A great unknown hangs over the draft class the Saints spent last weekend assembling.
For all of the hours spent watching a prospect's game film and digging into his past, one factor remains left to chance, no matter how many doctors have poked and prodded and pored over countless hours of medical history.
Future injuries are hard to predict.
"I think there’s certainly an element (of luck) to that, especially when it comes to the injury factor," Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said. "I think all teams are pretty good evaluating the ability."
Three members of the Saints' 2017 draft class carry injury concerns. Two, cornerback Marshon Lattimore and linebacker Alex Anzalone, saw their early years in college derailed by repeated injuries to the same part of their bodies — hamstrings for Lattimore, shoulders for Anzalone. The other, Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk, underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip after the season ended.
“The injury concerns we have with Ramcyzk are crystal clear and clean," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Anzalone was the one player with the shoulder that we spent a lot of time with. Lattimore’s hamstring, it’s not like when we spent time with the doctors where we discuss a knee or we discuss a foot. ... We feel like the prognosis is good with those guys."
The Saints are far from the only team that drafted talented guys with a history of injury. Cincinnati took wide receiver John Ross (shoulder, knee) and defensive end Carl Lawson (hip, knee). Indianapolis (Malik Hooker), Atlanta (Takkarist McKinley) and San Francisco (Reuben Foster) all drafted players who had surgery after last season. Philadelphia (Sidney Jones) and Denver (Jake Butt) took players who might not be available in 2017.
The risks of selecting players with an injury history are obvious, given what has happened with the nine-pick haul New Orleans drafted two years ago.
Promising pass rusher Hau'oli Kikaha, who suffered two torn ACLs in college, missed all of last season after tearing another ACL last summer. Developmental defensive end Davis Tull got started slow because of shoulder surgery, underwent another shoulder repair and ended up too far behind to make an impact.
Then there's P.J. Williams and Damian Swann, two cornerbacks who had little to no history of injury in college but have seen their first two seasons derailed by concussions and tissue injuries.
With that class' medical problems fresh in the collective memory, New Orleans could have decided to play it cautious with any prospect who had an injury history, except that there are countless examples of players who've beaten the odds medically and never looked back.
None more obvious than the Saints' legendary quarterback. When Drew Brees signed as a free agent, he was coming off of a shoulder injury that didn't pass a physical by the Dolphins.
All he's done is start every game except two in 11 seasons.
“We don’t have a formula for it because everything’s (on) a case-by-case basis,' Loomis said. "Part of it is how high we have the player graded. What’s the vision for the player in Year 2 and Year 3 when he’s healthy? How severe is the injury? What’s the risk of recurrence?"
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