Over the next two weeks, we will review what was and what could have been for the New Orleans Saints in the NFL draft in the first round (and early second round).
While the Saints have made a host of brilliant selections in the draft, they have had their fair share of blunders. Each day, we will review three years (in succession) of what was and what could have been, beginning with the beginning of franchise history in 1967. We can all dream, can’t we?
At the end of this feature, we will have a piece on the best draft picks in franchise history.
Here we go!
1967–Drafted Les Kelley 26th overall from Alabama, the final pick of the first round. Kelley simply could not play. He was a fullback/linebacker, a man without a position and a man without the talent to play in the NFL. With the first pick in the second round, the Saints picked safety Bo Burris from Houston. Burris spent two years with New Orleans, not distinguishing himself.
Seven picks later, the Detroit Lions chose Lem Barney of Jackson State. The defensive back went on to earn NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, earned first-team All-Pro honors in 1968 and 1969, made seven Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, having intercepted 56 passes and scored 10 touchdowns.
Of course, the Saints had the top overall pick in the draft as an expansion team and traded it to Baltimore for quarterback Gary Cuozzo, who got beat out by Billy Kilmer in New Orleans. All the Colts did was draft Bubba Smith (pictured), who won a Super Bowl, was a two-time Pro Bowler and was a first-team All-Pro in 1967.
1968–The Saints had the seventh overall pick in the draft and chose defensive tackle Kevin Hardy of Notre Dame. He never played a down for the Saints. With the very next pick, the Miami Dolphins selected fullback Larry Csonka. All Csonka did was earn first-team All-Pro honors three times and went to five Pro Bowls. He won two Super Bowl titles and had his No. 39 retired.
1969–The Saints chose guard John Shinners out of Xavier of Ohio with the 17th pick in the first round. He only played three years and played in just nine games in his first two seasons, a clear disappointment.
Two picks later, the St. Louis Cardinals picked cornerback Roger Wehrli out of Missouri. Wehrli went on to a brilliant 14-year career with the Cardinals, picking off 40 passes, earning first-team All-Pro honors five times and making seven Pro Bowls. He was named to the NFL 1970’s All-Decade team.
Tommorrow: 1970, 1971, 1972