Great Players The Saints Didn’t Draft: Kellen Winslow
The 2016 NFL Draft gets underway on Thursday, April 28, in Chicago, Illinois.
Between now and then, we’ll be looking back at some of the past drafts by the Saints, and some of the better players they passed up on when it was their turn to pick.
Of course, every NFL team has had their "steals" and "busts" over the years, as the NFL Draft is such an inexact science, but it's kind of fun, and at times, agonizing, to look back and see what players they could have, and maybe even should have drafted.
Today, we go back to the 1979 NFL Draft.
In the first round, with the 11th-overall pick, the Saints selected Texas punter/place-kicker Russell Erxleben.
This is one of the more infamous picks in Saints history.
Erxleben never made it as a place-kicker, making only 4 of 8 in his entire career, and was inconsistent as a punter.
Saints fans had to endure Erxleben for five years, along with the reminder that they basically took a mediocre punter in the first round.
So, who could they have taken in the first round instead?
Well, really anybody taken after him would have been a better pick than Erxleben, including Penn St. offensive tackle Keith Dorney, who the Detroit Lions took with the very next pick. Dorney started 9 years in the NFL, and made on Pro Bowl.
Also drafted after Erxleben that year, in the first round, were such players as Charles Alexander, Marty Lyons, Ted Brown, Don Smith, Manu Tuiasosopo, Jerry Robinson, Jon Giesler, Kent Hill, and Greg Hawthorne, all of whom had long, successful careers.
But you you have to go to the 12th-pick of the 1979 NFL Draft, just two picks after the Saints selected Erxleben, to find Kellen Winslow, a tight end out of Missouri, who was taken by the San Diego Chargers.
As part of the Chargers' "Air Coryell" offense, named of San Diego head coach Don Coryell, Winslow helped revolutionize the tight end position.
A 5-time Pro Bowler and a member of the 1980's NFL All-Decade Team, Winslow was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
In 9 seasons, Winslow compiled 554 receptions for 6,741 yards and 45 touchdowns.
That was just a little bit better of a career than Erxleben, who averaged 40.6 yards-per-punt in 6 forgettable seasons.
Now, in defense of the Saints, they already had a quality tight end going into the 1979 season, in Henry Childs, who had caught 53 passes for 86 yards and 4 touchdowns the year prior, and was named to the Pro Bowl in 1979.
Still, Childs only played with the Saints through the 1980 campaign, a year in which the franchise hit rock bottom, finishing 1-15, and Erxleben struggled throughout, while Winslow went on to a Hall of Fame career.