February 25, 2007

The Haslett Era Drafts: NOPF reviews the 2000-2005 NFL Drafts

Jim Haslett, paired with Randy Mueller or Mickey Loomis, rarely had an unremarkable draft. When it came to first round picks, the Saints were surprisingly successful with one glaring exception. They couldn't draft a linebacker worth his salt, a defensive tackle worth his weight and for the most part refused to draft a cornerback.

It was six drafts full of surprises on Saturday afternoon, frustration on Saturday evening, and puzzled looks on Sunday. Here's a complete review of the Haslett era drafts.

A few stats to start off:

Total Draft Picks 45
Eventual Starters 22 49%
Still with team 12 27.6%
Out of NFL 16 35.6%
In NFL, not with Saints 17 38.8%

First-day Draft Picks
First-day starters 15 88.2%
First-day picks with team 8 47.0%

Second-day Draft Picks
Second-day starters 6 21.4%
Second-day picks with team 4 14.3%

# Start % With Team % Out of NFL % Other Team %
WR 7 28.6% 14.3% 71.4% 14.3%
DE 6 50.0% 33.3% 50.0% 16.7%
LB 6 66.7% 16.7% 33.3% 50.0%
DT 5 40.0% 20.0% 60.0% 20.0%
FB 3 100.0% 33.3% 0.0% 66.7%
OT 3 66.7% 66.7% 33.3% 0.0%
QB 3 33.3% 0.0% 33.3% 66.7%
TE 2 0.0% 0.0% 50.0% 50.0%
CB 2 0.0% 0.0% 100.0% 0.0%
OG 2 100.0% 50.0% 0.0% 50.0%
RB 2 50.0% 50.0% 0.0% 50.0%
S 2 50.0% 50.0% 0.0% 50.0%
C 1 100.0% 0.0% 0.0% 100.0%
LS 1 0.0% 100.0% 0.0% 0.0%

Current starters in bold
Current Saints in black
In the NFL, or expected to be, in red
Out of NFL in blue
Significant starters at some point are followed by an *
A starter, for these purposes, is a player who at one point started for a significant amount of time on offense or defense - not a player who starter for only a few games or as a substitute.

2. Darren Howard DE Kansas State*
4. Terrelle Smith FB Arizona State*
5. Tutan Reyes OL Mississippi*
5. Austin Wheatley TE Iowa
5. Chad Morton RB USC
6. Marc Bulger QB West Virginia*
6. Michael Hawthorne DB Purdue
6. Sherrod Gideon WR Southern Mississippi

7. Kevin Houser TE Ohio State

Significant undrafted signings: LB Jamal Brooks, K Shayne Graham*

Initial Draft grade: B
Draft Grade Today: A-
Seven years later:
Including free agent rookie Graham, produced five eventual starters and two great special teamers in Morton and Houser. Five players are still starting in the league, not including Houser who is the Saints' long term solution at long snapper. For a draft that had only one first day pick, that's remarkable, and we're giving credit to Randy Mueller for making the most of it in the ashes of the Ricky Williams trade year, even if the Saints allowed all of those starters to leave. Of the players who eventually started, only one (Reyes) hasn't been a truly remarkable performer.

1. Deuce McAllister RB Mississippi*
3. Sedrick Hodge LB North Carolina*
3. Kenny Smith DL Alabama*
4. Moran Norris FB Kansas*
5. Onome Ojo WR UC-Davis
6. Mitch White T Oregon State
7. Ennis Davis DT USC

Significant undrafted signings: FB Joey Goodspeed*, TE Boo Williams*, RB James Fenderson, S Richard Newsome

Initial Draft grade: A-
Draft Grade Today: C+
Six Years Later:
The first four picks and two undrafted rookies would end up starting at some point in their careers, but only one (McAllister) has been a keeper for any team. Hodge and Smith had their chances and couldn't hold on to jobs. Norris wasn't really given a fair shake in New Orleans but was good for the Texans for a time. The second day of the draft was a disaster, but as an undrafted free agent Boo Williams was a very productive starter for a period of time. Pulling this draft out of the trash is only the brilliant pick of McAllister, a risky, controversial but ultimately franchise-making decision.

