We continue a series that will likely span the length of the entire New Orleans Saints offseason where we look a key questions the Saints will face at various points of the year - the 2017 NFL Draft, free agency, and the 2017 regular season. We turn to a issue of concern for Saints fans and the organization: will the Saints use one of their two first round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft on offense?
The New Orleans Saints had a historically-worst defense in 2015. After firing Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan, the Saints graduated to “one of the worst” defenses in 2016 instead of the absolute worst. Still, entering this offseason, the Saints had numerous holes to fill on defense, including Defensive End, Defensive Tackle, multiple Linebackers, multiple Cornerbacks, and Safety. Even after multiple signings this free agency period, the Saints could still use help at Defensive End, Linebacker, Cornerback and Safety.
After trading away Brandin Cooks, even with the addition of WR Ted Ginn Jr. from the Carolina Panthers, the Saints also could look to add another Wide Receiver to the fold. And even after bringing back RB Travaris Cadet, there’s a chance the Saints could look to draft a pass-catching Running Back to back-up Mark Ingram.
So the question then becomes: will the Saints do the seemingly smarter thing in draft defense on their first two picks, or will they instead look to improve their already potent offense?
History seems to indicate the Saints will use at least one of their first round picks (#11 and #32 overall) on an offensive player. In the Sean Payton Era, the Saints have had had multiple first round picks only twice, in 2015 and 2011. In 2015, the Saints picked one defensive player in Stephone Anthony after selecting Andrus Peat earlier in the first round. Granted, an Offensive Lineman is different than an offensive skills player, but in 2011 the Saints picked a Running Back in Mark Ingram after selecting DE Cam Jordan.
Looking even further into the Saints draft history, in 2016 the Saints only had one first round pick. Still, between their first two picks, one went to defense (Sheldon Rankins) and one went to offense (Michael Thomas). Same in 2014, they selected a defensive player (Stanley Jean-Baptiste) only after selecting an offensive player with their first pick (Brandin Cooks).
We can keep going. The Saints first two picks in 2013 went to an offensive lineman (Terron Armstead) and a defensive back (Kenny Vaccaro). In 2012 the Saints first two picks were split offense (Nick Toon) and defense (Akiem Hicks). Same in 2010 - Patrick Robinson and Charles Brown. 2007 (Robert Meachem and Usama Young). 2006 (Reggie Bush and Roman Harper).
Only twice in the entire Sean Payton Era were the first two picks of the Saints spent exclusively on defense. In 2008 the Saints drafted Sedrick Ellis and Tracy Porter. Then again in 2009 the Saints actually used their first three picks on defense after drafting Malcolm Jenkins in the first round. In that scenario, though, the Saints didn’t pick again until the fourth round.
So only one time in the Sean Payton Era have the Saints spent two picks within at least the second round on defense, and it just so happens to be the draft right before the Saints lone Super Bowl winning season.
So history seems to indicate the Saints split their first two picks between the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, but the one time they chose to double-down on defense, it seemed to turn out OK. Let’s see what the Saints do this time.