- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
This is good to see: the 2022 NFL draft is less than a week away, and the stakes are high for the New Orleans Saints. The team traded with the Philadelphia Eagles to add another first-round pick (at No. 19) and move up to No. 16 from their initial choice (at No. 18), with other premium selections slotted in at Nos. 49 and 98. And the team must hit on each of those picks to help the post-Sean Payton era start off with success.
So it’s encouraging that an ESPN study found the Saints rank among league leaders when it comes to getting a good return on their draft picks, dating back to 2012. They specifically ranked the Saints at No. 8 among the NFL’s 32 teams, ahead of NFC South challengers like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 9), the Carolina Panthers (No. 11), and the Atlanta Falcons (No. 17). Here is their methodology:
“To evaluate the players taken in each of the past 10 NFL drafts (2012-2021), we used Approximate Value (AV) — Pro Football Reference’s method of measuring the performance of every NFL player. We took each player’s career AV and measured it against a value based on where that player was taken in the NFL draft — we’re calling it Career Approximate Value Over Expected (CAVOE).”
There’s more from the writeup on ESPN if you want to get deeper into the weeds on it, but the long and short of it is that their process rewarded teams for hitting on their premium early-round picks; it’s great to find diamonds in the rough in the later rounds, but you’ve got to make the most of your best opportunities.
And that’s what the Saints have done, by and large, over the last decade. They used their selections in the first three rounds to add impact players like Akiem Hicks (2012), Terron Armstead (2013), and Brandin Cooks (2014) who are still making waves in the NFL all these years later. Finding Michael Thomas (2016) and Alvin Kamara (2017) outside the first round also did a lot to raise their standing across the league.
It’s a good thing, too, because the Saints have struggled to continue the success on the draft’s third day that nearly defined the start of the Sean Payton era (when longtime starters like Zach Strief and the forever-underrated Marques Colston landed in New Orleans). Their best pick in the final four rounds over the last 10 years was Kenny Stills, who peaked in 2014. By ESPN’s measure, the Saints have ranked fifth-worst on the draft’s final day.
Still, it’s an interesting study, and it does go to explain some of the NFL’s current dynamics: franchises that found their quarterbacks like the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, and Green Bay Packers have done the best job surrounding their stars with talented supporting casts (as did the Seattle Seahawks, who rarely missed the playoffs with Russell Wilson under center).
But now the Saints are trying to make the jump and join them. If Jameis Winston is going to work out as their quarterback for now and five years down the road, they’ve got to draft well, get him the help he needs, and put him in a position to win. The good news is the Saints have done it before. Let’s hope they can pull it off again.