The New Orleans Saints are one of the banner franchises in the modern NFL. The team that once got referred to as the ‘Aints’ is now a powerhouse. A lot of that success can get attributed to the Saints’ ability to draft quality players. However, not all picks are home runs. The NFL Draft is a high-stakes, human game of Russian Roulette. The Saints have their busts, too; no one will ever remember Johnathan Sullivan. However, there are far more hits than misses for New Orleans. The organization is so good in the drafting process. It’s time to take a look at some of the best first-round picks for the Saints in the 21st century.
Statistically, Deuce McAllister is the best running back in Saints history. Selected 23rd overall from Ole Miss, McAllister instantly featured in his rookie season. He started four games and rushed for 91 total yards. McAllister broke out in his second season. After starting 15 games, McAllister broke the 1000 yard barrier. McAllister added 13 touchdowns; he coupled with over 300 yards receiving and an additional three receiving touchdowns. McAllister became a Pro-Bowler in 2002.
He followed that up with a monstrous 2003 season. Playing the entire season saw McAllister post 1641 rushing yards at an average of 100 yards per game. McAllister hurdled the 100-yard mark in nine consecutive games. Between 2002 and 2006, McAllister enjoyed four seasons where he got over 1000 yards rushing. Injury and the arrival of Reggie Bush diminished McAllister’s role in the Big Easy.
While two nasty knee injuries slowed McAllister down, Saints fans still remembered him as the dynamic, energetic, do-it-all back that was a beast when at his best. McAllister retired as a Saints; he even got named honorary captain before their game against the Cardinals in 2010. Deuce McAllister was a certified success.
The aim for all first-round picks is to become a franchise stalwart. Cam Jordan is one of the foundational heartbeats that props up the Superdome on game day. Drafted 24th overall, Jordan is one of the Saints’ best players of the 21st century. 160 games, 94.5 sacks, and six Pro-Bowl’s later, Jordan is one of the superstar names in the NFL.
Despite Jordan now entering the veteran stages of his career, he will play a vital role for the New Orleans Saints as they move in a post-Drew Brees world. Powerful on the inside, fast and twitchy on the outside; Jordan is the complete pass rusher. No wonder he got named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2010s.
In 2015, the New Orleans Saints opted to rebuild their team around legendary quarterback Drew Brees. Essential to the rebuilding process was Andrus Peat. The 27-year-old guard is now one of the premier offensive linemen in the NFL. He was pivotal in helping form the ferocious two-headed monster of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara in 2017.
Andrus Peat was one of the first cogs in forming the new Saints’ rise to power in the NFC South. A three-time Pro Bowler, Peat is a graceful wrecking ball within the violent confines of the NFL trenches. His balletic feet, strong levers, and desire to dominate mark him out as a fabulous player and brilliant locker room presence. At just 27-years-old, Peat still owns many years ahead of him. He could get even better.
Cornerbacks are a strange breed—flash, loud, arrogant, and abrasive. These are all the mental traits that top cornerbacks should possess. Marshon Lattimore owns all of those traits, although it is not a bad thing. Corners must be competitors; Lattimore competes on every play with the player opposite him. Chosen 11th overall, the former CFP National Champion burst onto the NFL stage in his rookie season as he got awarded the Defensive Rookie of The Year in 2017.
That season ended on a sad note as Lattimore made a mistake that led to the famous ‘Minnesota Miracle’ moment. Luckily, Lattimore didn’t let that moment define his early career. The speedy, powerful, and handsy cornerback is a challenging proposition for any wideout. His feud with Mike Evans has developed into a brilliant, aggressive rivalry that defines Saints/Bucs matchups.
Cornerback is the most challenging spot for young players; Lattimore is now one of the premier players at his position. He is still incredibly young, very experienced, and owns the hunger to be one of the best players in the league.
The newly-minted Ryan Ramczyk is arguably the best right tackle in the NFL. Ramczyk is the Saints’ Mr. Reliable. He’s played 63 games, and he’s started all of those games. Several draftniks ranked Ramczyk as the best tackle in the 2017 draft. The Saints took him 32nd overall; it has proved to be an inspired decision. One-time First-Team All-Pro, twice a Second-Team All-Pro selection, and named in the 2017 Rookie of The Year team, Ramczyk’s resume is imposing.
He owns excellent spatial awareness, plus his technique at hitting blocks and moving defensive players is outstanding. Ramczyk’s draft selection is one of the most thoughtful picks made by any team in the last decade. He came in to protect Drew Brees; now, a new quarterback gets an elite protector to help him settle into the job.
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