Brian Allee-Walsh

With mid-round gambles, Saints have to hit on early draft picks



Louisville defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine on Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Louisville defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine on Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) AP

NEW ORLEANS -- There is a method to the annual NFL madness.

First comes an endless river of mock drafts beginning in January. Then, Judgment Day arrives in late April. Now comes a steady stream of post-draft evaluations from everyone and his brother, complete with analysis, predictions and finally the all important letter grade.

A: Spectacular.

B: Compelling.

C: Pedestrian.

D: Underwhelming.

F: Flippin' bad.

For the New Orleans Saints, their efforts to catch lightning in a bottle are being received favorably around the country with draft grades from Spectacular to Pedestrian and all points in between. Yes, the so-called gurus named Mel, Todd, Peter, Bucky, Daniel, Rob, Don, Pete and Charles appear to be smiling down on Saints GM Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Payton.

When it comes to dissecting players, I am a horse with no name. That said, I still feel comfortable weighing in on the subject.

So without further adieu here's my two cents on the Saints 2016 draft:

DT Sheldon Rankins (No. 12 overall), Louisville: I feel like he's been a part of the Black and Gold since January, when his name first started lining up with the Saints in many mock drafts. In college, Rankins played like Tarzan, capable of playing both the three- and five-technique. Let's hope he doesn't play like Jane in New Orleans (a la Georgia DT Johnathan Sullivan, 2003).

WR Michael Thomas (No. 47), Ohio State: He's being compared to former Saints wide receiver Marques Colston. That's mighty tall cotton. Thomas will have to go some to surpass Colston's contributions. Number 12 set the bar extremely high during a stellar 10-year run and exited as the franchise's all-time leading receiver. All for the low, low price of a seventh-round pick in 2006. That's not a steal; it's grand larceny!

S Vonn Bell (No. 61), Ohio State: I'm sure Loomis and Payton had good reason to give New England their No. 3 pick (78 overall) and No. 4 pick (112) to move up 17 spots into the second round. Time will tell. If I were starting safeties Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro, I'd be a little concerned about my long-term future in New Orleans.

DE David Anyemata (No. 120), Manitoba, Canada: I get trading up to get Bell. But giving up a No. 5 this year (No. 152 overall) and a fifth-round pick in 2017 to climb back into the fourth round to select a Nigerian-born prospect who hasn't played college football in the U.S. is curious. Very curious. Has boom or bust written all over him.

RB Daniel Lasco (No. 237), California: Just remember, Pierre Thomas made his mark in New Orleans as an unsigned rookie from Illinois starting in 2007.

Overall, Loomis and Payton swung for the fences with two proactive trades, though the move to get Anyemata runs a high risk of being a swing and miss. Ultimately, they'll need to hit on Rankins, Thomas and Bell for history to look favorably on this draft.


Brian Allee-Walsh, a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at