Do the Saints avoid drafting LSU players or is it just coincidence? During Sean Payton’s tenure the Saints have only drafted 1 LSU player (All Woods, 2010). Is it because they purposely avoid LSU players or is it just the way the boards have fallen over the years? Is there a statistical way to answer that question, and if so, what do the numbers say?

Since 2006, (not counting the currently still on-going, at the time of this writing, 2018 draft) there have been 77 LSU players drafted. The Saints have only drafted 1 of those 77. By the numbers, with 32 teams, the average team drafted 77 / 32 = 2.4 per team. That stat doesn’t really tell us much, so let’s take a look from another angle.

If we took the same group of players drafted each year into the NFL since 2011, and then randomly distributed them among the NFL teams, what is the probability the Saints would have 0 LSU players? I calculate that number at about 19.6%. In other words, there would be a better-than-80% chance (80.4%) the Saints would have drafted at least one LSU player since 2011 if the drafted players were randomly distributed.

year |
number of LSU players drafted that year |
number of LSU players drafted by the saints |
probability of getting an LSU player that year |
probability of not getting an LSU player that year |
cumulative probability of not getting an LSU player over the years |

2011 |
6 |
0 |
18.75% |
81.25% |
81.25% |

2012 |
5 |
0 |
15.63% |
84.38% |
68.55% |

2013 |
9 |
0 |
28.13% |
71.88% |
49.27% |

2014 |
9 |
0 |
28.13% |
71.88% |
35.42% |

2015 |
4 |
0 |
12.50% |
87.50% |
30.99% |

2016 |
5 |
0 |
15.63% |
84.38% |
26.15% |

2017 |
8 |
0 |
25.00% |
75.00% |
19.61% |

The above table (via research done at PFREF.COM) shows the year, the number of LSU players drafted that year, the number the Saints took that year, and then 3 probabilities: probability of getting at least one LSU player that year in a blind randomly distributed draft, probability of *not* getting at least one LSU player that year, and in the final column a cumulative probability of not getting at least one LSU player in any of those years.

In 2011, there were 6 LSU players drafted. With 32 teams, if these 6 players are randomly distributed among the teams, the percentage probability of the Saints getting at least one of them would be 6 / 32 = 18.75%. That’s obviously not a very high probability, and so shouldn’t raise any eyebrows when it happens exactly that way. Saying there is an 18.75% chance of getting at least one LSU player in the draft is the same thing as saying there is a 100% – 18.75% = 81.25% chance of *not* getting an LSU player in a blind, randomly distributed draft. In other words, I’m equating blind, randomly distributed with meaning there is no bias either in favor of LSU players or against LSU players by the Saints.

Okay, so with an 81.25% chance of *not* getting an LSU player, we can’t draw any conclusion from the fact the Saints did not get an LSU player in 2011. But let’s continue on to 2012. 5 LSU players are drafted that year, and doing the same math we get the number at 84.38% that none of the 5 would land with the Saints. So we have 2 probabilities to work with: 81.25% and 84.38%. If we multiply those together we get 81.25% * 84.38% = 68.55%. 68.55% is the probability percentage that the Saints would not get *any* LSU players in *either* year. It’s still over 50%, so it shouldn’t be a shocker that the Saints didn’t end up with any LSU players in 2011 through 2012. Let’s continue on for the following years, where the numbers continue dropping to 49.27% in 2013, 35.42% in 2014, 30.99% in 2015, 26.15% in 2016, and now 19.61% as of 2017.

Already in the first 2 rounds there have been 4 LSU players drafted in the 2018 draft. A reasonable expectation is there will be 4 or 5 more LSU players drafted, so call it 8 LSU players in total that get drafted in 2018. If the Saints don’t get any of them, the number would be the same as it was in 2017 when also 8 LSU players were drafted. This means we would need to multiply 19.61% by 75%, which gives us a 14.71% that the Saints would have skipped out on all of those LSU players just by random coincidence. Personally, I’m not buying it.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, not by a long shot, but something is fishy here. You can’t tell me something with a 14.71% chance of happening has happened all just by random coincidence.

On the other hand, the Saints *did* draft Al Woods back in 2010. Also, we’re looking at overall numbers and assigning equal probability to all 32 teams when, in fact, the Saints have very happily traded away 42 picks (in exchange for 30 picks) over this time frame, not to mention *never* getting a single compensatory pick due to losing free agents and not replacing them in free agency. In short, the Saints have had the fewest draft picks of any team, and by a considerable margin, over the years. Having fewer picks (about 2 fewer per year than the average team) means the Saints are the least likely team to have ended up with an LSU player, assuming blind random distributions.

Final conclusion? I think there’s a bias at work here against drafting LSU players. Not sure why, could be the Saints just don’t think LSU does a good job coaching those players up (contrary evidently to how the rest of the league views the situation). Maybe it’s just a location bias, in that the Saints want to try to cast a wide net rather than just focusing on the local players, and hence are bending over backwards too far.

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