Ranking Saints’ biggest NFL draft gems of the last decade

The New Orleans Saints have a habit of finding top-flight talent in the later rounds of the draft. Let’s look at some of their best finds in recent years.

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Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints / Chris Graythen/GettyImages
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2017 Round 3, Pick 103. 3. . Trey Hendrickson. TH. Trey Hendrickson. Defensive end. player. 56.

Trey Hendrickson went unheralded in the 2017 draft due to a smaller stature (6-foot-4, 266 pounds) and coming out of non-power school Florida Atlantic. Ironically, one of the knocks on him was losing a rep to "smallish tight end Jonnu Smith". Despite some concerns about translating to the next level, the Saints drafted the reigning C-USA defensive player of the year with one of the last selections in the third round, 103rd overall.

Entering his rookie season, Hendrickson won the backup left end job behind Cameron Jordan and played sparingly. He recorded his first sack against the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton in Week 3, and his other sack came against Bears' quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in Week 8. His 2018 season was extremely forgettable, and he kept quiet in the 2019 season aside from the two-sack opener against the Houston Texans.

It took until the 2020 season for New Orleans to move Hendrickson back to the right side of the line where he played in college, and it immediately paid massive dividends. He posted 4.5 sacks in his first five games, matching his total from the previous year. In Week 9 against the Buccaneers, he dropped Tom Brady twice to earn the first two-sack game of his career and the first of three that season. Patrick Mahomes also faced Hendrickson's wrath in Week 15 and hit the turf twice. His 13.5 sacks were enough to earn him his first Pro Bowl nod and a massive payday from the Cincinnati Bengals.

Letting Hendrickson get out the door will be a move that stings, considering he's emerged as a force in Cincinnati. He posted 14 sacks in his first year, and is coming off a 17.5-sack season while wearing the orange and black stripes and a third straight Pro Bowl. Regardless, the Saints still saw the talent in Hendrickson and should get credit for eventually figuring out what to do with him.