With the draft being three weeks away and a major trade between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles yesterday, it’s time to look at the history of the NFL Draft. More importantly, who’s the best player to be picked at each of the Saints’ selections this year? From 16th all the way to 194th, we’ll walk through the best players to come from those slots.
#16: Jerry Rice, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice is an absolute legend in every sense of the word. In his career, he made 13 Pro Bowls, was named All-Pro 10 times, and won 3 Super Bowls. Rice also ranks 1st in receiving yards, receptions, receiving touchdowns, and total touchdowns all time. Lastly, Rice played 21 years in the league for 3 different teams. He only missed 17 games in his entire career and 14 of those games in one year (1997). If the Saints draft a wideout at 16 that is half the player Jerry was, look out.
#19 Marvin Harrison, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Harrison was Peyton Manning’s right-hand man and lead target for years, along with Dallas Clark. The 8x Pro Bowler and 3x All-Pro was lethal in Indianapolis, ranking in the top 10 in receptions, yards and touchdowns all time. Marvin also won Super Bowl 41 over the Chicago Bears (Saints should’ve been there too). Harrison was a standout and a rightful Hall of Famer in this league.
#49 Roger Craig, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Roger Craig doesn’t have the standout numbers that the previous two did, but it’s still a standout career for the running back. He went to 4 Pro Bowls and won 3 Super Bowls with Joe Montana in the 1980s. Craig also had nearly 2,100 yards (1,050 rushing, 1,016 receiving) in 1985. He’s yet to make the HOF, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up in Canton one day.
#98 Cliff Branch, WR, Oakland Raiders
Cliff Branch is another legendary receiver that paints good omens for the Saints in 2022. The 4x time Pro Bowler, who also won 3 Super Bowls in Oakland is the best in history from the #98 spot. Branch finished his career with 8,685 receiving yards and 67 TDs in his 13-year career, earning him 3 All-Pro selections and putting him in the Hall of Fame. He died tragically in 2019, just two days after his 71st birthday, in his hotel room.
#120 Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
This is my sleeper for best player on this list. Atkins was an 8-time Pro Bowler and 2x All-Pro for the Cincinnati Bengals, racking up 228 tackles and 75.5 sacks in his 10-year career. He also forced 8 fumbles for the Bengals. Atkins could potentially be a HOF’er, but I don’t think he’s a lock.
#161 Harold Carmichael, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Carmichael played WR/TE in his 13-year NFL career, 12 of those in Philadelphia. Carmichael was voted to 4 Pro Bowls and named a Hall of Famer in 2020. Carmichael finished his career with 8,985 yards and 79 TDs, which is 69th and 31st respectively. However, in 1973, Carmichael led the league in yards and receptions.
#194 Leonard Thompson, WR, Detroit Lions
Thompson played 12 years in the NFL, all with the Detroit Lions. In his career, he had 4.682 yards and 35 TDs. He also had a career yard per catch average of 16.9, which is 58th all time. Thompson finished his career tied for 4th all time in touchdown receptions in Lions franchise history. Thompson passed away last August at 69 years old.