The Advocate continues the countdown to the 2014 NFL draft with the second of an eight-part series on the Saints’ top five selections -- round-by-round -- as chosen by Sheldon Mickles. The series will continue each week until the top five first-round selections are revealed on May 6 -- two days before the May 8-10 draft.
1. Marques Colston, WR (2006/252nd overall) Of 30 wide receivers picked in the 2006 draft, only eight caught more than 100 passes in their careers. Colston, the 29th player in chosen from that group, ranks second in receptions (607) and yards (8,337) and is first in TDs (63). Only Brandon Marshall, a fourth-round pick, has more catches (712) and yards (9,050). The former Hofstra star was just three picks from being Mr. Irrelevant, the last player chosen in the draft, but holds the three biggest franchise records for receivers and has 25 100-yard games.
2. Eric Martin, WR (1985/179th overall)
Unlike Colston, Martin was a well-known player from LSU when the Saints made him the 27th wide receiver in the 1985 draft. Martin didn’t play in an offense like the Saints have now, but he set franchise marks for receptions (532), receiving yards (7,854) and TDs (48) with two being shattered by Colston. Like Colston, Martin didn’t mind going over the middle to make the tough catch when he knew he was going to take a hit and made up for a lack of speed by overpowering smaller defensive backs.
3. Zach Strief, T (2006/210th overall)
This mammoth tackle was selected 42 picks ahead of Colston in the same round and served as a capable backup and extra tight end for five seasons before getting a chance to start at right tackle in 2011. A part of the unit that was chosen as the best offensive line in the NFL in 2011, Strief, who signed a new five-year contract last week, has been an offensive captain for the past two seasons. He’s started 42 games since 2011 and has played in 119 games -- including playoffs.
4. Gene Atkins, S (1987/179th overall)
One of the franchise’s biggest hitters in the secondary, Atkins played for the Saints in their glory years when they ranked second in the NFL in fewest yards allowed and in scoring defense in 1991 and 1992. A part-time starter in his first two seasons, he started from 1989-93 and wound up starting 87 of 107 games played in his seven-year stint. Nicknamed “Mean Gene,” Atkins ranks fourth in club history with 21 interceptions. He tied a club record by picking off three passes in one game in 1991.
5. Kevin Houser, LS (2000/228th overall) The last selection of the 2000 draft by first-year coach Jim Haslett and General Manager Randy Mueller, Houser was a dependable and extremely accurate long snapper who went on to play in 144 consecutive games for the Saints in nine seasons with the team. Houser, who played tight end for Ohio State, rarely made a poor snap and was often praised by the team’s punters, kickers and holders for his proficiency before being released prior to the Saints’ Super Bowl-winning season in 2009.