Dumping of Stephone Anthony confirms latest Saints talent evaluation gaffe

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Stephone Anthony
As a rookie in 2015, Stephone Anthony played extensively for the Saints but saw his playing time diminish in 2016 (Photo: Parker Waters).

For much of the past decade, the Saints have missed a lot in talent evaluations. Whether it be draft day mistakes, free agent flops or allowing good players to walk, there have been numerous blunders.

New Orleans has even traded away really good players still in their prime, just to avoid paying them or because the head coach no longer liked them. Feel free to names names here.

And now they’ve admitted another evaluation miss in 2015 first round selection Stephone Anthony. The Saints traded the linebacker this week to the Miami Dolphins for a reported 2018 fifth-round pick, or about 20 cents on the dollar.

As much praise as Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis received for their stellar 2006 draft, which arguably helped propel them quickly to a conference championship appearance that season and the Super Bowl in ’09, the duo deserves equal criticism for the drafts of the next nine seasons.

Of the 2006-2015 drafts, only 10 players remain on the roster. That’s 10 drafts so just one pick per season on average. Zero from 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014. They had six draft picks in 2014, only three years ago, and all of them are gone already.

Those are not just bad misses, but catastrophic misses when it comes to evaluation in the draft. Many general managers would’ve been long gone by now. But not Loomis. Maybe it’s because he helped bring New Orleans it’s only major sports title, which certainly buys you some time. But does one title buy you a decade of mediocrity?

As I always say, draft picks are great because the provide cheap labor. They should consist mostly of starters and key contributors or role players that play at a high level, while also costing you little in salary. That dynamic allows you room to go out and spend money on free agents to fill in holes. When you miss on draft picks constantly, you end up with many holes and not enough resources to competently fill them.

Combine that with the fact the Saints have missed on a number of free agents – Jason David, Brandon Browner, Jairus Byrd, Champ Bailey, CJ Spiller, (maybe even Adrian Peterson) – and there’s a lot of blame to go around in on Airline Drive.

And we would be remiss not to mention the trading of players still in their prime, or the ones they let just walk in free agency, like Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, Darren Sproles and Brandin Cooks. Flipping proven talent for picks with which you fail to use properly is not good business.

Malcom Jenkins, Roman Harper and Carl Nicks all left for paydays elsewhere. Trading Jenkins for Byrd through free agency was a huge whiff.

The awful contract extension for Junior Galette that was doomed not too long after the ink dried was another whiff.

As it stands right now, the Saints have every drafted player from 2016 and 2017 on their active roster with the exception of Daniel Lasco who was recently moved to the practice squad. That is mighty impressive but it also coincides with the Saints bringing in former GM and college scout Jeff Ireland.

There’s no doubt Ireland has had some influence on the draft evaluation process, whether it be providing better analysis for Loomis or  Payton and whoever else must take blame for prior drafts.

While his days in the front office with Miami turned sour for multiple reasons, no one questioned Ireland’s ability to find good players. Guys like Olivier Vernon in the third round, Mike Gillislee in the fifth, Rishard Matthews in the seventh have turned into solid NFL players. We’ll see if these recent Saints picks pan out similarly.

And no one says you have to hit on every draft selection but you absolutely should hit on your first rounders and most second rounders. To their credit, Anthony is the only Saints first-rounder of the past seven no longer on the team or traded somewhere else for value (Cooks). Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Sheldon Rankins, Andrus Peat, Cam Jordan and Kenny Vaccaro are all key parts of the team.

Oh and about that whole rumor last week indicating Vaccaro is potentially on the trading block. If he’s flipped for a mid-to-late round pick, chalk it up to yet another miss.

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Chris Gordy

Chris Gordy

Sports Talk Host

A native of Metairie, Chris Gordy hosts “The Chris Gordy Show” out of Houston on the iHeartRadio app. A lifelong Saints fan & passionate LSU fan, Gordy bleeds purple, black and gold. A 2001 graduate of Archbishop Rummel, Gordy longs for the old days of the Catholic League. But he thinks there is still nothing better than some old-fashioned slugfests…

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