New Orleans Saints Flashback: 1981 NFL Draft
The most successful NFL Draft for the New Orleans Saints was arguably the 1981 draft, which was the first under new head coach Bum Phillips.
In that draft, the Saints chose running back George Rogers (first round-1st overall), safety Russell Gary (second round-29th overall), linebacker Rickey Jackson (second round-51st overall), defensive tackle Frank Warren (third round-57th overall), and tight end Hoby Brenner (third round 71st overall) in the top three rounds, who all went on to become starters for the team.
But teams are/were expected to get good players in the top three rounds.
It’s actually the players the Saints selected in rounds 5-12 that made that year’s draft so good.
In those rounds the Saints chose the likes of offensive lineman Louis Oubre (5th round), defensive tackle Jerry Boyarsky (5th round), offensive lineman Nat Hudson (6th round), cornerback Johnnie Poe (6th round), linebacker Glen Redd (6th round), running back Hokie Gajan (10th round), and defensive lineman Jim Wilks (12th round), all of whom produced for the team.
Wilks is a perfect example; drafted in the last round in 1981, Wilks went on to play 13 years for the team, and was a starter in 12 of those years.
The Saints took, and still do take some heat for drafting George Rogers, the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner from South Carolina with the top pick, over North Carolina linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who went on to have a Hall of Fame career.
But did anybody really think that Bum Phillips, who loved to run the football, wasn’t going to take Rogers?!?!?
Besides, it wasn’t like Rogers was a bust. He rushed for over 900 year in three of his four seasons with the team, including 1,674 yards in his rookie year of 1981, a single-season club rushing record which still stands today.
Let’s go back to 1981, when the draft was held on a Tuesday morning/afternoon, and watch ESPN’s coverage, and watch the Saints select Rogers.
It’s fun to not only go back and look at the Rogers selection by the Saints, but to also relive some of the great players taken in 1981, and to see how far the draft has come on television.