Reviewing 2011 Saints draft picks, grades, and impacts

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John Sigler
·5 min read
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The 2021 NFL draft is just ten days away, so it’s a great time to look back on the last ten years of Saints draft picks. Between setting realistic expectations of what the Saints could do on draft day and illustrating how far we’ve come, it’s a good exercise to look back with a critical eye.

The context

Jan 8, 2010; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) stiff arms New Orleans Saints cornerback Tracy Porter (22) en route to a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the 2011 NFC wild card playoff at Qwest Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans was still smarting from an upset loss on the road to the Seahawks in the Wild Card Round, fueled by Marshawn Lynch’s signature “Beastquake” 67-yard touchdown run through the heart of their banged-up defense. And the Saints weren’t able to fire back with injuries thinning the offense; Reggie Bush exited early on, joining Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory on the sidelines while Julius Jones shouldered the team’s rushing attack, gaining just 59 yards on 15 carries. Ironically, Lynch was someone the Saints tried to acquire in a trade themselves years earlier. It wasn’t all bad, though. The 2010 team found encouraging results late in the season from rookie tight end Jimmy Graham, who caught four touchdown passes in his last three games before he too was shut down with an injury. The decimated running backs corps set the stage for offseason pickups like Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram (who we’ll get to in a minute), helping the Saints assemble one of the greatest offenses in NFL history around Drew Brees.

The picks

Alabama running back Mark Ingram poses for photographs with guest after he was selected as the 28th overall pick by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the NFL football draft at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday, April 28, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • Round 1, Pick 24: DE Cameron Jordan, California

  • Round 1, Pick 28: RB Mark Ingram, Alabama

  • Round 3, Pick 72: LB Martez Wilson, Illinois

  • Round 3, Pick 88: CB Johnny Patrick, Louisville

  • Round 6, Pick 189: Traded for New England Patriots TE David Thomas

  • Round 7, Pick 226: DE Greg Romeus, Pittsburgh

  • Round 7, Pick 243: LB Nate Bussey, Illinois

Jordan arrived in New Orleans after impressing the Saints at the Senior Bowl, which recently named him to the collegiate all-star game’s Hall of Fame. Ingram was the latest Heisman Trophy winner who helped lead Alabama to a national championship in 2009 with 17 touchdown runs.

The grades

ESPN’s Mel Kiper graded New Orleans with a B, crediting the Saints for landing great prospects but criticizing them for not focusing on positions of greater need. Here’s some of what he had to say about the Saints draft grade, via Canal Street Chronicles:

“Saints fans should have been thrilled headed into Saturday. In Round 1, the team got a great value with Jordan at No. 24, then got the best running back in the draft by trading into the No. 28 pick to get Ingram. On Friday, somehow Wilson fell in the Saints' laps at No. 72. He could have gone far higher. ... Where the Saints didn't get anything done was at defensive tackle and anywhere along the offensive line, where a tackle could be used. But the top of the draft was good enough where late positional needs can be overlooked to a degree. Of course, a traded Round 1 pick also factors in.”

But the Saints received a higher grade from SB Nation’s Brian Galliford, who gave them an A and wrote:

“In terms of instant impact, no one will get as much as New Orleans, who added instant starters in Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram in the first round. It wouldn't shock many if Ingram immediately becomes a Pro Bowl-caliber runner in that offense. Martez Wilson is the perfect athlete at linebacker for Gregg Williams, Johnny Patrick adds depth to the defensive backfield, and Greg Romeus could reap big rewards as a seventh-round pick. Great weekend for the Saints.”

The results

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 18: Cameron Jordan #94 of the New Orleans Saints warms up before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 18, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

New Orleans’ first two draft picks didn’t have terrific rookie seasons -- Jordan bagged just one sack in 2011, while Ingram only ran for 474 rushing yards across 10 games -- but they did prove to be the Saints’ best selections of the weekend. And they were the only players New Orleans picked to have any staying power: Wilson and Patrick were both out of town by 2013, with Romeus and Bussey washing out even sooner. Still, there’s something to be said for drafting the franchise leader in touchdown runs just a couple slots behind the guy closing in on Rickey Jackson’s Saints sacks record. The Saints made the most of their first round picks, even if the impact wasn’t felt right away, and it’s telling that both players are still sought-after talents around the league a decade later. Half of the players picked in 2011’s first round eventually earned Pro Bowl recognition, but Jordan and Ingram are the only first-round teammates to do so from that year’s class.

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