On Sunday, the Black and Gold will host their first playoff game in the Superdome since the Saints’ 2011 near-miss shot at the Super Bowl.
In the second part of an interview with NFL Draft guru Mike Detillier, the Football Sage of Raceland shares his thoughts on how the Saints will fare in the post-season, the future of both Drew Brees and the quarterback position with the franchise, whom he credits for the 2017 outstanding draft class, and his picks for the Super Bowl.
MB: The Saints are in the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and won their first division title in six, yet the team dropped the regular season finale to Tampa Bay. Does that loss concern you?
MD: No really, I give Tampa a lot of credit that team didn’t quit on their head coach. They get paid to play too. Sluggish game all-around and the punt return fumble scoop & score was huge.
MB: The Saints have hauled in their best draft class since 2006. What’s the difference in the turnaround considering the busts they’ve had in previous drafts?
MD: I think certainly the addition of Jeff Ireland. Ireland has the ear of Sean Payton on personnel matters. Sean still has a huge amount of stroke when it comes to picking players early, but Ireland has given them a huge boost from grading out personnel. No doubt the best draft class since 2006 and it ranks as one of the three best ever for the Saints along with 2006 and 1981.
MB: Do the Saints win both the defensive and offensive rookie awards?
MD: Marshon Lattimore will win the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Mike, he’s the best cornerback to ever wear the black and gold and a signature player at cornerback in the league today.
Tight race between Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt from Kansas City for the offensive rookie award.
Kamara is the NFL version of Steph Curry: you can’t take your eyes off of him when the ball is in his hands. Give Payton credit for that trade and pick. He went to Tennessee to work out QB. Josh Dobbs and Alvin worked out with them. He’s electrifying as a player.
MB: One of the biggest deficiencies in the Saints’ offense is not converting on third down as often they have in the past. Is this a matter of talent or play calling?
MD: I hear what you and others are saying on this point but again the Saints finished in the top two in total offense for the 4th straight year. They have never finished further down than 6th (back in 2010) in total offense.
I really believe the lack of production at tight end and Willie Snead’s hamstring injuries have hurt that 3rd down conversion number. The slot receiver and tight end have been crucial to the Saints offense in the past. Not this season.
MB: Do the Saints re-sign Drew Brees and, assuming they do, for how long?
MD: I really believe they will and it will probably be a two-year deal. Brees again breaks the passing efficiency record in the NFL and it’s a supply and demand league. Payton and Brees have such a good working relationship I see the Saints bringing him back in 2018 and probably for 2019.
MB: What are the Saints future options for a successor to Brees?
MD: The future starting quarterback is not on the Saints roster today. I do think they draft one fairly high in the draft class of 2018 though.
MB: How far do you see the Saints going in the playoffs?
MD: I really think because of Brees, the running game/offensive line that has really played well and the defense’s ability to put pressure and get turnovers will advance them as far as the NFC Championship game. I really thought the run would be in 2018, but it happened a year earlier. Surprise, Surprise.
MB: What Super Bowl matchup are you projecting?
MD: Because of their defense I like the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC and I think the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Patriots in the AFC. But the NFC is wide open.