Saints’ shelf life as a contender may be far from over

By Ed Daniels, Clarion Herald Sports

It was an interesting re-do. If there is such a thing.

The website bleacherreport.com did the 2017 NFL Draft over.

In the first round of the re-worked draft, the Saints had three of the top nine selections.

Cornerback Marshon Lattimore was No. 5, running back Alvin Kamara was No. 8 and offensive tackle Ryan Ramcyzk was No. 9.

In the actual 2017 draft, Lattimore was No. 11, Ramcyzk was No. 32, and Kamara, selected in the third round, was pick No. 67.

The same website did a “do-over” of the 2016 draft. Wide receiver Michael Thomas, a second-round pick, was now rated 12th in the first round.

Remember the above numbers when the inevitable stories churn about the Saints’  “window” of competing for championships is closing.

Drew Brees turns 41 in January, yet he’s given no indication that he’s contemplating retirement.

And, even if Brees did walk away, the Saints have Teddy Bridgewater warming in the bullpen.

Is Bridgewater the answer as Brees’ successor? Who knows. But, he doesn’t turn 27 until November.

And, before a major knee injury set back his career, Bridgewater had started 28 games in two seasons at Minnesota.

Bridgewater thought enough of the Saints to spurn the chance to compete for the starting job in Miami and return, with a guaranteed contract, to the Saints.

Heading into camp, the Saints have question marks, but not nearly as many as other teams.

Can Latavious Murray be an adequate running replacement for Mark Ingram?

Can defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who suffered an Achilles injury in the playoff win over Philadelphia, return to form quickly and help the club this season?

Is tight end Jared Cook, signed as a free agent from Oakland, the extra weapon the Saints need in their passing game?

Can second-round pick Erik McCoy step right in at center to replace the retired Max Unger?

And, can the Saints’ two top picks from last season, defensive end Marcus Davenport and wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, make steady progress or more in Year Two?

The answers to these questions won’t come in late July or August.

Remember that as you see stories and social media posts about this player or that player doing something exceptional in training camp.

Camp is camp, preseason is preseason (and dreadfully long).

Four to six weeks of regular season games tell the story of where a team is headed.

Remember, after a loss in the opener to Tampa Bay and an overtime win over Cleveland in Week Two, there was zero indication that the Saints were off and running on a 10-game win streak.

In July, the pigskin prognosticators are all over the place – like cockroaches.

So, let me join the club.

The Saints, with a young, talented nucleus, may have a longer shelf life as an NFC contender than first believed.

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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