Everyone knows the story of Pierre Thomas by now. The running back couldn’t have arrived in New Orleans at a worse time. The Saints already had Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush on the roster when they drafted Antonio Pittman in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. There wasn’t much room on the roster for Thomas when he signed as an undrafted player following that draft. Maybe he’d have a good camp, hook on a practice squad and be around in the event of an emergency. But Thomas was determined to write his own story. He dominated camp and forced the Saints to keep him instead of Pittman, who got cut and hooked on with the Rams before washing out of the league two years later. That decision was not only crucial toward establishing an effective team-building philosophy; it also let everyone else know that New Orleans doesn’t care how players get here once they’re here. The best players will earn jobs and snaps, even if it means cutting a recently drafted player in favor of an undrafted one. That has helped the team win more than one tiebreaker when competing for players after the draft. But is New Orleans truly the land of opportunity for undrafted players, or have their few high-profile hits created an inflated perception? To answer this, we looked at how many undrafted players each team has signed over the last five years have made either the Week 1 roster or practice squad.
The Saints have gained a reputation for giving UDFAs one of the best shots for making a team. Is that reputation earned?