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New Orleans Saints History: Saints Trade Entire Draft for Ricky Williams

On this day in Saints history, April 17th, 1999, the team dealt their entire draft for the rights to select Ricky Williams with the #5 pick of the 1st round. This was preceded by Mike Ditka announcing to the whole world at the NFL owners meetings that he would trade his entire draft for Williams, and thus, giving the Saints ZERO leverage in any negotiations.

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

The Ditka Years Part 3: The Meathead Strikes Back

After two miserable seasons with identical 6-10 records, Mike Ditka was grasping at straws and flailing about like a drunk who fell off The Riverwalk and into the Mississippi River. He was trying to raise an already sunken ship that he spent the previous two years blowing huge holes in the hull with his own torpedoes. So, he pushed all of his remaining chips to the middle of the table and decided to go "all in" on the 1999 Draft by taking Ricky Williams.

The Saints traded away 8 picks, including two 1st rounders, to the Washington Redskins so they could move up from their own #12 spot in the draft to the #5 spot.

Here is what the Redskins received.




1st (12th Overall)












1st (2nd Overall)



Unfortunately, for the Redskins, they had a new owner (Daniel Snyder) who knew even less about the drafting NFL players than Ditka (is that even possible?) and who also had a natural tendency for going "all in" on controversial draft picks and free agent signings and would prove it many times over the next few years.

The Redskins packaged up those picks and traded away the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th round picks in 1999 along with their own 3rd round pick in 2000 to the Bears so they could move up in the 1999 draft and take Champ Bailey. They also traded the 6th and 7th round 1999 picks from the Saints to the Broncos so they could move up in 1999 and draft Derek Smith. They held on to the Saints 1st and 3rd round picks for 2000 and drafted LaVar Arrington and Lloyd Harrison.

After all the dust had settled, here is what each team received in players.





Ricky Williams

Champ Bailey

Cade McNown

Desmond Clark

LaVar Arrington

D'Wayne Bates

Billy Miller

Derek Smith

Warrick Holdman

Lloyd Harrison

Khari Samuel

Dustin Lyman

Outside of Ricky Williams, Champ Bailey, and LaVar Arrington, the rest turned out to be a bunch of journeyman nobodies (at best), along with a certifiable 1st round draft bust in Cade McNown. And what did all this player movement result in for the teams involved? Let's take a look at the records of these teams from 2000-2005 which encompasses the Haslett era after Tom Benson cleaned house of the Ditka regime following the 1999 season.











It was the Saints, Redskins, and Bears who were actually trying to change their fortunes by moving all these picks while the Broncos just kinda got in on the end of this melee by moving a couple late round picks. Of the three teams who were swinging for the fences, the Saints and Bears are on top with the Redskins bringing up the rear. It should be noted that the Saints were actually a winning team at 42-38 during this period, and leading the three teams, up until the 3-13 Katrina season of 2005 (CHI and WAS were both 34-46).

I mention this because there has been speculation that the Saints were setback, crippled, or ruined for years because of this trade. In reality, the Saints who were 15-33 for three seasons under Ditka, became winners over the next 4 seasons at 42-38 including the first ever playoff victory in franchise history, and it wasn't until the awful circumstances of 2005 that the team finally dropped under .500.

That quick recovery was due to Tom Benson finally taking back his franchise from 3 years of darkness and bringing in some "football" people to run the team, starting with new G.M. Randy Mueller. It was his initial drafts and free agent acquisitions which raised the sunken ship from the depths of the Ditka Triangle.

It was Mueller who drafted Deuce McAllister and traded Ricky Williams to the Dolphins for what became two 1st round picks (one was originally a conditional pick) and a 3rd rounder. The Saints turned those picks into Charles Grant and Keyuo Craver, and then later, after Mueller was no longer Saints GM, the infamous Jonathan Sullivan pick.

And as for Ricky Himself? Whatever became of him? I mean outside of all the Ganja. Well, there seems to be this false narrative which pops up occasionally on CSC and other places on the interwebbies that Ricky was a bust. Even those who will admit to him having a "decent" career in the NFL (I'll get to that in a bit), some will still claim that Ricky didn't do much with the Saints.

Huh? Let's square this before I let y'all go.

Aside from being #7 on the Saints all-time rushing list after having played only three seasons with the team AND everyone who's above him on that list played more seasons and more games, Ricky Williams accomplished the following in his brief time as a Saint.

Only three RBs in Saints history have 3000+ yards in their first 3 seasons with the team.

3353 George Rogers

3129 Ricky Williams

3120 Deuce McAllister


Only three RBs in Saints history have more than one season of 1000 rushing yards

4 Deuce McAllister

2 Ricky Williams

2 George Rogers


Only 3 RBs in Saints history have averaged 100 yards per game in a season

104.6 George Rogers

102.6 Deuce McAllister

100.0 Ricky Williams


Only two RBs in Saints history have averaged 80+ yards per game in their career

83.7 George Rogers

82.3 Ricky Williams

62.8 Deuce McAllister (in case y'all were wondering about Deuce)


Only two RBs in Saints history have back-to-back seasons of 1000+ rushing yards

2002-2004 Deuce McAllister

2000-2001 Ricky Williams


My favorite Saints RB ever is Chuck Muncie, but, a person would have to have his head WAY up their ass to not see that the three most productive RBs in Saints history are Deuce, Big George, and Ricky.

This does not include his entire NFL career in which Ricky is a member of the 10,000 yards rushing club of which there are only 28 RBs in NFL history. Or, that he's one of only 36 RBs in NFL history to have at least 5 seasons of rushing for 1000+ yards. And he's one of only 20 RBs in NFL history to rush for more than 1800 yards in one season.

And this is out of 3755 players who have suited up and played RB in the NFL.

Bust? Penn State called. They got some RBs from the 90's they'd like to sell you.