Picking the best non 1st round draft picks for the Saints was a fun exercise, but a very difficult one too. There is no way I could come up with a 10 top list, too many good players to name. So I decided to do 20. Some great Saints players on here. I hope you enjoy the trip down memory lane, or the history lessen if you're a newer/younger Saints fan.
20. Fred McAfee, RB/ST, 6th Round pick out of Mississippi College in 1991: McAfee was a running back when he first entered the league but he never really made it at that position. He left the Saints after three seasons but he would develop his niche as a premiere special teamer. He returned to the Saints in 2000 and played a solid 7 more seasons as a special teams standout, including a Pro Bowl trip in 2002. He ended up playing 10 seasons for the Saints, most productively as a blocker on punts and a gunner on kickoffs. He did score 8 rushing touchdowns in his career, 5 coming with the Saints. He is still with the Saints as a director of the player programs.
19. Danny Abramowicz, WR, 17th Round pick out of Xavier in 1967: He's fourth in team history for catches, yards and touchdowns. For a long time he was the lone shining star in a team full of terrible history. He is in the Saints' Hall of Fame and his best season came in 1969 when he finished with 73 receptions for 1015 yards and 7 touchdowns. In the late 60's that was very explosive, and he led the NFL in receptions that season.
18. Tony Galbreath, FB, 2nd Round pick out of Missouri in 1976: He played five seasons with the Saints primarily as a blocker and receiving back. The Saints threw to him a tremendous amount as he had 284 receptions in 5 seasons. In 1978 he was second in the entire league in receptions. He was also a great goal line carrier finishing with 27 touchdowns in short yardage situations mostly. He's fourth in team history for rushing touchdowns.
17. Gene Atkins, S, 7th Round pick out of Florida A&M in 1987: Known for being one of the fiercest hitting safeties in the game during his prime, Atkins was also a playmaker notching 21 career interceptions in 7 seasons with the Saints. He was starting games in his rookie season.
16. Tyrone Hughes, KR/CB, 5th Round pick out of Nebraska in 1993: An explosive kick returner, Hughes made his mark on special teams with the Saints. He returned kicks and punts for five years with the Saints, making the Pro Bowl his rookie season, and finishing his career with 5 returns for touchdowns. Those all came with the Saints.
15. Thomas Morstead, P, 5th Round pick out of Southern Methodist in 2009: You may think this is high but the guy almost broke the single season net yard average this past year on the way to the Pro Bowl. He has also already broken the NFL record for touchbacks in a season. I think Morstead will be the Saints' punter for a long time to come and by the end of his career I could see him in the top 5 on this list. He's only moving up from here.
14. LeCharles Bentley, G, 2nd Round pick out of Ohio State in 2002: Bentley played four seasons with the Saints and made the Pro Bowl twice during that span. He was arguably the best interior lineman in the entire league at the time. He then left in free agency to play for the Browns in his home state, but back to back very serious injuries cost him his career and it ended abruptly. Too bad because he had the talent to be one of the all time greats.
13. Joel Hilgenberg, C, 4th Round pick out of Iowa in 1984: Hilgenberg was a starter for most of his career with the Saints and he played his entire 10 professional years in New Orleans. He made the Pro Bowl once.
12. Dalton Hilliard, RB, 2nd Round pick out of LSU in 1986: The local product from Patterson, LA was my all time favorite Saint. His best season came in 1989 when he rushed for 1,262 yards and scored an NFL best 18 touchdowns. He was a fantastic receiver out of the backfield as well and a dual threat. He also threw the ball 7 times in his career on halfback pass plays and 4 of them went for touchdowns. He was a versatile player and a terrific athlete. He made the Pro Bowl after that magical '89 season. He played his entire 8 year career with the Saints. He's second in team history in rushing touchdowns.
11. Carl Nicks, G, 5th Round pick out of Nebraska in 2008: A short 4 year career with the Saints before signing with the Bucs as a free agent, but he made 2 Pro Bowls and was viewed by some as better than Jahri Evans during his time with the team. A mammoth in size, I think he's the most dominant run blocker in team history.
