The Good, Bad And The Wonderful: New Orleans Saints NFL Draft History

Posted on April 26, 2022

They’ve traded all their picks for one player. They’ve drafted the real Mr. Wonderful and several Mr. Terrible’s. When it comes to the NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints’ history is full of colorful stories and characters. 

The 2022 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday in Las Vegas. The Saints have two first-round picks: no. 16 and no. 19. 

Caesars has multiple over/under picks you can make on who will go when in the draft, including LSU star defensive back Derek Stingley Jr. at 9.5. I lean toward the under with that one.

Will the Saints go quarterback in the first round or wide receiver? Or, will they go the safe route with an offensive lineman? Will they trade up or down?

In the last 15 years, the Saints have become a model franchise when it comes to the NFL Draft, but oh boy, are there some stories from back when. Here’s a look at some of the best and worst Saints draft day moments and what might have been.

The best picks in Saints history

Let’s start with the good. There’s more than enough bad to go around. The Saints’ 2017 draft could go down as one of the best a team has ever had.

Star running back Alvin Kamara was a third-round pick. Saints standout tackle Ryan Ramczyk and cornerback Marshon Lattimore are each studs. Heck, even sixth-round pick Al-Quadin Muhammad just signed a big free-agent deal with the Chicago Bears.

If you want to talk sleepers, the Saints have a few good ones.

Old – I mean old like me – Saints fans remember star wide receiver Danny Abramowicz was picked in the 17th round in the Saints’ first draft in 1967. He was an early fan favorite and still ranks ninth all-time in receiving yards with the Saints.

The No. 1 person on the receiving yards list was a seventh-round pick, Marques Colston, out of Hofstra in 2006. No one still knows why he fell so far.

Let’s stick with wide receivers, LSU star Eric Martin was a seventh-round pick, he’s second on the career receiving yards list.

Flipping over to the defense, star safety Tommy Myers was a third-round pick back in 1972. Running back Hokie Gajan, another LSU fan favorite was a 10th rounder in 1981. 

Hall of Famer Rickey Jackson was a second-round pick in 1981 and Hall of Fame kicker Morten “Great Dane” Andersen was a fourth-round selection in 1982.

The worst picks in Saints history

I’m sorry Saints fans, but we must do this. I know it’s painful.

BYU defensive tackle Shawn Knight became a talk show punchline locally after he was drafted in the first round in 1987. Poor, poor Shawn lasted three years.

Running back Mario Bates was supposed to be the answer when he was drafted in 1994, but he got hurt and his career was short-lived.

Coach Mike Ditka had some fun in 1997 drafting Chris Naeole with the 10th pick. Naeole was meh. The Saints also got Iowa State running back Troy Davis and Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel in that draft. Neither one ever made it.

The Saints whiffed on wide receiver Lindsay Scott with their first pick in 1982. He was done, Lindsay done. Lindsay had a famous TD run and catch with the Bulldogs forever known as Run, Lindsay Run after the radio call by Larry Munson.   

2003 first-round pick Jonathan Sullivan had 1.5 sacks in three years. In 2014, the Saints took Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the second round. The defensive back played in just five games. In 2015, the Saints took linebacker Stephone Anthony out of Clemson.

Anthony is the answer to a great trivia question. Who is the first person in NFL history to return a blocked extra-point kick for two points? He was not a great linebacker.

And then, Mr. Wonderful

There it is, in the 1973 NFL Draft, 12th round, the Saints took Paul Orndorff, linebacker/fullback out of the University of Tampa.

Orndorff didn’t last training camp with the Saints. He went to camp the following year with the Chicago Bears, then played in the World Football League.

Then he realized his true calling. Orndorff became a superstar in the world of professional wrestling using the nickname “Mr. Wonderful” and having a memorable feud with Hulk Hogan back in the WWF. He died in July of 2021.

One could say the Saints picked a star, just in the wrong sport.

What might have been?

Every NFL franchise can play this game. The Saints just play it better than most. This is where the Saints picked a player just before an NFL superstar was picked by someone else.

In 1990, the Saints took defensive end, Renaldo Turnbull. A few picks later, the Dallas Cowboys chose Emmitt Smith.

In 1996, the Saints could have had Ohio State star running back Eddie George. Nope, the Saints took Alex Molden, a defensive back from Oregon.

In 1979, the Saints took punter/kicker Russell Erxleben, perhaps the most hated Saints player in history, in the first round. Superstar tight end Kellen Winslow was right there.

The worst might have been 1981, the Saints had the no. 1 pick and took running back George Rogers out of South Carolina. Probably every other team in the NFL would have taken the man chosen no. 2, Lawrence Taylor, except for the Saints.

Taylor won Super Bowls for the Giants and became an NFL legend. George Rogers played for the Saints for four years. Other than that, the pick was good.

Photo by Julio Cortez/Associated Press
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Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He's won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022.

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