Grading New Orleans Saints drafts under Jeff Ireland
Jeff Ireland joined the New Orleans Saints organization in January 2015 and brought with him years of advanced scouting and draft expertise. His incorporation into the brain trust of Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton led to both highs and lows in the past seven drafts, including the infamous 2017 draft, considered by many to be one of, if not the best, Saints draft in franchise history.
An advanced look at the Saints drafts between 2015-2021 under the guidance of this triumvirate yields some interesting results.
As NFL draft season approaches again, a review of the past often yields a glimpse into the future. Below is a round-by-round breakdown of the draft classes headed by Loomis and Ireland with the following grades:
- 4 points for a Pro Bowl / All-Pro player
- 3 points for an established NFL starter or key contributor
- 2 points for a solid NFL depth player
- 1 point for a miss (bust, no longer on team, cut after little or no production)
Day 1 / First Round
- 2015: Andrus Peat – 4 points
- 2015: Stephon Anthony – 1 point
- 2016: Sheldon Rankins – 3 points
- 2017: Marshon Lattimore – 4 points
- 2017: Ryan Ramcyzk – 4 points
- 2018: Marcus Davenport – 3 points
- 2020: Cesar Ruiz – 1 point
- 2021: Payton Turner – TBD
Composite Score: 2.86
Analysis: The Saints have hit both ends of the spectrum in the first round under Loomis and Ireland. For the most part, outside of the selection of Payton Turner from Houston, the Saints’ top selection in drafts have been from major college programs.
Andrus Peat is one of the most divisive players selected in recent Saints history, earning multiple Pro Bowl nods despite consistent issues in pass protection drawing the ire of Saints fans. Choosing Stephon Anthony over Erik Kendricks in 2015 cost the Saints years of quality linebacker play, until the free-agent signing of Demario Davis in 2018 and the trade for Kwon Alexander a couple of years later.
Taking a high-upside project player in Marcus Davenport in 2018 during the twilight years of Drew Brees’ career was questioned at the time, especially given the cost acquisition, although his recent play when healthy warrants a hefty contract extension.
Unfortunately, the last two Saints draft picks (Cesar Ruiz and Payton Turner) haven’t lived up to their draft position, although both are still early in their careers. Given the re-emergence of Cam Jordan in the second half of this season and quality play from Marcus Davenport, the selection of Payton Turner over a receiver such as Elijah Moore hopefully convinces this regime of the benefit of a first-round receiver selection in this year’s draft.