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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C.J. Gardner-Johnson. CJGJ. Safety. 2. . 2019 Round 4, Pick 105. player. 54. . C.J. Gardner-Johnson

The concern for CJ Gardner-Johnson coming out of Florida in 2019 was twofold: he was a raw prospect and needed some developing, and he was already known for his loud mouth and feisty personality. Despite his scouting report assessing him as a second-round talent, he slid to the beginning of the fourth round, where the Saints drafted him with the third pick, 105th overall.

In his rookie year, he stepped right into the nickel corner spot and played 16 games with seven starts. He broke up eight passes and logged his first career interception, forced fumble, and fumble recovery en route to an All-Rookie team nod. It was his sophomore season in 2020, though, that brought out the Gardner-Johnson known league-wide today. He got under Michael Thomas' skin enough to draw a punch in practice, and the rest is hilarious history as his mouth became his greatest asset.

Nobody hates Gardner-Johnson more than the Chicago Bears; in two matchups, he started two fights that got opposing players ejected. He also emerged as a ball-hawk for the Saints, breaking up a team-high 13 passes and hauling in an interception. In his third and final year in New Orleans, he broke up seven passes and hauled in a team-lead-tying three interceptions despite a stint on IR.

Since leaving the Big Easy, he's established himself as a fixture in the Philadephia Eagles' secondary and was a massive steal for the Saints right at the heart of the draft.