Brian Allee-Walsh

The Saints should think big, take a risk during the NFL Draft. Here’s my proposal.

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New Orleans Saints fans still aren't over the officiating in the NFC Championship, as the took to the streets to protest the Rams taking on the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
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New Orleans Saints fans still aren't over the officiating in the NFC Championship, as the took to the streets to protest the Rams taking on the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton fashions himself as somewhat of a gambling man — e.g. “Ambush’‘ in Super Bowl XLIV. And, the team’s general manager is known as Trader Mick, so what I’m about to propose just might be right up their alley.

The Black and Gold hold six picks in the NFL draft, which runs Thursday through Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee. Only one — No. 62 overall which falls late in the second round on Day 2 — comes in the first four rounds.

The remaining five picks are scheduled to come off the board on Day 3 — one in round 5 (No. 168) and two each in rounds six (Nos. 177, 202) and seven (Nos. 231, 244).

I’m not suggesting the Saints football operations led by Mickey Loomis shouldn’t do its due diligence and try to find one or two diamonds in the rough on Day 3. They’ve done it before (OT Zach Strief and WR Marques Colston in the sixth and seventh rounds of the 2006 draft), and I’m sure they could do it again.

But this is the perfect storm for the Saints to be bold.

I propose they should use their second-round pick to fill a pressing need or on the best player available. Most draft experts believe there are 12-15 true No. 1 picks with regards to game-changing potential and immediate franchise value. After that, the next tier of players are relatively equal and left to the eye of the beholder.

What I’m about to propose might sound crazy but the Saints could package any or all of their five remaining draft picks — or all six if necessary — to move up in the draft and significantly upgrade their roster.

Previous Saints coaches and regimes certainly have done crazier things.

In 1983, Coach O.A. “Bum’‘ Phillips decided he would be better off going to the horse track instead of using his last four selections, so he traded away picks in rounds 9-10-11-12 to the New England Patriots for future considerations.

Prior to his early exit in ‘83, Phillips took offensive lineman Steve Korte in round 2 and tight end John Tice in round 3. Both players would become fixtures in the Saints’ successful run under owner Tom Benson, general manager Jim Finks and coach Jim Mora in the late ‘80’s and early 90’s.

But the craziest draft-related move in the Saints colorful history undoubtedly belongs to Coach Mike Ditka, who traded away his entire draft to the Washington Redskins in 1999 in order to select University of Texas RB Ricky Williams at No. 5 overall.

Williams remained with the Saints beyond the ‘99 season. Ditka did not. He, along with President/GM Bill Kuharich, assistant coaches and the bulk of the football operations were fired in the wake of a 3-13 campaign.

If the stars align for Loomis and Payton during the draft, and if they are compelled to package multiple picks and make a bold upward move, I suspect they would pull the trigger confidently and without hesitation.

It’s in their football DNA.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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