As draft day approaches it’s almost inevitable that we look to the past for guidance. We obsess over past mistakes and hopefully learn from them to make better decisions in the future.
Two years ago, the New Orleans Saints made a curious decision in the first round of the draft. After selecting defensive end Cameron Jordan with the 24th overall pick, the Saints traded back into the first round to select running back Mark Ingram.
Saints fans were impressed by the move back into the first round and mostly satisfied with Mark Ingram’s performance the past two years, but could they have made a better selection?
First let’s be clear about what the Saints gave up to take Mark Ingram; their second-round pick from the 2011 NFL draft and their first-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
With that second-round pick in the 2011 draft they could have selected one of the following players: wide receivers Torrey Smith, Greg Little, or Randall Cobb, running backs Shane Vereen, Daniel Thomas, DeMarco Murray, or Mikel Leshoure, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard or Pro-bowl defensive end Justin Houston.
The first-round pick in 2012 most likely would have been taken as part of the bounty punishment, so there’s no need to speculate whom the Saints might have used that pick on.
If we are still assuming that the Saints want to fill the spot at running back, choosing between Vereen, Murray, Thomas, and Leshoure are not bad options considering that you are picking in the second round.
In this case, I would select Murray, despite the injury issues he had coming out of the draft. The 6-foot, 215-pound back out of Oklahoma set school career records in touchdowns, points scored, all-purpose yards, and receiving yards for a running back.
(disclaimer: Andre 3000 song accompanies this video)
Murray was an explosive play-maker for the Sooners and could have brought a similar excitement to the Saints running game. Although Ingram has rushed for more touchdowns up to this point, Murray has rushed for more yards (1,506 yards for Murray to 1,076 yards for Ingram) despite being injured more often than Ingram.
Murray is extremely dangerous not only because of his speed and great change of direction skills, but also because of his size he is tough to bring down when you do get your hands on him. He also had great hands for the receiving game.
Murray would have been perfect for the Saints offense as they would not have had to rely on him early on, thus reducing his chances of catching an injury during the season. He has reliable hands to be a check-down option for quarterback Drew Brees and with his size could create match-up problems lining up at receiver.
Murray instead ended up being a steal in the draft and was selected with the seventh pick in the third round by the Dallas Cowboys. The lesson here is that there’s a lot of value in remaining patient and trusting your board during the draft. Of course, hindsight always has 20-20 vision.