Sean Payton hopes Saints rookie class can be like 2006 group


When the Saints won the Super Bowl after the 2009 season, they got sizable contributions from guard Jahri Evans, safety Roman Harper, wide receiver Marques Colston and running back Reggie Bush.

All four of those players joined the Saints in the 2006 draft as part of a class that also included longtime starting tackle Zach Strief, who was a backup that season, and defensive end Rob Ninkovich. Ninkovich wouldn’t hit it big until he left New Orleans and landed in New England, but only adds to an impressive crop of rookies from Sean Payton’s first year as the Saints’ head coach.

Payton feels like he has a similar group on hand this year. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore, tackle Ryan Ramcyzk, safety Marcus Williams and running back Alvin Kamara are playing big roles already and linebackers Alex Anzalone and Trey Hendrickson have also contributed at points, which is a big change from recent Saints draft classes.

“The football makeup of that [2006] class, those guys all played 10 years,” Payton said, via Albert Breer of “The football makeup, the intelligence, the grit, those key factors in trying to measure success, it was important that we were clear. We weren’t being hard on each evaluation, but we need that type of foundation again — of smart, tough football players that we had a clear vision for.”

Payton said “yes, indeed” when asked if he thought this class could have the same kind of impact and that he wants to stick around several more years to keep working with them. If the Saints keep their six-game winning streak rolling in the weeks to come, both outcomes will feel more likely.