Ask a team about its most recent draft class, and you’ll be told it’s too soon to draw conclusions.
The players need time to develop, learn the system and become professional players. They need time to adjust to the adjustments teams are making to exploit their weaknesses.
It takes time for everything to come out in the wash and see what lies underneath the surface.
That’s why most teams say it takes three years to know a draft class.
The 2006 draft will always stand as the golden standard for this organization. Everything will always pale in comparison. That group produced with Marques Colston, who might be the best pick in franchise history in terms of value, along with Roman Harper, Jahri Evans, Zach Strief and Reggie Bush. However you want to look at it, that group will win any argument based on talent, success and sentiment.
But the 2013 draft class is also one of the better ones for this organization. There were only five guys picked, but it produced top-tier talent, a steal of a pick and future benefits.
Let’s see how it grades:
Round 1 (14 overall): Safety Kenny Vaccaro
The Saints’ first-round pick from Texas recently had his fifth-year option picked up, which already makes this pick a success. What’s better is, Vaccaro earned that extension.
His sophomore campaign left everyone hungry for more as he fought through injuries and served in a role that was different from the one that led to his success as a rookie. Healthy and deployed back in the box last season where he could focus more on making plays, he returned to form and became one of the more important players on defense.
He’ll be one of the pillars of a young defense looking to turn things around. It’s unclear if defensive coordinator Dennis Allen will switch things up at all, but New Orleans could benefit by letting Vaccaro remain in a role similar to one he played last year.
Round 3 (75): tackle Terron Armstead
Terron Armstead is the antithesis for anyone who says the scouting combine does not matter.
After the offensive tackle timed out in the 40-yard dash at 4.71 seconds, that caused general manager Mickey Loomis to do more homework on the Arkansas-Pine Bluff product. If Armstead hadn’t been part of the combine, there’s a chance he could be developing into one of the league’s better left tackles in another city.
If Armstead doesn’t make the Pro Bowl this year, it’s not because he doesn’t deserve it. It’s because the rest of the country is still asleep.
Armstead has to be running second to Colston in terms of value.
Round 3 (82): Defensive tackle John Jenkins
Not every pick can have the same impact as Armstead. Teams need to have solid starters. And Johnathan Jenkins, from Georgia, has served in that capacity.
There have been ups and downs along the way, and New Orleans needs the middle of its line to perform better this season, but you could do a lot worse than pulling out a contributor in the third round.
Round 5 (144): Wide receiver Kenny Stills
For whatever reason, it didn’t work out here with Kenny Stills, from Oklahoma. But the Saints still got a lot of value out of this pick.
After 943 receiving yards in his second season, Stills was traded to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a third-round pick and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. The pick was used to select cornerback P.J. Williams.
Since Williams spent his rookie season on injured reserve, the jury is still out on how good this trade was. But it’s still a win to turn a fifth-round pick into a third-round pick and another starter.
Round 6 (183): Defensive end Rufus Johnson
The Tarleton State product never played a snap for the team. He appeared in one game for the New England Patriots last season.