The New Orleans Saints have done a lot of things right during the Sean Payton era, but drafting the past four years has not been one of them.
They have been really good at lighting up scoreboards, sneaking Vicodin and pissing off Roger Goodell.
Drafts? Not so much.
Out of the 21 players drafted, only four have contributed successfully at starting positions. Those players are Jimmy Graham, Malcolm Jenkins, Cameron Jordan and Thomas Morstead. Adding Morstead is pushing it in regards to him being a "starter." Two of those guys came out of one draft in 2009.
Others that the jury is still out on are Martez Wilson, Mark Ingram, Charles Brown and Patrick Robinson. Maybe some of these guys will blossom, but given the Saints track record it's not likely. Akiem Hicks and Corey White played alright in 2012, under the circumstances, but the biggest tell-tale sign of how good a player is going to be is how he develops from year one to year two.
Trades don't happen often around the NFL, but in the weeks leading up to the draft teams start wheelin' and dealin' to jockey themselves into position to get some prime talent on their squads. I know the Saints haven't been very accommodating at stockpiling picks, but what if they changed their tune?
These three trades should happen to keep the future bright for a while because this draft is critical with most of the team's core players near or at that 30-year age decline barrier. Successful teams reload and find replacements for their starters usually when they are in their prime to groom, not when they are past it. Just ask New England, Pittsburgh, etc. It helps keep the "lull" years to 8-8, 9-7 or 7-9.
That's what the Saints have done in the Payton era, and these are ways to keep that momentum going.
The Imminent One: New York Jets trade a 5th round pick to the Saints for Chris Ivory
There were only two things holding up this deal, Ivory signing his tender offer and Tampa Bay's focus on Darelle Revis. But now that both of those are out of the way, I fully expect this deal to be expedited very swiftly. Both teams are still figuring out compensation. The Saints want a 4th rounder, and the Jets want to give up a 6th rounder. How about we split the difference and call it a 5th?
Pull the trigger on that 5th, Mickey, and take the roster spot back you wasted on a 5th running back. Not saying Ivory was a waste, but holding on to five running backs is.
The Possible One: San Francisco 49ers trade the 31st, 60th and 74th picks for the Saints 15th
This may sound farfetched, but not when you think about the amount of picks the 49ers have to play with. This would also have to be the scenario if San Fran doesn't want to part with the 34th pick along with the 31st. That would be the ideal trade: having the Niners swap 31 and 34 for 15 straight up. But I don't see them parting with that high second when they can keep it and give up a late two and early three.
It's been known that the Niners are looking to trade up, and this would help them secure Sheldon Richardson or Kenny Vaccaro. It would also leave them still with a second and third rounder due to their stockpiling (Mickey, take note). If teams start reaching for quarterbacks, like I hope, it would cause some good players to fall and that, ladies and gentleman, is what people in the draft game call leverage.
Why wouldn't you do this for either team? It helps San Fran immediately and builds New Orleans up for the future.
The Pretty Please One: Tennesse Titans trade a 4th round pick to the Saints for Roman Harper
The phrase "easier said than done" keeps popping up in my head. I know, the team doesn't have Harper up on the trading block, but they should. They should take whatever they can get for a player who hasn't been any good since the 2010 season (maybe before then also, but who's counting right?).
I wouldn't trade anything less than a 5th rounder for Harper right now if I was another team. Sixth round is probably where his real value is now, but to someone who gets his jolly's off having the Bama product on his team, like Triple Snitch (Gregg Williams) up in Tennessee, they could be delusional and see him as a 2nd round value. Let's stay realistic and split the difference and call it a fourth, and you can have your awful player back with you.
This move would not only free up some space for Isa Abdul-Quddus, a favorite of mine, to show his worth (since he rated higher than Harper last year anyway), but also would free up much needed cap space for the Saints.
At the end of all of these trades, New Orleans would be left standing with the picks 31, 60, 74, 75, 107, 109, 141, 144 and 183, not to mention any other draft-day trades they would make if any of the players they value are there at said pick.
Not a bad way to keep your ship going now and into the future, don't you think Who Dat Nation?