Great Players The Saints Didn’t Draft: Randy Gradishar
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 1974 NFL Draft.
With the 13th-overall pick that year, the Saints took Ohio St. linebacker Rick Middleton, who only two years with the Saints, and five seasons overall, mostly as a reserve, in the NFL.
Just one pick later, with the 14th-overall pick, the Denver Broncos selected Randy Gradishar, who was named to the Pro Bowl seven times over his outstanding 10-year career.
What makes the pick of Middleton over Gradishar stand out like a sore thumb even more is that they played the same position, and were college teammates at Ohio St.
Even more curiously, Gradishar was a more highly-acclaimed college linebacker than Middleton, being named an All-American, while finishing 7th in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1973.
Gradishar, who is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, an amazing accumulated 160 tackles in 12 games as a senior, prompting former Ohio St. head coach Woody Hayes to tab him "the best linebacker I ever coached."
So, with their first round pick in the 1974 NFL Draft, the Saints got the position right, and even got the school right. They just picked the wrong player.
Other players that the Saints passed on in the first round of the 1974 NFL Draft, in favor of Middleton, included receivers Lynn Swann of USC and Roger Carr of Louisiana Tech.