10. Jim Wilks, DT, 12th Round pick out of San Diego State in 1981: Wilks played his entire 13 year career with the Saints. He was an extremely athletic nose tackle that moved very well and was disruptive in the backfield. For a 12th round pick it just doesn't get any better. He was a Pro Bowl alternate many times but never made the game.
9. Jimmy Graham, TE, 3rd Round pick out of Miami in 2010: He's only had three seasons under his belt and one Pro Bowl selection, but the best season by a tight end in NFL history behind Rob Gronkowski is pretty notable. He's only going to move up this list and by the end of his career he could easily be a top 5 all time Saints player. This pick was a steal any way you slice it, but his 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011 was legendary.
8. Frank Warren, DE, 3rd Round pick out of Auburn in 1981: The Saints got a ton of valuable mileage out of Warren as he played 14 seasons and his entire career with the Saints. He was a solid player and a starter for the entirety of that time and he finished with 52.5 career sacks. He was big in size for his position but moved well, so he was a complete player.
7. Dave Waymer, S, 2nd Round pick out of Notre Dame in 1980: Waymer was a star safety for 10 years with the Saints but only made the Pro Bowl once due to playing on mediocre teams. He finished with 48 career interceptions, 37 of which came with the Saints. That is the most in team history. In 1986 he picked off 9 passes.
6. Derland Moore, DT, 2nd Round pick out of Oklahoma in 1973: He played 13 seasons for the Saints, made one Pro Bowl, and was part of the all Saints 40th Anniversary team.
5. Marques Colston, WR, 7th Round pick out of Hofstra in 2006: By the time he's done he can only move up this list, but he's going to have to make the Pro Bowl first. How he hasn't is the biggest farce I've ever heard of. In 7 seasons he's broken the 1000 yard barrier 6 times. He's a Super Bowl champion and leads the Saints in career touchdowns with 58. He is tied with Eric Martin for most receptions in team history and will pass him with 1 catch, and he needs about 450 yards to become the all time leading receiver in yards.
4. Pat Swilling, OLB, 3rd Round pick out of Georgia Tech in 1986: In 7 seasons with the Saints, he posted double digit sacks in 5 of them, including 17 in 1991. He went to the Pro Bowl 4 times as a Saint and earned NFL defensive player of the year in 1991, the only Saint to ever be named that. Swilling didn't maintain a an elite level for as long as some of the guys on the list, but when he was at his best in his prime he was one of the very best Saints players of all time. IF we're talking about "best season" ever put together by a Saint, I'd put Pat Swilling in 1991 right behind Drew Brees' numerous record breaking years as best ever. In fact, that would make for another fun blog post.
3. Morten Andersen, K, 4th Round pick out of Michigan State in 1982: Andersen is the all time scoring leader in team history and his record will likely never be broken as he kicked for 13 seasons as a Saint. The "Great Dane" was also nicknamed "Mr. Automatic" for much of his time in New Orleans, which saw him head to the Pro Bowl 6 times. Andersen was a fantastic kicker but spent way too much time as a Falcon which is the only negative against him.
2. Jahri Evans, G, 4th Round pick out of Bloomsburg in 2006: Evans is in my opinion, bar none, the best interior lineman in team history. There is a reason he was paid the richest deal for a guard in NFL history. In 7 seasons with the Saints he's been a starter every year, a four time Pro Bowler, and a Super Bowl champion. He's already a top three offensive lineman in team history (behind Roaf and maybe Brock) and by the time he'll definitely be #2. A home run pick for Sean Payton's staff.
1. Rickey Jackson, OLB, 2nd round pick in 1981 out of Pittsburgh: One of only 2 Saints Hall of Famers, Jackson is the Saints' career leader in sacks. He had double digit sacks six times in 13 seasons with the Saints and made the Pro Bowl 6 times during that period. He also played two seasons with the 49ers and won a Super Bowl with them. Jackson has 128 career sacks, 115 of them coming with the Saints. Without a doubt he's the best non first round pick in team history and it's not even close.