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Saints showed last year that every draft pick counts

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Staying power Saints showed last year that every last draft pick counts By Chris Neubauer (cneubauer@pfwmedia.com) April 20, 2007 ESPN and the NFL Network have a perfect pitch for their draft coverage next weekend courtesy of the Saints. Their slogan ...

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Old 05-07-2007, 01:52 PM   #1
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Saints showed last year that every draft pick counts

Staying power

Saints showed last year that every last draft pick counts
By Chris Neubauer (cneubauer@pfwmedia.com)
April 20, 2007

ESPN and the NFL Network have a perfect pitch for their draft coverage next weekend courtesy of the Saints.

Their slogan should go something like this: Stick around for the seventh round.

Fifty-one weeks ago, the Saints used their final pick — 252nd overall — to select Marques Colston, a receiver from Hofstra, a Division I-AA school located on Long Island. Colston went on to earn a starting job by Week One and finish as runner up to Madden ’08 coverboy Vince Young for NFL Rookie of the Year.

Sure, there have been several late-round picks in the past decade to make an impact. I’m thinking of former sixth-rounders Broncos RB Terrell Davis and Patriots QB Tom Brady. Before taking his current post as an analyst for the NFL Network, Davis helped John Elway lead the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl wins in the late 1990s. Brady’s Hall of Fame résumé is set — three Super Bowl wins and two Super Bowl MVPs — and he is still a few months shy of his 30th birthday.

But it took Davis and Brady at least a season to get their feet wet before their impact was felt. Colston started making a name for himself in his first training camp.

Coming out of Hofstra, Colston had a few glaring knocks against him: too slow, inconsistent hands, sloppy route runner and takes plays off. But Colston had size, strength and a willingness to work the middle of the field. His 6-foot-4, 231-pound frame was perfectly sculpted for the rigors of the NFL.

Still, the Saints waited and waited to select Colston, even drafting Oregon State WR Mike Hass — who did not make the opening-day roster — in the sixth round, 80 picks before Colston. Rookie head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis finally called Colston’s name minutes before the end of the draft — only three players were selected after Colston.

Loomis was quick to point out to me on several occasions that the Saints weren’t smarter than everyone else; they were just lucky.

Colston impressed Payton enough in training camp to earn a starting job. The Saints then shipped their leading receiver from the previous season, Donté Stallworth, to the Eagles in late August. In return, the Saints received MLB Mark Simoneau — who started every game for New Orleans in 2006 but could lose his starting job to free-agent MLB Brian Simmons this season — and a fourth-round pick in next weekend’s draft.

Talk about second-day value.

Colston was in the starting lineup in Week One when the Saints traveled to Cleveland, and he scored a touchdown in a 19-14 win. The following week he was among the starting 11 again and scored the go-ahead touchdown in a seven-point win over the Packers.

Two games, two starts, two touchdowns and eight catches for 107 yards. Instant impact, indeed.

Over the next two weeks, Colston would double his yardage totals with a 97-yard outing in a rousing 23-3 win over Atlanta at the re-opening of the Louisiana Superdome and a 132-yard effort in a 21-18 loss to the Panthers.

After back-to-back modest performances in home wins over Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, Colston’s legend grew exponentially in a three-game stretch at the end of October and beginning of November. Colston made 27 catches for 455 yards and three touchdowns in that span and shot to the top of the receiving rankings.

Not only had this bottom-of-the-draft unknown become the leading Rookie of the Year candidate, he also seemed like shoe-in for the Pro Bowl.

But in the opening quarter of a Nov. 19 loss to the Bengals, Colston suffered a sprained ankle and was shut out for the first time in his young career. Colston would miss the next two games before returning against Dallas on Dec. 10 in the Saints’ most important win of the season. Colston hauled in five catches for 48 yards as the Saints dismantled Payton’s former employer 42-17 before a national TV audience on NBC.

Colston did not crack the century mark in receiving yards after his ankle injury, but he helped lead the Saints to the NFC championship game for the first time in franchise history. He finished his rookie campaign with a team-best 1,038 receiving yards and eight TD catches.

More responsibility was heaped on Colston’s shoulders in the offseason when the team released loquacious WR Joe Horn, the Saints’ mouthpiece and No. 1 wideout since 2000, and promoted the one-year wonder to the coveted role of Drew Brees’ No. 1 target.

It is stories like Colston’s that make the NFL draft must-see TV. Everyone knew Reggie Bush would be the No. 1 or No. 2 pick last year and be an electrifying player in the NFL like he was at USC. But not one NFL scout or draft guru could have predicted that Colston would earn more Rookie of the Year votes than Bush.

You see, every pick matters and that’s why ESPN and the NFL Network will watch their ratings soar next weekend, from start to finish.


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