Literally, figuratively, the Saints are losing a giant in Zach Strief

TheĀ New Orleans Saints lost an anchor on Monday.

Zach Strief’s retirement after 12 seasons ends one of the most remarkable careers in the 51-year history of the franchise.

How improbable was Strief’s run in New Orleans?

Of the 1,718 players selected in the seventh round of the NFL Draft since the league merged in 1970, only 30 played more than the 158 games Strief did in his Saints career.

The Saints had no idea they were getting a future multi-year starter and team captain when they selected Strief out of Northwestern University with the No. 210 overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Most seventh-rounders don’t make the team, much less the starting lineup. Seventh-round draft picks are five times more likely to be cut than to develop into seven-year starters the way Strief did for the Saints. (Amazingly, the Saints selected a 10-year starter 41 picks later in wide receiver Marques Colston.)

But Strief, a self-proclaimed late bloomer, went to the right team at the right time. The Saints were in their first season under new head coach Sean Payton and were in the midst of an organizational transformation. They already had two solid starting tackles in Jammal Brown and Jon Stinchcomb, so they could afford Strief the luxury of gradually developing his body and honing his craft. Strief rarely played during

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