There's a worryingly strong chance that the New Orleans Saints won't have a first round pick in the 2023 NFL draft, which is uncomfortably familiar territory for Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. The team has aggressively navigated the draft year in and year out, but it might have cost them badly this time. We'll just have to wait and see whether New Orleans can trade Sean Payton to another team this offseason and recoup a first rounder.
What about the joke you'll hear from a lot of Saints fans that this team doesn't draft well in the first round, anyway? It's a common refrain, but is there much truth to it? To find out, we've ranked the last ten players New Orleans has drafted with first-round picks:
10. DE Payton Turner
AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith
We just haven't seen enough from Turner, who has been limited to 13 games through his first two seasons. Part of that is on injuries, but the bigger problem is that he hasn't played well enough when healthy to get into the rotation ahead of other backups.
9. LT Trevor Penning
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You can see the appeal with Penning between his overwhelming size, power, and nasty attitude. He needs to prove his body can hold up to NFL punishment after his rookie year started and ended with different foot injuries.
8. RG Cesar Ruiz
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Ruiz greatly improved in his third year with the Saints, but that doesn't excuse the two mediocre seasons that preceded it. The good news is that his arrow is trending up and he should return to the lineup as an asset if his injury recovery continues as expected.
7. DE Marcus Davenport
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Davenport's career has been frustrating between his injuries and inconsistent play. But when he's on, there aren't many better pass rushers than him around the league. It's just a shame the Saints haven't seen him at his best more often.
6. DT Sheldon Rankins
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Rankins has continued to play well in this league after going to the New York Jets, but he left the Saints with more sacks (23.5) than Davenport is likely to (21.5), and that's enough to give him an edge here. He's a steady, reliable player who was rarely a liability in New Orleans.
5. WR Chris Olave
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Olave's rookie season was stellar. He runs routes like a veteran and made some eye-popping catches, and there was never a point where we looked back and asked whether he'd be a bust. But it was just one season. Let's see him do it again and level up with more success on contested catches when the defender is able to close in on him.
4. WR Brandin Cooks
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Like Olave, Cooks was a playmaker from the jump, though an unfortunate injury cut his rookie year short. Then he consistently produced at a high level over the next seasons with back-to-back 1,100-yard campaigns. Those are the heights Olave is chasing. Hopefully he sticks around longer than Cooks did.
3. LG Andrus Peat
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At some point you have to tip your hat to Peat's staying power. He's outlasted multiple other starters, position coaches, and contract tweaks and restructures to remain entrenched at left guard. Despite all of that upheaval and his own injury history, he's also been selected for more Pro Bowls (3) than his predecessor Carl Nicks (2).
2. CB Marshon Lattimore
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These top two former first rounders could really go either way. At this moment in time I'm leaning towards Lattimore as the runner-up. He played with some real variance early in his career before settling down, and there are still times when the league's best receivers get the better of him. But we saw how critically important he is to the Saints defense when he returned from an injury last season. I won't argue with anyone who says he deserves the top spot.
1. RT Ryan Ramczyk
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Yeah, again, this could go either way - I'm totally fine seeing someone else put Lattimore in the top spot. But Ramczyk has been rock-solid from his very first start at right tackle. A complicated knee injury has created some lingering problems for him in recent years, but he still matches up well with the league's best pass rushers. Hopefully he can rest that knee and fully return to form.
Story originally appeared on Saints Wire
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