Previously, we have detailed what could have been for the New Orleans Saints early in the draft process from 1967-1972. Today, we take a look at 1973-75:
1973–In their infinite wisdom, the Saints traded their first-round pick (second overall) to the Baltimore Colts, who promptly chose LSU star Bert Jones. In return, the Saints got defensive end Billy Newsome and the Colts’ fourth-round pick, whom the Saints used to pick linebacker Jim Merlo.
Newsome spent two decent years with the Saints before moving on to the Jets for a first-round pick in 1975. Merlo spent six decent seasons in New Orleans, mostly as a starter, but was never more than an average player.
Jones went on to be the NFL Most Valuable Player in 1976. While the Saints had Manning, they could have gotten much more than they got for the second overall pick. They could have drafted Jones and traded him for a king’s ransom as well.
1974–This one was memorable.
The Saints had the 13th overall pick and correctly picked an Ohio State linebacker. The problem was that they picked the wrong Buckeye linebacker, inexplicably choosing Rick Middleton over Randy Gradishar, who went with the very next pick to Denver.
Middleton played just two uneventful seasons in New Orleans and ended up in San Diego for three more mediocre seasons.
Gradishar became the leader of the famed “Orange Crush” Defense, playing 11 brilliant seasons with the Broncos, earning first-team All-Pro honors twice, going to seven Pro Bowls and helping lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl, which was played in New Orleans. Gradishar is in the Broncos Ring of Fame.
Maybe the Saints representative looked at his draft eligible sheet, saw Ohio State, and turned in the wrong name?
1975–The Saints chose another Ohio State player, this time guard Kurt Schumacher, with the 12th overall selection.
Four picks later, the New England Patriots chose tight end Russ Francis of Oregon. He went on to make three Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl title in a distinguished 13-year career. Four picks later, the Broncos chose defensive back Louis Wright, who was a two time first-team All Pro, a five-time Pro Bowler, a Super Bowl participant and a member of the Broncos Ring of Honor.
And you think the Saints like Ohio State players today? They certainly did back in the day as well.