It’s been a wild and crazy ride for New Orleans Saints center Brian De La Puente, but he has finally emerged as one of the best players the NFL has to offer.
You wouldn’t know it.
De La Puente entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2008. He bounced around with the San Francisco 49ers twice, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Seattle Seahawks twice and the Carolina Panthers before joining the Saints in October of 2010.
Two years later, and De La Puente is the exact role model each Saints’ undrafted free agent should be looking up to.
De La Puente took over as the starter in New Orleans after Olin Kreutz elected to ditch the NFL altogether in the middle of the 2011 season.
He hasn’t looked back.
In what may be the most underrated move of the offseason for New Orleans, the Saints brought back De La Puente as an exclusive-rights free agent per Larry Holder of NOLA.com:
Center Brian de la Puente has agreed to his exclusive rights FA contract with the #Saints, league source says. Should start again in 2012.
— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) March 7, 2012
Why such high praise for De La Puente? Easy—he’s one of the best at what he does. According to ProFootballFocus (subscription required).De La Puente was the No. 2 overall center in the NFL last season, up 10 spots from 2011 when he was thrown to the wolves.
You name the category, De La Puente excels in it. Whether it’s pass blocking, run blocking, screen blocking or number of penalties, he was one of the best the NFL had to offer last season.
In another article, Ben Stockwell went on to detail why De La Puente is such a great player:
In New Orleans, De La Puente is the oft-forgotten center playing between two of the league’s most highly-regarded guards, in the shape of Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans. However, De La Puente still has to make his blocks to earn the sort of overall grade that he accrued this season (+23.0). The only blots on his copybook as a run blocker this season came in back-to-back weeks against Green Bay and San Diego early on in the season. Once the Saints got (to an extent) back on the level after their 0-4 start, so did De La Puente, whose run blocking was one of the consistent factors in that recovery with only two (marginally) negatively-graded games the rest of the way.
As you can see, New Orleans has one of the best centers in the NFL. He makes the life of quarterback Drew Brees rather simple, as well as any running backs the team happens to have on the roster.
De La Puente doesn’t get the spotlight, but it’s important for Saints fans to know he has been spoiling them ever since he took over in the middle of the 2011 season.
He’s also provided a blueprint as to how remaining persistent and toning your craft can allow you to make it in the NFL as an undrafted free agent.