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QBREES9 04-12-2011 11:23 PM

Draft Watch: Saints classes of ‘81, ‘86 and ‘06 are hard to beat!
Draft Watch: Saints classes of ‘81, ‘86 and ‘06 are hard to beat!

As we count down to the 2011 NFL draft, our WWL sports team will take a daily look at how the draft is an integral part of the makeup of the Black & Gold, both past and present. The draft starts April 28th.

Today, I'll look at how three big draft classes look in the rear-view mirror.

In college football the rich generally get richer. The best teams in the power conferences enjoy lucrative television contracts, the bigger schools play in ninety and one hundred thousand-seat stadiums, and the "power" schools also almost always land the nation’s top players coming out of the high school ranks. Rarely does that formula allow the smaller, lesser-known schools to have a chance to compete with the "big boys" of college football.

But in the National Football League, things are designed much differently. When it comes to the draft, the winners are sent to the back of the line, while the losers always get the first crack at landing the best players each April.

Sometimes I wonder: If the NFL was like college football, would there be just a handful of teams that would dominate the game like in college ball? Probably. So, the NFL draft system allows everyone at least a shot at a fair chance, at least when it comes to new, raw talent.

But with all of that said, even the teams that are seemingly always picking atop the draft are not guaranteed to become champions, or even contenders. No, it's not the teams that draft first that remain competitive...It's the teams that draft well and do so on a consistent basis that maintain success and compete for titles every year.

It’s kind of like re-reloading, or keeping the cupboard stocked, if you know what I mean. Over the course of time the NFL has reduced the number of draft rounds (which now stands at seven,) but when you toss in the new age of free agency, teams can get better each spring prior to the annual draft.

History does tell us that a particular team can build a championship team, or at least a contender franchise, with just one SINGLE draft class. Let’s take our very own New Orleans Saints. Yes, the club had some very colorful players prior to 1981, but when you look back on the success of the Black & Gold, it all starts with the Class of 1981.

WWL Saints color analyst Hokie Gajan says that the Class of '81 put the Saints on the map, going from "lovable losers" to "title contenders."
"I thought that draft was certainly one of the best we’ve (the Saints) have ever had," said Gajan, a member of the Class of '81.

I trust Hokie’s take on this; he not only played for the team for several years, but has also been with the organization in some capacity for the last thirty years.

Members of the Saints draft Class of 1981 also include running back George Rogers (#1 overall,) safety Russell Gary and, of course, the first Hall of Fame player to don the Black and Gold: Rickey Jackson. The class of '81, which totaled picks from 12 rounds, was solid from top to bottom.

Defensive end Frank Warren and tight end Hoby Brenner were both taken in the 3rd round that year, and corner back Johnnie Poe was a 6th-round pick.

"It was a class that had a lot of good players from top to bottom, and the value the Saints got with the late-round picks was really incredible," Gajan said.

Hokie himself was taken in the 10th round as the 249th overall pick in the 1981 draft, going on to an NFL career that far outpaced many of those picked ahead of him.

Draft Watch: Saints Classes Of

foreverfan 04-13-2011 08:37 AM

The 81 and 05 drafts were after losing seasons and new coaching staffs. There were a lot of spots open on the team and I wonder if that had something to do with it. I think training camp and the offseason program is much harder for startup teams like this. So the situation could have something to do with it. Plus when you need every position, it's easier to draft for the best player in every round.

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