Previously, we have detailed what could have been for the New Orleans Saints early in the draft process from 1967-1987. Today, we take a look at 1988-90:
1988–The Saints went for the big back to compliment Rueben Mayes and Dalton Hilliard, tabbing massive Craig “Ironhead” Heyward of Pittsburgh with the 24th overall selection.
Heyward played five seasons with the Saints and never became the dominant big back that Jim Finks and Jim Mora envisioned. He rushed for a modest 1,813 yards and 13 touchdowns in five seasons and had just one touchdown reception.
Twelve picks later, the Giants chose tackle Jumbo Elliott of Michigan. Elliott went on to an outstanding 15-year career, making the Pro Bowl in 1993 and could have been an anchor, along with Stan Brock, for years to come.
Four picks after the Elliott choice, the Bills selected the next true tailback taken, eventual Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas. The Oklahoma State product earned NFL MVP honors in 1991, one of four seasons he helped Buffalo make the Super Bowl. Thomas was a three-time All Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection.
Later in the second round, the Saints took wide receiver Brett Perriman of Miami with the 52nd overall pick.
Perriman played just three seasons in New Orleans with very modest numbers before moving on to Detroit, where he was much better, becoming a star.
Two picks after the Saints picked Perriman, Minnesota took defensive back Brad Edwards, who went on to a nice nine-year career, amassing 18 interceptions.
1989–The Saints certainly got it right in the first round with the 19th pick overall, choosing defensive end Wayne Martin of Arkansas. Martin turned out to be a consistently outstanding player for New Orleans for 11 years, recording 82.5 sacks. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 1994 and was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame after his retirement.
In the second round, the Saints chose defensive back Robert Massey out of North Carolina Central. Massey had a good rookie season with five interceptions but only played one more season in New Orleans.
Eleven picks later, the Cowboys selected center Mark Stepnoski, who went on to anchor multiple Super Bowl championship teams in Dallas and went to five Pro Bowls as a superb player.
In the third round, the Saints tabbed defensive back Kim Phillips with the 79th overall pick. Phillips flamed out, playing in just five games for the Saints. Three picks later, Buffalo picked wide receiver Don Beebe out of Chadron State. Beebe had nine productive years in the NFL, catching 219 passes for 23 touchdowns and was a brilliant special teams player.
1990–New Orleans went for a good athlete in defensive end Renaldo Turnbull out of West Virginia with the 14th overall pick in the draft. Turnbull spent seven years in New Orleans and recorded 44 sacks, including 13 in 1993, when he was a first-team All-Pro.
While Turnbull was a solid pick, the Dallas Cowboys chose a running back named Emmitt Smith out of Florida just three picks later. All Smith did was play 15 years in the league on the way to becoming the all-time leading rusher in NFL history. He was a four time first-team All-Pro, eight Pro Bowl selection and Pro Football Hall of Famer.
In the second round, the Saints took defensive back Vince Buck out of Central State. Buck played six seasons and had 10 interceptions. While Buck was fine, if you wanted a defensive back, the guy you could have had was LeRoy Butler of Florida State, who went four picks later to Green Bay.
Butler played 12 seasons with the Packers, intercepting 38 passes and was a four-time All-Pro, earning four Pro Bowl berths. He made the NFL 1990’s all-decade team.