Saints lose 33-14 in a meaningless game

The good, bad and ugly from the Saints loss to the Panthers

Michael C. Hebert, Saints website

With homefield advantage locked up in the NFC, this game meant nothing to the Saints and it showed. Here's how I saw the 33-14 loss to the Panthers:

The Good

-Michael Thomas broke Joe Horn's franchise record for receiving yards in a season and extended his own record for catches in a season. He is now in the conversation for league's best. Every year when the new Madden football video game comes out, the argument ensues on who should be rated a 99 overall. Thomas is now in that conversation as well.

-Sean Payton is a gambler as a play caller. I enjoyed his fourth down gambles in this game. While I may have disagreed with some of the plays he called on those attempts, I like the idea of going for it in a meaningless game.

-It felt good as a football fan to see Teddy Bridgewater getting a chance to start today. After all he went through with the devastating leg injury that not only could've cost him his career, but his leg as well. However…

The Bad

-…Teddy looked like a guy who hasn't played much quarterback in the last two years. One specific instance that came to mind was a play he tried to extend and make a play down the field. Mark Ingram was wide open in the flat. As Teddy scrambled then looked at Ingram, the defense closed in and stopped Ingram for a loss after he finally caught the ball. That could've been a nice gain.

-The defense gave up too many yards to an injury-depleted team. Giving up 374 total yards to a 6-9 team that waved the white flag on the season two weeks ago is not how you want to enter the playoffs.

-One of the main reasons the defense gave up too many yards to the Panthers was a lack of pressure. The Saints recorded one lonely sack in this game. Mind you, the defense was going against a first time starting quarterback and a couple backups on the offensive line.

The Ugly

-Speaking of that first time starting quarterback, Kyle Allen was made to look like a Pro Bowler. Allen, who was a journeyman in college because he couldn't stick anywhere after being highly recruited, went 16 of 27 for 228 yards and two touchdowns. He also added five carries for 19 yards and a rushing touchdown.

-Sheldon Rankins, Andrus Peat, and Alex Okafor all left the game with an injury. None of them seemed serious. All three guys are key components to this team's success heading into the playoffs. The bye week and being at home will do them, and several others, some good to heal.

-As I mentioned earlier, I was happy to see Thomas break Horn's record. I was not happy to see it took him until the fourth quarter of a meaningless game in which the score was lopsided to do so. Feed him the ball on safe plays like bubble screens, shovel passes, hitches, and quick outs or slants. He only needed 24 measly yards. Why take forever getting him the record and risk him getting hurt?

With the No. 1 seed locked up, this was nothing more than a fifth preseason game. Several players got extra work in. Bridgewater got a chance to play against live competition. Thomas got his record. Ingram got some touches after missing the first four games with a suspension. If it means anything, losing to the Panthers, Bucs, and Cowboys in 2009 meant winning a Super Bowl. Let's hope that omen holds up this year.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

A curious thing might be happening with the Texans. This year's third round pick, Kahale Warring, has barely played in camp due to injuries and is in danger of being stashed on IR for the season. One of last year's third round picks, Martinas Rankin, may be in danger of not making the roster. The 2017 third rounder D'Onta Foreman was cut earlier in camp. While historically the Texans have been terrible picking in the third round, just taking a look at the Bill O'Brien years makes for some surprising results.

Keep in mind that these numbers are very fluid. Everyone has different criteria for what makes a hit or a miss. But let's dive in and see how the Texans have done.

By the numbers

First, let's take a look at the historical success rate by position of third round picks in the NFL. "Success rate" means the player became a functional NFL starter, which you would expect from most players selected in the third round.

The numbers:

3rd Round - OL (40%) TE (39%) LB (34%) DL (27%) WR (25%) DB (24%) QB (17%) RB (16%)

(Source: Arrowheadsports.com)

Now the Texans

Bill O'Brien has been around since the 2014 draft, so that is where we will focus. Let's look at the third round picks:

2014: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Louis Nix DT. Nix was a complete bust; C.J. developed into a decent tight end before concussions prematurely ended his career. Still, you could reluctantly call him a hit. Nix is a clear miss.

