Friday, 18 March 2011 14:34

Looking At New Orleans Saints NFL Draft Choices From Afar

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Ed StatonThe Saints could be in a tough spot with the 24th over-all pick in the draft April 28-30.

They have 26 potential free agents, one of the highest payrolls in the league, and they want to lock up Drew Brees long term. So where are they going with their 24th pick? The usual names of defensive guys have been thrown around such as Justin Houston, son of former Saints star Ironhead Heyward Craig Heyward, Cameron Jordan and Ryan Kerrigan are a few.

Would the Saints be in the market for a running back even though Reggie Bush is in the team's plans for this season.  Former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram of Alabama could still be on the board when the Saints make their pick and he would be an intriguing selection for the Saints. He worked out all offseason with a trainer in New Orleans and appears ready for the NFL.

Barring the option of trading up or down, the Saints will pick near the end of the first round, and looking back at the last 10 selections with the 24th pick, several players have gone on to have outstanding careers. Nine of the 10 players picked 24th are still playing in the league. Below is a review of the last 10 24th selections:

2010: WR Dez Bryant,Oklahoma State to Dallas Cowboys.
2009: DT Peria Jerry,Ole Miss to Atlanta Falcons
2008: RB Chris Johnson, East Carolina to Tennessee Titans
2007: S Brandon Meriweather, Miami to New England Patriots
2006: CB Jonathan Joseph, South Carolina to Cincinnati Bengals
2005: QB Aaron Rodgers, California to Green Bay Packers
2004: RB Steven Jackson, Oregon State to St.Louis Rams
2003: TE Dallas Clark, Iowa Indianapolis Colts
2002: S Ed Reed, Miami, to Baltimore Ravens
2001: CB Wilie Middlebrooks, Minnesota, to Denver Broncos.

From the list above, running backs, cornerbacks and safeties have been selected two times apiece at the 24th slot. Jackson, Johnson, Meriwether and Reed have each gone on to multiple Pro Bowl selections, while Clark and Rodgers have gone to the All-Star game once and have led their teams to Super Bowl championships.

Picking among Johnson, Rodgers, Jackson and Reed would be difficult decision because as each of them have become the dominant players for their respective teams.

Picked by the Titans out of East Carolina on 2008, Johnson's carried 925 times for 4,598 yards with 34 touchdowns and has 137 catches for 1,008 yards with four touchdowns.

Reed was chosen by the Ravens in 2002, and the Destrehan product is one of the most dynamic defensive players of all-time, having been selected to the Pro Bowl seven times and being named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. He's on the NFL's 2000's All-Decade Team and has 54 career picks, including an NFL-best eight in 2010 in only seven games.

The newcomer to the "24" group, Bryant served as Dallas' third wide-out in his rookie season and finished with 45 catches for for 561 yards with six touchdowns. He also provided a spark on punt returns with two returns for touchdowns.

Plenty of standouts have come from that 24th pick.

Some hither, others yon: The NFL plans to announce the prime-time games for the opening week of the 2011 season at its annual spring meeting next week in New Orleans. The Packers are the defending Super Bowl champions, which means they'll get the Thursday night season opener at Lambeau Field. If you look at the Packers list of home opponents, there are only two maybe three marque games. The Saints are scheduled to play in Green Bay, and it would be more than logical to pair the last two Super Bowl champions to open the season. The only other real strong competitor for this game would be the Bears and that would be a rematch of last season's NFC Championship Game. The Saints opposed the Vikings in last season's opener in a rematch of the NFC Championship Game...

Best draft pick the Saints made under Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton was Marques Colston. They used the second of two seventh-round draft choices (No. 252) on the little known wide receiver out of Hofstra. All they got was a guy who instantly became a very good No. 1 receiver. His numbers would be spectacular if Payton and Brees weren't so good at spreading the ball around. Colston is the definition of a value pick and guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans aren't far off.  Worst choice? How about defensive tackle Al Woods of LSU. He was a fourth-round pick in 2010, but he ended up getting waived in the preseason. A fourth-round pick should at least make the roster...

The Saints have a NFC South division high 12 players with workout bonuses in their contracts and 11 of them are well into six figures. Generally, offseason workouts don't begin until later in March and players collect their bonuses if they participate in a specified percentage of the workouts -- usually 85 to 90 per cent. Malcolm Jenkins has a team-high $350,000 workout bonus and Sedrick Ellis has a $250,000 workout bonus. Drew Brees and Jahri Evans each are scheduled to receive $200,000 bonuses and Will Smith has one for $150,000, while Robert Meachem is scheduled for a $147,000 bonus. Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer, Jon Stinchcomb and Devery Henderson each have a $100,000 bonus and Marques Colston has a $75,000 bonus. Tracy Porter is scheduled for a $7,280 workout bonus...

A recent study showed that 78 per cent of NFL players are either bankrupt, divorced or unemployed within two years after the end of their careers. Replacement players if the lockout continues into September? They worked in the days before the BCS turned college football into our nation's No. 2 sport. They won't work anymore. Nobody's going to watch a meaningless pro game of scrubs when every college football weekend is a playoff weekend. In understanding the players, the NFL owners would be understanding their fans. In bullying them, it feels as if they are bullying the rest of us, too...Never kick a man when you're down...

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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