The Advocate continues the countdown to the 2014 NFL draft with the fourth of an eight-part series on the Saints’ top five selections -- round-by-round -- as chosen by long-time Advocate sportswriter 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. Thomas Morstead, P (2009/164th overall)
The club’s all-time leader among punters at 47.1 yards per kick, Morstead is one of the NFL’s premier kicking specialists with his booming punts. Morstead earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2012 when he became one of only seven players in NFL history to average more than 50 yards a punt for the season (50.1). He’s also been among the league leaders in touchbacks on kickoffs, and he perfectly executed the “Ambush” onside kick to start the second half of Super Bowl XLIV.
2. Carl Nicks, G (2008/164th overall)
While his stay with the Saints was short, Nicks, a mammoth player who excelled at run blocking, made his mark at left guard for four seasons. The 6-foot-5, 343-pound Nicks was a powerful player who was inserted into the lineup four games into his rookie season. He started 19 games in 2009 when the Saints won the Super Bowl and two years later was a first-team All-Pro pick in 2011. He was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2010 and ’11 before departing as a free agent after that season.
3. Torrance Small, WR (1992/138th overall)
Small played only five seasons with the Saints during a 10-year NFL career. In his time with the Saints, he was a large target who caught 176 passes for 2,180 yards and 16 touchdowns. His best seasons were in 1994 when he had 49 receptions for 719 yards and 1996 when he caught a career-high 50 passes for 558 yards. He ranks second in franchise history for receiving yards in a single game with 200 yards on six receptions in the 1994 season finale at Denver.
4. Tyrone Hughes, CB/KR (1993/137th overall)
Hughes, a New Orleans native, was a speedy player who made his mark mainly as a kick returner with the Saints from 1993-96. He’s the franchise leader with five kick return touchdowns (two punts, three kickoffs). He averaged 25.0 yards per kickoff return and 9.1 yards per punt return. He set a club record when he returned seven kickoffs for 304 yards against the L.A. Rams on Oct. 23, 1994 with TDs of 98 and 92 yards. He ranks second in franchise history in both punt and kickoff return yards.
5. Mike Karney, FB (2004/156th)
While he’s best-remembered for his crushing blocks that opened holes for running back Deuce McAllister, Karney had the game of his life in 2006 at Dallas. The 5-11, 254-pounder caught a pair of touchdown passes and rumbled for another score in the Saints’ 42-17 blowout of the Cowboys, He finished with 53 total yards that night, the highest of his five-year career with the Saints. Karney played in 75 games with 46 starts as a member of the Saints before being released prior to the 2009 season.