Over the years, the Saints have angered many fans by not taking LSU players in the draft. Is that on purpose or is there more to the story?
The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The Loch Ness Monster. Chupacabras and the Rougarou. There are any number of crazy myths out there. But those might all pale in comparison to the myth that the New Orleans Saints hate taking LSU players.
That myth has been perpetuated for years. LSU has put more players in the NFL than just about any other school over the last 15 years. In that time frame the Saints had drafted only one LSU player until this year’s seventh round when they took Will Clapp.
The Saints drafted Devery Henderson in 2004. After that pick, while guys like Glenn Dorsey, Andrew Whitworth, Patrick Peterson and Eric Reid came and went to many different teams over the years, the Saints only drafted one LSU player. One.
Al Woods had dropped a few pounds after leaving LSU, hoping to become a better pass rusher. The Saints actually moved up to take him in the 2010 draft. His tweener status (6-foot-4, 307-pounds, tall and long limbed for a nose tackle, heavy for a DE) and alleged skill deficiency led the Saints to release him before he ever got to wear the Black and Gold in a regular season game. Woods has gone on to be a journeyman nose tackle, forging a decent career for 6 different teams. He’s not a vintage era Vince Wilfork, but he’s one of the few capable of manning the middle spot in a 3-4 defense.
Woods was the only Tiger drafted in the 13 drafts between Henderson and Clapp. This has led Saints fans and Tiger faithful to believe there is a conspiracy of sorts to keep LSU players off the Saints roster. It’s easy to drink the Kool-Aid when there have been so many Tiger draft picks and solid NFL performers, none of whom have become Saints.
It would be nearly impossible to go through all the Saints picks and determine which players from LSU the Saints passed on. But what we can look at is some of the picks and note where and why the Saints passed on them. Maybe a dose of reality would dispel some of the rumors and myths.
2006 – The Saints had the number two pick in the NFL draft. Houston was taking Mario Williams; the Saints were obviously taking the Heisman trophy winner, Reggie Bush. No brainer. Their second pick that year was Roman Harper who became a mainstay of the Saints defense for a decade. He was taken 12 picks in front of Andrew Whitworth. A case could be made for either, even in hindsight. The first LSU player taken that season was Joseph Addai, 30th pick. That Saints draft was solid, so there can’t be many people complaining about that one.
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2007 – By virtue of playing in the NFC Championship game, we had a late first round pick in 2007. Three LSU players were taken before the Saints got their first pick in the draft. The one they didn’t take was WR Buster Davis, opting for Tennessee WR Robert Meachem instead. The hindsight test shows the Saints made the right move, but to be certain, LSU fans will point to this being the first snub of the Payton era.
2011 – The playoff Saints were too far down in the draft to get Patrick Peterson. They had to “settle” for Cam Jordan. They then made a move to get back into the first round for Mark Ingram over LSU RB Stevan Ridley. That move cost them a first round pick in 2012.
2013 – This might be the first draft where LSU fans have some heat. Kenny Vaccaro over Eric Reid (Vaccaro went at 15, Reid at 18). And today we know Terron Armstead is a beast, but back then taking a tackle from Arkansas Pine-Bluff over DE Sam Montgomery may have seemed silly. But the Saints had recently drafted Cam Jordan and Will Smith was still playing well. Little did we know Smith would suffer a torn ACL in pre-season, leading to the end of his career.
2014 – You got me. There is not enough lipstick in the world to make the 2014 draft look good. And there are several LSU players that were skipped in that draft by the Saints who would have been better. Selecting Brandin Cooks probably precluded them from picking Jarvis Landry. Low round picks are always a crap shoot, but we rolled snake eyes on all of those.
2015 – The Saints could give back Garrett Grayson for Danielle Hunter. That’s a miss. Other than that, I don’t know that LSU players should have superseded who we took.
2016 – Maybe you go OT Jerald Hawkins or CB Rashard Robinson over David Onyemata. Both those guys were more polished. But the Saints figured they were going to get good play from PJ Williams and Delvin Breaux, so Robinson didn’t fill a need. And we had Terron Armstead and Zach Strief at tackle, so getting an offensive tackle when we truly needed a defensive tackle seems silly.
2017 – The Saints may have taken LSU LB Duke Riley if he hadn’t come off the board the pick before Alex Anzalone. They valued Trey Hendrickson more than Kendall Beckwith. The deal there is they’d made moves for Klein and Te’o in free agency, so LB wasn’t as big a priority as edge rusher.
So often the draft comes down to where you have players graded, best player available, and needs. So many times, the Saints simply have not needed the LSU players available at the spots. Sure, there have been a few times where they passed up on LSU talent and went elsewhere. We can only assume that at those spots, they had other players graded more highly.
Often people say, “they’re right up the road, it should be easy to scout them”. Remember, scouts have no more an affinity to going right up the road than going to Bloomsburg, Hofstra or Regina in Canada. It’s all work to them. Ease or lack thereof doesn’t play into it. They are simply paid to evaluate talent.
Could there be a thought of home pressure? There was a push in the off-season by a few fans for the Saints to bring home the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu is a special talent. But he has a history here and some of it isn’t good. Does bringing him home, where some of his issues are from, work for all involved? Does he fit the Saints’ scheme?
In the Sean Payton era, 84 LSU players have been selected in the NFL draft. Granted, it seems somewhat odd that only two of the 81 Saints draft picks over that time frame have been LSU players. Odder when you consider some of the remote places some Saints have come from.
But to believe it’s a conspiracy against LSU for some reason is misguided. There have been myriad reasons why LSU players haven’t made it down the road to New Orleans – not the right talent, not the right spot, valuing one player over another, and simple cases of them being gone before the Saints could get to them. Put the LSU myth to rest.