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Howard falls into Saints' lap

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Posted: Sunday April 16, 2000 04:57 PM

  Darren Howard New Orleans nearly gave up next year's first round pick to take Darren Howard. AP

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The New Orleans Saints didn't get a chance to choose a player until the second pick of the second round. But after the long wait they made a quick choice, taking defensive end Darren Howard.

General manager Randy Mueller said it was worth the wait.

"We are ecstatic to get Darren Howard," Mueller said. "You could have bet me a lot of money that this guy would be there when we picked and I would have taken it. We had no idea he'd fall this far."

The Saints had no first or third round picks. Those were traded away as part of the Ricky Williams deal last year. But New Orleans was so intent on getting the 6-foot-3, 272-pound Howard they were willing to give up even more picks.

Saints First-Round Draft Picks
Year  Player  Pos  School 
2000  No pick       
1999  Ricky Williams  RB  Texas 
1998  Kyle Turley  OG/OT  San Diego State 
1997  Chris Naeole  OG  Colorado 
1996  Alex Molden  DB  Oregon 
1995  Mark Fields  LB  Washington State 
1994  Joe Johnson  DE  Louisville  
1993  William Roaf  Louisiana Tech  
1993  Irv Smith  TE  Notre Dame  
1992  Vaughn Dunbar  RB  Indiana 
1991  No pick       
1990  Renaldo Turnbull  DE  West Virginia 
1989  Wayne Martin  DE  Arkansas 
1988  Craig Heyward  RB  Pittsburgh 
1987  Shawn Knight  DE  Brigham Young 
1986  Jim Dombrowski  Virginia 
1985  Alvin Toles  LB  Tennessee 
1984  No pick       
1983  No pick       
1982  Lindsay Scott  WR  Georgia  
1981  George Rogers  RB  South Carolina 
1980  Stan Brock  Colorado 
1979  Russell Erxleben  K/P  Texas 
1978  Wes Chandler  WR  Florida 
1977  Joe Campbell  DE  Maryland 
1976  Chuck Muncie  RB  California 
1975  Larry Burton  WR  Purdue 
1975  Kurt Schumacher  Ohio State  
1974  Rick Middleton  LB  Ohio State  
1973  No pick       
1972  Royce Smith  Georgia 
1971  Archie Manning  QB  Mississippi 
1970  Ken Burrough  WR  Texas Southern 
Since 1970

The Saints were on the phone from the 10th pick of the first round trying to make a deal, Mueller said. New Orleans discussed trades that included next year's No. 1 pick, but after seeing how the picks were falling, finally decided to take a chance on getting Howard.

"We made calls about the 15th, 16th pick," coach Jim Haslett said. "We were talking about trading next year's pick just to get this guy. His chances of falling to us were unbelievable. This is the guy we wanted the whole way."

A four-year starter at Kansas State, Howard played the right end the last two years. He played left end his first two and will play that side for the Saints.

"I'm more comfortable at the right side right now," Howard said. "But I won't have any trouble moving to the left side."

The Saints beefed up their offense during free agency. They feel their top draft pick will solidify what's already expected to be a strong defensive line.

"He's a great player," Haslett said. "He can rush the passer from all sides, drops into coverage, had two interceptions last year, almost 30 sacks for his career. He's a heck of a player, big guy and a good person also."

Howard had 10 1/2 sacks his junior year, 5 1/2 last year. He said increased attention from opponents accounted for the drop.

Another knock against Howard is that he does not play hard every down.

"It came from the opposing coaches," Howard said. "It was a problem more when I was a freshman and a sophomore, but as I'm maturing in my later years, I think it got a lot better. I'm still working on it now, and I really don't think it's a problem now."

Howard will compete at left end with Jared Tomich, a second round pick for the Saints in 1997.

"We'll put them both out there and see who's the best," Haslett said.

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