AFR: Ranking the best draft picks of the Sean Payton era

AFR: Ranking the best draft picks of the Sean Payton era

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - There's been a lot of time looking forward to the 2016 NFL draft coming in two weeks. I'll have my third and final mock draft up later this week. In this post, I decided to take a look back at past draft picks and see who's had the biggest impact of this current regime. This was a little more difficult to compile than I originally had anticipated.

For the sake of longevity, I left out any members of the 2014 and 2015 draft classes.

10.) Terron Armstead (2013, 3rd round)

Small school project to an all-pro in the making, all Armstead needs is time and he will skyrocket up this list. He is the next elite player on this roster. Dominant left tackles get paid handsomely in the NFL, Armstead will learn this firsthand if and when he gets to free agency after the 2016 season.

9.) Mark Ingram (2011, 1st round)

One of just two first round picks in the Sean Payton era to sign a second contract with the club. Though somewhat slow to start, Ingram has led the Saints in carries in four of his five seasons.
He's established himself as a steady player within the Saints offensive arsenal.

8.) Zach Strief (2006, 7th round)

Last man standing of the 2006 draft class. Strief has been steady on the field since taking over as a full-time starter in 2011 and has been the consummate professional and leader in the locker room. There's a reason why the team kept him around this offseason despite having Andrus Peat on the roster.

7.) Tracy Porter (2008, 2nd round)

A short but impactful stay in his home state, Porter made two of the greatest interceptions in team history. It also beneficial that both helped seal the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl. Though he hasn't played for the Saints since 2011, he will forever be attached to the greatest season in Saints history. That alone is enough to get on this list.

6.) Carl Nicks (2008, 5th round)

Labeled a character risk entering the draft in 2008, Nicks quickly established himself and along with Jahri Evans became one of the best guard duo's in the NFL. Nicks made pro bowls in 2010 and 2011 and was an all-pro in 2011. In 2012, he signed a monstrous $47.5 million contract with Tampa Bay. His career derailed there and he retired after the 2013 season after playing just nine games for the Bucs. However, during his time in New Orleans he was an elite player at his position.

5.) Reggie Bush (2006, 1st round)

No other player brought more excitement and hope to this franchise when it was desperately needed. Not Sean Payton. Not Drew Brees. That alone gets him on this list. However, sometimes it gets forgotten just how much of an on-field impact Bush had. It didn't always show up in the stat sheet, but defenses devoted so many resources to him when was on the field. He's sixth in team history in receptions and led the team in punt return yardage in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

While he may not have lived up to the enormous hype coming out of USC, Bush was still one of the better draft picks of the Sean Payton era.

4.) Cam Jordan (2011, 1st round)

Arguably the Saints most consistent defender since 2011. He's had 39 sacks in five seasons and has never missed a game. If the Saints can get Jordan some help opposite of him to aid in the pass rush, this defense could significantly improve.

Regardless, I think it's safe to call Jordan the best first round pick of the Payton era.

3.) Jimmy Graham (2010, 3rd round)

A longer career in New Orleans and Graham may have held the top spot. As a basketball player turned tight end, Graham learned the game on the fly and became the model of the new-age tight end. He caught 51 touchdown passes in five seasons, made three pro bowls and one all-pro in 2013. The jury is still out on if he'll match that impact in Seattle.

2.) Jahri Evans (2006, 4th round)

A beacon of consistency and excellence during his decade in New Orleans, Evans became one of the best guards in the game.  He started 114 consecutive games and made six-straight Pro Bowls (2009-2014) and four straight All-Pro's (2009-2012) before injuries finally caught up to him in 2015.

1.) Marques Colston (2006, 7th round)

Colston was somehow never a pro-bowler or an all-pro but I'm giving him the top spot because of the way he re-wrote the Saints' record books. After a decade in New Orleans, Colston finished as the all-time leader in receptions (711), receiving yards (9,759), receiving touchdowns (72) and yards from scrimmage (9,766).

Honorable Mentions: Thomas Morstead (2009), Kenny Vaccaro (2013), Malcolm Jenkins (2009), Jermon Bushrod (2007) and Roman Harper (2006).

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