It’s almost crazy how much the New Orleans Saints are getting love after a rather successful 2017 campaign. Of course, it wasn’t just one season that went into a big rebuild that stretched across three straight 7-9 seasons from 2014-2016. However, last season’s draft class hit in a major way, and was a big reason why the black and gold were able to get back into the postseason and win the NFC South.
Recently, a panel of three ESPN analysts (Louis Riddick, Field Yates, and Mike Sando) projected which NFL franchises were in the best shape for the next three years. The metrics included the team’s roster (which excluded quarterback), quarterback, draft, front office, and coaching. New Orleans came in third. You can view the original article here, which requires ESPN Insider.
Why they’re here: A decade-plus of offensive success has become the identity of the Saints franchise, with Drew Brees and Sean Payton at the epicenter of it all. But in the latest bit of evidence that one offseason can change an outlook dramatically, the Saints had what could go down as a historically good draft class in 2017, landing blue-chip talent in Marshon Lattimore, Alvin Kamara, Ryan Ramczyk and Marcus Williams. That grand slam pivoted the franchise’s fortunes. -- Yates
Biggest worry: We are in a golden age of QB play in the NFL, and Brees has been as good as any other passer in the history of this great game. Ever. But the fact remains that he won’t play forever, and there are rumblings seemingly every year that coach Sean Payton could be looking to move on. I love this roster and how it is put together, but the departure of either one of these two men could throw what looks like a franchise built for long-term success into a tailspin. -- Riddick
What could change for the better: There’s very good young talent on the roster thanks largely to the Saints’ sensational 2017 draft. The Saints can outperform our expectations if they can hit another home run or two in the draft. That will be tougher to do after the team traded away its 2019 first-round pick to move up to select Marcus Davenport. -- Sando
Obviously, the front office rating wasn’t favorable, but some major progress has been made to help shape the Saints roster. Hitting on nearly all of their 2017 draft picks, with major contributions from Alvin Kamara, Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, and Marcus Williams made believers out of many. However, going back to the year before, the class of Sheldon Rankins, Michael Thomas, Vonn Bell, and David Onyemata can’t be ignored either.
Drew Brees is arguably the most important cog in the wheel here for New Orleans. One side note, it’s also interesting to see that ESPN Staff Writer Dan Graziano threw out a prediction of Brees retiring after the 2018 season several days ago. As long as Brees continues performing at a high level, he should be fine. Now is the time for the Saints to make a deep postseason run.