In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs traded up to nab Patrick Mahomes, and the rest is history. But just how close were the Saints to getting the superstar quarterback?
At the time, New Orleans still had Drew Brees, who was entering his 12th season with the Saints and arguably starting to decline in form.
With the 11th overall pick in the 2017 draft, the Saints knew how special of a talent Mahomes was and nearly picked him to be Brees' successor and the franchise's quarterback of the future.
NOLA was so close to taking Mahomes that Payton reportedly had a conversation with Brees in the draft room about the possibility of drafting his replacement.
"I thought it was important [Brees] knew that we might be taking a quarterback right here."- Sean Payton
Saints were ready to pull the trigger on Patrick Mahomes in 2017 NFL Draft
That conversation ended up being inconsequential as Kansas City traded up in the first round to take Mahomes at 10th overall.
The Saints would take defensive starlet Marshon Lattimore one pick later, and one could argue Lattimore made the same impact in the defense as Mahomes would have made in the offense.
The 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year and four-time Pro Bowler has developed into one of the Saints' most productive secondary pieces, and the defense wouldn't have enjoyed as much success in the last five years without a player like Lattimore.
Brees also wasn't quite finished with his career yet, earning three Pro Bowls from 2017 to 2019 and leading the league in completion percentage each of those years.
That being said, it's still intriguing to imagine a situation in which Mahomes gets to thrive as Brees' protégé and within Sean Payton's system. The Saints certainly wouldn't have gone through the painful ordeal of seeing Jameis Winston/ Taysom Hill/ Trevor Siemian/ Ian Book on the field in 2021, not to mention the incredible duo that Mahomes and a healthy Michael Thomas would have made.
What's done is done, and ultimately there's no use dwelling on what could have been. NOLA may have to wait another decade for a franchise quarterback like Brees or Mahomes, but the wait will surely be worth it.