The New Orleans Saints’ dramatic 2017 turnaround was largely credited to improved scouting under Jeff Ireland’s direction. The former Miami Dolphins general manager took over the college scouting department in 2015 and began revamping it, bringing in his own personnel and evaluation methods.
Since taking full control of scouting in 2016, Ireland has brought the team three Pro Bowlers (Michael Thomas, Marshon Lattimore, and Alvin Kamara) while being promoted to assistant general manager and seeing his contract extended with New Orleans.
But Ireland’s biggest accomplishment may have been the players he’s identified in middle of the draft once the biggest names are off the board. And many of them have been featured in January’s college football all-star games, particularly the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, FL, and the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL.
Some current and former New Orleans Saints who recently participated in the Shrine Game include:
- RB Daniel Lasco (California Golden Bears)
- CB Damian Swann (Georgia Bulldogs)
- CB Ken Crawley (Colorado Buffaloes)
- DE Trey Hendrickson (Florida Atlantic owls)
- DT David Onyemata (Manitoba Bisons)
- DT Tyeler Davison (Fresno State Bulldogs)
- LB Davis Tull (Chattanooga Mocs)
- LB Travis Feeney (Washington Huskies)
- OL Cameron Tom (Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles)
- OL Marcus Henry (Boise State Broncos)
- WR Austin Carr (Northwestern Wildcats)
- WR Jared Dangerfield (Western Kentucky Hilltoppers)
Recent New Orleans Saints who appeared at the Senior Bowl include:
- DT Sheldon Rankins (Louisville Cardinals)
- LB Alex Anzalone (Florida Gators)
- LB Hau’oli Kikaha (Washington Huskies)
- LB Stephone Anthony (Clemson Tigers)
- OL Jack Allen (Michigan State Spartans)
- QB Garrett Grayson (Colorado State Rams)
- WR Travin Dural (LSU Tigers)
Sure, not all of those names have stuck around. But it’s definitely a favorite source of talent evaluation for Ireland’s staff. They saw enough to spend plenty of draft capital, picking guys like Rankins and Anthony in the first round while working trades to get in position for Onyemata and Swann. They also picked up on some undrafted free agents who returned dividends like Crawley. The Saints have drafted at least one defensive lineman who played in these games in each of the last three years (Hendrickson, Rankins, Onyemata, and Davison).
CSC will have plenty of all-star game coverage headed your way in the next few days, especially during next week’s Senior Bowl practices. So stay tuned, and get familiar with the rosters: you can follow this link to the Senior Bowl announcement, and see who will be playing in tomorrow’s Shrine Game here.