Drew Brees has been supplied with arguably the best receiving tight end you could possibly ask for in Jimmy Graham, an incredibly reliable possession receiver in Marques Colston, a consistently stacked backfield and an offensive mastermind in Coach Sean Payton. However, the 2012 campaign showed that, while mitigated by Bountygate factors, the surrounding talent on both offense and defense doesn’t quite match the squad from the New Orleans Saints‘ Super Bowl run.
Brees was the only Saint featured when Pro Football Focus released its list of their Top 101 players of the 2012 season, coming in at No. 79 during an uneven campaign — especially by Brees’ standards — that saw him throw the ball an absurd 670 times, only to be eclipsed by Detroit Lions‘ quarterback Matthew Stafford. The reason for this is that the defense is putting New Orleans in desperate situations while the offense struggled to go anywhere unless Brees willed them, which became far more difficult when Graham was hurt. Meanwhile, Colston isn’t getting any younger.
Struggling in the draft will do that. In my series deciding the best and worst drafting teams of each of the past four years, New Orleans ranked in the bottom-four NFL teams in both 2009 and 2012. Granted, the 2012 Saints draft class was thoroughly pummeled by Bountygate and the first and second round picks it depleted, but this class still showed startlingly little for a team with some great holes. Only third round defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and fifth round defensive back Corey White got any snaps in 2012, with the two combining for less than the average starter.
The 2009 class showcased the Saints’ inability to draft for the defensive side of the ball, taking Malcolm Jenkins in the first to give them what would eventually be known as the worst safety pairing in the league last season. The most value New Orleans got out of anyone in that draft was the punter, Thomas Morstead.
New Orleans will need the past two draft classes to step up dramatically if the Saints are to capitalize again on this championship window.