We have detailed previous draft regrets of what could have been for the New Orleans Saints, covering 1967-1978.
Today, we look at 1979-1981:
1979–This one turned out to be one of the colossal blunders in New Orleans Saints history.
Owning the 11th overall pick in the first round, the Saints shocked everyone by picking kicker Russell Erxleben in the first round with the hope that Erxleben, who made long field goals with a special ball in college, could repeat that success in the NFL while serving as the team’s punter.
Even if that would have been the case, using the 11th overall pick in the draft on a kicker/punter was a ridiculous, ill-advised notion.
Erxleben basically bombed in New Orleans. He will always be remembered for his ill-fated pass attempt in overtime of a season opening loss to hated Atlanta in 1979, which ended up in the arms of
Where do you want to start?
With the next pick after Erxleben, the Cincinnati Bengals chose LSU’s Charles Alexander, a solid player, though not a star. Alexander help Cincinnati make it to a Super Bowl.
Two picks later, San Diego tabbed tight end Kellen Winslow. Three picks later, the Jets took defensive tackle Marty Lyons, who played 11 seasons in the NFL and was a good player.
Winslow became the best tight end in the NFL, leading the league in catches twice and scoring 45 touchdowns. He was a three-time first team All-Pro and made five Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In the second round with the 38th overall pick, the Saints chose linebacker Reggie Mathis. Three picks later, the Jets selected Mark Gastineau, who set a single season record for sacks.
Mathis played just two seasons with the Saints and in the NFL. He simply could not cut it. Gastineau was a first team All-Pro three times and made five Pro Bowls.
1980–The Saints got it right in the first round, using the 12th overall pick to choose Stan Brock, who was a pillar of strength for 13 seasons in New Orleans. The Saints got it right in the second round as well, picking Dave Waymer with the 41st pick overall. Waymer played very well and ultimately became the franchise leader (still is) with 37 interceptions in 10 years with the Saints.
The Saints did not have a third round pick.
1981–This one will always be a heated debate.
The Saints had the first overall pick in the draft by virtue of their disastrous 1-15 season in 1980.
With Lawrence Taylor virtually everyone’s top rated player, New Orleans instead went with George Rogers, a Heisman Trophy winner.
Rogers did not disappoint, setting an NFL rookie rushing record in 1981 and earned first team All-Pro honors. He made the Pro Bowl again in 1982 and rushed for 1,144 yards in 1983.
Of course, Taylor went to become the most dominant linebacker in NFL history, earning first team All-Pro honors eight times and going to 10 Pro Bowls before being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Saints offset the Taylor omission by getting Rickey Jackson as a bargain with the 51st pick overall in the second round. Jackson went to become the best defensive player in franchise history and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, playing 13 superb seasons in New Orleans.
With the first overall pick in the second round, the Saints chose Russell Gary, who played six seasons in New Orleans and had seven interceptions. He was a serviceable player but not a star.
Nine picks after Gary, the Chicago Bears chose Mike Singletary. who went on to become a superstar on a Super Bowl championship team as a seven time first team All-Pro and a 10-time Pro Bowl player. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.