1. Donte Stallworth WR Tennessee*
1. Charles Grant DE Georgia*
2. LeCharles Bentley C Ohio State*
3. James Allen LB Oregon State*
4. Keyou Craver CB Nebraska
5. Melvin Mitchell S Western Kentucky
6. J.T. O'Sullivan QB UC-Davis
6. John Gilmore TE Penn State
7. Derrius Monroe DE Virginia Tech

Significant undrafted signings: G PJ Alexander, WR Derrick Lewis, K Jeff Reed*, RB Ricky Williams

Initial Draft grade: A
Draft Grade Today: B+
Five Years Later:
The first four draft picks and the Saints' undrafted rookie camp kicker would eventually become starters. Craver and Mitchell had shots at starting, but drug issues and a tragic knee injury ended their opportunities with the Saints. O'Sullivan was one of the more exciting preseason QB's to play for the Saints in a long time and is headed back for another season of European action. The first three picks were as solid as any while Allen was on his way to joining them, although belatedly, before a series of knee problems.

1. Johnathan Sullivan DT Georgia*
2. Jon Stinchcomb T Georgia*
3. Cie Grant LB Ohio State
4. Montrae Holland G Florida State*
5. Melvin Williams DE Kansas State
6. Kareem Kelly WR USC
7. Talman Gardner WR Florida State

Significant undrafted signings: CB Lynaris Elpheage, TE Zach Hilton*, G Chad Setterstrom, DT Kenderick Allen

Initial Draft grade: B-
Draft Grade Today: D
Four Years Later:
GM Mickey Loomis admitted at the 2007 scouting combine that the trade up to select DT Johnathan Sullivan was an overreaction to a need, something the rest of us knew immediately back in April 2003. Sullivan is the sole first round busy, and was a cataclysmic one at that. The type of player that found his way to the media buffet table at road games, chanted his signing bonus like a mantra and was injured on his first real impact play gobbled up cap room and a starting spot on the depth chart. Only after Haslett was gone could Loomis move him, in a straight-up trade for unremarkable speedster WR Bethel Johnson. The rest of the draft had zero impact on the team save for the two linemen. Holland was an immediate starter, but knee and weight injuries have tanked his stock, while Stinchcomb emerged from the shadows in 2007 to become the only real prize of this draft. The former Georgia product barely played through three seasons, enduring a torn patellar tendon and entire seasons on the inactive list to arrive in the present, where he has by far the brightest future of any in the 2003 Saint rookie class.

1. Will Smith DE Ohio State*
2. Devery Henderson WR LSU*
2. Courtney Watson LB Notre Dame*
5. Rodney Leisle DT UCLA
5. Mike Karney FB Arizona State*
7. Colby Bockwoldt LB BYU*

Significant undrafted signings: G Augie Hoffman, FB Nate Schurman

Initial Draft grade: B+
Draft Grade Today: B+
Three Years Later:
Smith and Karney are the stars of this draft, while Henderson and Leisle are key reserves who will be competing for starting jobs. Bockwoldt was once the seventh round surprise of the draft, a stunningly productive starter at weakside linebacker, but after finding no favor with the new coaching staff he was unceremoniously cut and ended up playing backup for the Titans in 2006. Watson is the runt of the litter, the cerebral but unphysical middle linebacker that was supposed to solve the position for the Saints was traded away to Buffalo, bounced to Houston and is currently out of the league. The only real miss of the draft, yet another linebacker bust, Watson keeps this otherwise solid draft class out of A category.

1. Jammal Brown T Oklahoma*
2. Josh Bullocks S Nebraska*
3. Alfred Fincher LB Connecticut
4. Chase Lyman WR California
5. Adrian McPherson QB Florida State
6. Jason Jefferson DT Wisconsin

7. Jimmy Verdon DE Arizona State

Significant undrafted signings: LS L.P. Ladouceur, G Ikechuku Ndukwe, G Nick Steitz, CB Dwight Ellick, CB Matt Clark, WR Keron Henry 

Initial Draft Grade: B
Draft Grade Today: Incomplete
Two Years Later:
The weekend started with a dubious trade up three spots to get Jammal Brown, the inexplicable selection of a safety when the Saints were loaded at the position, and the requisite third round linebacker. Brown proving to be a cornerstone pick but has had his ups and downs - dominating as a rookie right tackle and a sophomore Pro Bowl left tackle to go with getting snookered in the NFC Championship game and a domestic violence allegation. He is on path to be a long-term franchise player at left tackle, and that is not a common occurrence. Bullocks has been an interception machine in practice but not in games and had a definite sophomore slump. Still he appears to be the starter at free safety. Fincher has yet to hit the lineup but has been on special teams, so the grade is still out. The second round of this draft was nothing short of a four-pitch strikeout. Verdon was the only pick to actually play in a game for the Saints, appearing in four during the 2005 season. It's unfair to grade this top-heavy draft class yet.

NOPF News Archive