With the draft over and the team signing a few undrafted players, I felt this would be an interesting topic. Payton and Loomis have had great success with undrafted players, molding them into not just contributors, but major cogs in the chemistry of this team. This year's UDFA class is headlined by Kevin Reddick, Chase Thomas, and Ryan Griffin. But it could be any of the others that ends up leaving their mark on the team. Let's have a look.
8. Jon Casillas, LB, Wisconsin, 2009 draft
Jonathan Casillas played linebacker at Wisconsin, and at the time of the draft, he was expected to be no worse than a 4th round draft pick. I myself had mocked him there for the Saints that year. Instead he tumbled out of the draft altogether thanks to his checkered injury history. He redshirted his rookie season in the NFL, but in his second year, he rose up to the starting spot as the WLB as the preseason ended. Unfortunately, he was derailed by yet another injury, costing him his opportunity before the season began. He managed to start a few games and ended his Saints career with 94 tackles, 3 sacks, and 3 passes defended.
7. Isa Abdul-Quddus, S, Fordham
Quddus was a complete unknown throughout the draft process coming from Fordham, thus it wasn't a surprise he went undrafted. Whenever the team brought him in as a UDFA, no one batted an eye at him. Abdul-Quddus, however, found a way to stick to the roster for his work on special teams. Since then, he has managed to not only carve a role on return units, but also become a valuable part for the secondary. Last year he was arguably the best safety on the team over Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper, and he finished the year with 45 tackles and 2 interceptions. He may be in the mix to start in the secondary this year as well.
6. Junior Galette, OLB/DE, Stillman
At Temple, Galette was a human highlight reel. He could hardly be contained thanks to his explosive first step and tenacity off of the snap. However, he had conduct issues and was dismissed by the team, thus spending his final season at tiny Stillman College. Galette made the squad much to the pleasure of fans who had seen his highlight videos. He proceeded to show well in preseason by blocking a punt and recovering it for a touchdown. Brought along slowly, Galette is finally getting his chance to be a starter. In limited snaps, Galette has accumulated 32 tackles and 9.5 sacks. All of those numbers are expected to go up, and he could find himself at the top of this list before his career is over.
5. Chris Ivory, RB, Tiffin
Chris Ivory is one of several gems the Saints have found at RB in UDFA. Plagued by injuries and poor conduct at Washington State, Ivory was dismissed from the team and enrolled at Tiffin. His lone season there was also unspectacular thanks to injuries limiting him to just 5 games and 223 yards. However, the Saints saw his talent, and he proceeded to make the team thanks to his size, speed, and punishing running mentality. The play that sealed his fate to the roster was a 76 yard swing pass in the preseason against San Diego where he torched the defense for a TD. Ivory ran for 1,307 yards and 8 TDs on just 256 career carries. He was arguably the most talented runner on the team the past 3 years, but was held back for various reasons. Now a starter in New York, he looks to double his career numbers.
4. Jo-Lonn Dunbar, LB, Boston College
Some of you may think Dunbar is too high on this list, but I think this is fair. A nobody out of Boston College, Dunbar made his way onto the squad because of his ability to play special teams. He was a contributor in the Superbowl year, but two seasons ago he earned a job as a full-time starter and put up 79 tackles, 2 FF, and 1 sack. Signed away by the Rams last season, Dunbar got even better posting 115 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 FF, and 2 INTs. He's become a good starter in this league.
3. Garrett Hartley, K, Oklahoma
Hartley came onto the scene after the Olindo Mare and Taylor Melhaff disasters at the kicker spot. He made the team after beating several other players in a tryout, and went on to make all 13 of his attempts as a rookie. The next season, 2009, he was limited to just 5 games, but that's all he needed to prepare for the postseason and arguably the most important field goal in Saints history as he made a 40 yard attempt to seal the victory in overtime against the Vikings. He went on the make all 3 FGAs in the Superbowl, all of which were from beyond 40 yards. He has been up and down the past few seasons, but he sports a solid 84.5% success rate through his career.
2. Pierre Thomas, RB, Illinois
Pierre Thomas was the first gem that Payton and Loomis discovered. I will steal this excerpt from Wikipedia concerning his first career start in the NFL
Quickly becoming a fan favorite as a kick returner, Pierre was anxious to get his shot at running back. And he would, making his first career start on December 30, in his home town of Chicago against the Bears – one of the most feared and respected defenses in the league. On a cold and windy night, with temperatures below freezing, Pierre would run for arguably one of the best performances of his career in front of his family and friends. He had 20 carries for 105 yards and caught 12 passes for 121 yards with an 11 yard touchdown, becoming the first player in New Orleans Saints history to gain more than 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in the same game. Pierre’s 226 total yards from scrimmage inked him into the record books as third-highest total in team history. Through this gutsy performance with two cracked ribs, Thomas earned himself more carries for the following season.
Pierre has been nothing less than a great player for this team. His character and fearlessness are invaluable to a team that has been through so much. His stats are good, but they don't tell his story the way it has really been.
1. Lance Moore, WR, Toledo
Lance Moore has taken the long road to the NFL. Bouncing around from the practice squad to NFL Europa, and eventually sticking with the Saints. His first two seasons were pretty unspectacular, but in his third year, 2008, he exploded onto the scene with 79 catches, 929 yards, and 10 TDs, and quickly became Drew Brees's favorite target on third downs. Since then, Moore has been incredibly reliable. In the Superbowl, his acrobatics on a 2 pt conversion allowed the Saints to take the lead. And just this past season, he notched his first 1,000 yard campaign. Moore has been one of the most popular players and personalities on the team for several years now. His career stats are 309 catches for 3,824 yards with 36 touchdowns.