Saints use first-round pick for another running back
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Look out, Ricky. The Saints made another running back their No. 1 selection in the NFL draft -- and this time they even had some picks left over.
The Saints chose Mississippi running back Deuce McAllister on their 23rd pick in the first round, the second time in three years they used their first-round choice for a running back.
In 1999, Mike Ditka selected Ricky Williams as New Orleans' only draft choice, trading away eight picks to get what he called the 'final piece of the puzzle' for the Saints.
This year, the Saints had McAllister in the top six players in the draft, head coach Jim Haslett said.
"He was the highest-rated guy left on our board," Saints general manager Randy Mueller said. "It wasn't even close."
Both said the selection of McAllister had nothing to do with any displeasure about Williams, although Haslett has not been happy that the Saints' star is not attending the team's offseason program.
"I just think it's a two-man game," Haslett said. "This will help Ricky in the long run also."
Williams, who rushed for 1,000 yards last season, was injured in the 10th game and sat out the rest of the season. He was also slowed by injuries his rookie season.
McAllister, who had shoulder, ankle and hamstring injuries last year, was an all-Southeastern Conference first-team selection. He played in every game and started eight.
But those injuries don't concern the Saints.
"We don't have any questions," Mueller said. "I actually think he's a tough guy and he'll be fine. We don't have any questions about his durability."
McAllister led the Rebels with 159 carries for 767 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was fourth on the team with 18 receptions for 190 yards and two touchdowns, and led the team in scoring with 102 points.
McAllister also returned punts (191 yards and one touchdown) and averaged 17 yards on 20 kickoffs. The Saints also want McAllister in those spots.
"He has excellent speed, he may be the fastest back in the draft," Mueller said. "He's a playmaker. He does all kinds of things, he's a return guy, he's a receiver. They lined him up in the slot at Ole Miss and he ran routes like a receiver."
Haslett said McAllister has a different running style than Williams, as well as more speed.
"I think he's one of those rare backs, a big guy that if he gets in the backfield he can go for a touchdown," Haslett said. "I think he's extremely fast, he's deceivingly fast."
Being taken by a team that already has a star running back did not bother McAllister.
"I think competition makes every one better," he said. "It will make that position that much better, make the team that much better, and make us better. I'll just come in and push him and we'll see what happens."
Williams is expected to take part in the Saints minicamp next weekend and stay in town to work out after that.
"I'm hoping that Ricky will adjust to this and we'll go on and be an outstanding football team in the National Football League," running back coach Dave Atkins said. "We expect a lot from both guys."