Sunday, April 4, 2010

Saints Nation: Revisiting the Saints' 2008 Draft

Every year in April, I go back to two year's prior to see how past draft classes have panned out. It's always extremely tough to grade a draft class the week they are picked because one has little idea how their career will truly pan out. One could argue you can't fully grade a draft class until 10 years later. I looked at the 2007 draft class a year ago, and thought that class turned out to be a disaster. To their credit, a year later, Jermon Bushrod and Robert Meachem have made huge strides. There's no question with the 2008 class, though, as the Saints bounced back to make some crucial picks. Let's take a look:

1. Sedrick Ellis: While Ellis has yet to have what I would characterize as a truly outstanding season, but there's no question he's a respected NFL starter that's blossoming into a star. Ellis has gotten banged up in each of his first two seasons with knee issues, but when he's played he's been effective and powerful. There's been a clear difference in the Saints' ability to stop the run when Ellis plays, and he's registered 6 sacks in two seasons, showing he can get after the passer. Ellis is a huge part of the team's future success and he's only going to get better.

2. Tracy Porter (pictured): With the plays Porter made in the NFC Championship and Super Bowl, all NFL fans in the country know who he is. His prowess goes deeper than two big time plays in big moments, though, as he's solidified himself as one of the top young corners in the NFL. His first season was cut short by a broken wrist, but he showed a lot of promise before the injury, and his second season was phenomenal. I wouldn't be surprised to see him command a massive contract sometime in the very near future. He's arguably the best young cornerback the Saints have ever had.

5a. DeMario Pressley: The jury is still out on Pressley. He sat out the entirely of 2008 with an injury in training camp that landed him on injured reserve. After not making the final cuts in 2009, Pressley was placed on the practice squad before getting a midseason call up thanks to the injury veteran Kendrick Clancy. Once he got on the field, Pressley showed a lot of promise in limited action. It seemed like every time he came on the field, he showed a lot of grit and energy. I'm looking forward to seeing more out of him, but if he can stay healthy there's no reason to think he won't contribute.

5b. Carl Nicks: Nicks is another draftee the Saints hit a monster homerun with. Nicks stepped in for Jamar Nesbit halfway through his rookie season at starting left guard, once Nesbit received a 4 game suspension for taking the same water pills that threatened suspensions on Will Smith, Deuce and Charles Grant. Nesbit elected to serve his suspension to get it over with, and when he came back he never got his starting job back. Nicks is a premiere young NFL guard. It sounds redundant because I keep describing our 2008 draft picks that way, but it's true. Nicks was elected as a pro bowl alternate in his first full season as a starter. The NFL has a program that rewards underpaid players with bonuses, and Nicks has received the most of any player in the NFL the past two years. What that means is he's outperforming his contract more than any other young player in the league. Pretty good value if you ask me, but it's clear Nicks will be commanding a big payday soon. Nicks is a stalwart on the Saints' offensive line, and a very valuable run blocker that mauls the opposition.

6. Taylor Mehlhaff: Mehlhaff was a promising young kicker that was supposed to become what Garrett Hartley has become for the Saints. Mehlhaff in limited reps with the Saints was a complete disaster and utter liability. Every time he went out there to kick it was an adventure, extra points included. He is no longer in the league, but will likely be looking for a job somewhere in 2010.

7. Adrian Arrington: Like Pressley, Arrington spent the entirely of 2008 on injured reserve, despite showing lots of promise in preseason prior to getting hurt. Arrington is still a promising receiver, though he spent the majority of 2009 on the practice squad and never really had a chance to show what he can do, it's not impossible he'll make the team in 2010 and contribute. That said, I have a hard time seeing him play much as he's stuck behind a very experienced and deep receiving core for the Saints.

All in all the 2008 draft was an excellent one, and it showed that the Saints' braintrust know what they're doing. It was a nice rebound from a shaky 2007 draft, and it rivals 2006 as arguably one of the best Saints' draft classes in history. Remember, 2006 brought us Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, Jahri Evans and Roman Harper, among others.