2015: Jalen Strong, WR. Complete miss.

2016: Braxton Miller, WR. He at least saw some action on the field before being cut but another big miss.

2017: D'Onta Foreman, RB. Cut in camp this year, so another complete whiff.

2018: Justin Reid, S, Martinas Rankin, OL, Jordan Akins, TE.

Reid has all the ear markings of a perennial Pro Bowler. Akins has emerged as a decent threat in a crowded tight end room. Rankin, as mentioned earlier, might not make the team. So two hits and for now Rankin is a miss. We won't look at 2019 yet, but the Warring pick - questionable at the time - could easily be another clunker, but we may not know until next year. What happens to those two over the next few years will help add clarity to these numbers.

Is it as bad as it looks?

So overall, with nine third-round picks in the O'Brien era, the Texans have three hits, five misses (if you count Rankin) and an incomplete.

The positives? They are batting 1.000 on tight ends (pending Warring) and safety. They are zero percent on OL, RB and WR.

The overall hit rate is .375. In a given year, NFL starters from the second and third round combined make up roughly 30 percent of the league. Even if you count Fiedorowicz as a bust, they are still at almost 29 percent out of the third round, which would be above the league average, according to a Forbes study from the 2014 season. While that number varies year to year, it is likely no more than a few percentage points. So about average.

Throw in the second round picks, where Bernardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham and Nick Martin have all become starters with one glaring bust - Xavier Sua'Filo - and they are hitting at 75 percent in the second round, 66 percent overall in rounds 2-3. Now you could argue Martin is not a good player, but he has been a starter pretty much since Day 1. Even taking him out, that is still 55 percent. Again, the bust is glaring in Sua'Filo, which makes it look a lot worse.

The good news

The narrative is the Texans tend to nail their first round picks. According to the Riot Report, first rounders only hit at a 53 percent rate for a player to become a consistent starter over five years.

Again, looking at the O'Brien era only, the top picks have been Jadeveon Clowney, Will Fuller, Kevin Johnson, Deshaun Watson and Titus Howard. Eliminating Howard since it is too early, Clowney and Watson are clear hits; Fuller is a good player who can never stay healthy. If he does, he could be a key contributor but that remains to be seen. Still, he is an NFL starter so give him a hit, even if it is incomplete. Johnson was a disaster and is gone. If you give them Fuller, that is still 75 percent, well above the league average. If you don't count Fuller, they are right at the league average, slightly below. Again, all of this is specific to the O'Brien era.

What does it all mean?

The third round misses have been high profile, colossal mistakes, which makes it look worse. Foreman was supposed to develop into a home run threat on offense. Miller was a high profile project. The team traded up to get Strong. Nix never made it to the field. But overall, the results are about on par with the rest of the league, even above average. Those were not the results I expected when I started this article. But there is also no way to quantify players who hung around and contributed but were never really "hits" or "misses." The Texans misses were clear, as they are no longer on the roster.

Which brings us to Duke Johnson

While many have been critical of the Texans for giving up a third to get Duke Johnson, it makes a lot of sense. You are getting a proven NFL player with starting capabilities for a pick that hits less than 30 percent of the time. While building through the draft is important, it also goes to show that most teams and fans greatly overvalue draft picks. And most picks are like buying new cars - the value goes down as soon as you get them off the lot. Johnson should provide a much surer thing than a third-rounder.

The bottom line

As with most things, when it comes to drafting, the Texans are about average. The third round busts look bad relative to expectations, but overall the number of hits is about where the league is. They probably aren't as good in the first round as the perception. Obviously good teams do better than than average, bad ones do much worse, but as with most things, the Texans aren't bad at drafting high-round picks.

They are just mediocre, a staple of the organization since its inception.

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