from 2013. The Saints have only one remaining draft pick from the draft classes of 2014, 2012, and 2009; two from the class of 2011; and none from 2010, 2008, and 2007.
While the team can fill the roster with free agents (and it has), it’s not necessarily the best or most economical way to do it – especially with the NFL’s strict salary cap in place.
The current collective bargaining agreement, in place since 2011, has minimized players’ first NFL contract because too many owners and veteran players thought top rookies made too much for having not proven themselves as professionals. Prior to the current CBA, signing a rookie contract, especially for top draft choices, was like hitting the lottery. For instance, 2010 No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford signed a six-year, $78 million deal with $50 million guaranteed and escalators raising it to a maximum $86 million value if he reached certain benchmarks. This year’s No. 1 pick, Jameis Winston, signed a guaranteed 4-year, $25.35 million deal.
The Saints depended on free agency a bit too much over the past few years. It’s put the club in salary cap dire straights and limited their ability to build depth. By selecting smarter, the Saints would be in much better position to compete now. They know this. The team overhauled their scouting department this offseason. If they can target pro-quality talent that can be had for four to five years at a bargain price, they’ll have more money to offer to more proven professional free agents.
Only 31 percent of Saints’ draft picks since 2006 are still with the club.
Draft Class No. of Picks No. on current roster
2015 9 8
2014 6 1
2013 5 3
2012 5 1
2011 6 2
2010 5 0
2009 4 1
2008 6 0
2007 7 0
2006 8 3
Total 61 19