One of the aspects of the Sean Payton era that most Saints fans can all agree has been positive is the coaching staff's ability to find undervalued, overlooked football players who surprisingly turn into production machines and worthy of a starting position.
Most of us would agree with that, right?
Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore and Marques Colston are all great examples of players who have overcome expectations and draft status to become major contributors; Rod Harper appears to be the next generation to continue that trend. This was a fact that my friend and I were discussing during the Saints final pre-season contest against the Dolphins last Thursday night when we realized something: All of those aforementioned players are on the offensive side of the ball. Aren't there any defensive diamonds in the rough that have pleasantly surprised Who Dat Nation and become invaluable members of this team?
At first glance, it wouldn't appear so. Only Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Jonathan Casillas initially come to mind and neither has yet to play a significant role. So does this mean anything? With the final roster now set and the regular season about to get underway, what better time to dig a little deeper, analyze the roster and find out if there really is any disparity between the overall draft pedigree of both the offense and defense.
To start figuring it out, I came up with my own system of measuring. All players were assigned a number equal to the round they were drafted. Hence, Reggie Bush would be a one and Marques Colston is seven. Any undrafted player entering the league was assigned the number eight. Therefore, the higher the number the better the player if we were to work under the assumption that the relationship between draft position and talent is directly proportional. With twenty five players on each side of the ball (not including Carney, Morstead and Kyle) the average draft position for both offense and defense are as follows:
On the whole, the offense and defense are almost dead even. Nothing peculiar about that accept it's lack of peculiarity.
But let's take it a little further and break it down for just the starters. When using the official depth chart from the New Orleans Saints official website with Reggie Bush as the running back, the draft position breakdown works out like this:
It makes sense that the numbers here are lower than above, assuming your higher drafted players are better and more likely to be starters. But there is still only a slight difference between the offense and defense but not really enough to warrant any conclusion.
Change out Reggie Bush for Pierre Thomas and Devery Henderson for Lance Moore, however, and the difference becomes much more significant:
These results are most interesting. It's amazing that Payton and Co. have put together such a potent offense comprised, on average, of players chosen from the second half of the draft yet the defense has struggled even with players of higher average draft position. Given that the offense is easily the better half of this football team, it's safe to say they get more done with less.
All of this, however, begs the question: Why? What accounts for this apparent difference? Are the coaches just a better judge of offensive talent? Does this say anything about the teams past drafts? Can it just be pure luck and coincidence? Is this a bad time to judge the defense, as they're trying to rebuild, and will this change as the team heads into the future with Gregg Williams? Lots here up for discussion and thought. Go ahead and dig in.