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New Orleans Saints Draft Picks: Results, Analysis and Grades

Will OsgoodAnalyst IMay 7, 2014

New Orleans Saints Draft Picks: Results, Analysis and Grades

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    The 2014 NFL draft is here (starts Thursday at 8 PM ET/7 PM CT). The New Orleans Saints hold the 27th overall pick in the first round. They also hold the 58th, 91st, 126th, 167th, 169th and 202nd picks.

    In all the Saints possess seven picks for the first time since 2007, despite not possessing a seventh round selection. While the Saints are always going to be open to the possibility of a draft day trade either to move up for a player they like, or move down and accumulate an extra pick or two, it is most likely that the Saints will make those seven picks without interruption.

    Assuming that is true, the team figures to look in a few different directions in the first three rounds (the rounds where teams expect to nab a year one starter). The greatest need the team possesses lies at the center position.

    There is no player in this draft worthy of being selected in the first round at that position. And the Saints are unlikely to use a second round pick on the position either. The third round, or later, is likely where Mickey Loomis, Ryan Pace and Sean Payton will try to identify a player who can handle the job of being Drew Brees’ caddy of sorts.

    Other pertinent positions of need include: outside linebacker, cornerback, tight end, flex running back/returner and wide receiver. The Saints could also look for a player they believe can be groomed to replace Drew Brees. But that does not figure to be a high priority need.

    Unlike most of the other teams in this draft, the Saints do not necessarily have to find even one immediate starter in this draft, which gives them the flexibility to literally draft the best player available at pick 27 and in subsequent rounds.

    It also means they can be more aggressive than other teams if they so choose, since they need so little they may determine there is one player in this draft they absolutely must obtain the rights to for that players’ first few years in the league.

    In what promises to be a wide-open and highly dramatic draft league-wide, the Saints embody that quite well. There is nothing absolute about the teams’ draft strategy this weekend.

    It will be fascinating to see how it unfolds Thursday through Saturday and into the undrafted free agent signing period—where the Saints always excel.  

Round 1, Pick No. 20 (from Arizona): Brandin Cooks, WR/RB/Returner, Oregon State

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Thursday night the New Orleans Saints traded up from pick No. 27 to pick No. 20 to take Oregon State WR/RB/Returner Brandin Cooks. The trade with Arizona saw the Saints gave up the 27th pick and the 91st pick.

    Cooks immediately fills a vacancy left open when the Saints traded Darren Sproles to Philadelphia earlier this offseason. The 5’10”, 189 pound junior returned kicks at Oregon State and displayed amazing burst and electric big play ability as collegian.

    The Saints had other options—either in staying at No. 27 or even with the 20th pick they trade up to get. Darqueze Dennard was still on the board, as were Southern California Trojans Marqise Lee and Marcus Martin—the player the Saints were rumored to be taking coming into the day.

    On the positive note, the Saints still possess their second round pick—as of now the 58th overall selection. That pick can be used on a second-tier cornerback or pass-rushing outside linebacker. The point, though, is the Saints found a player who fits their scheme and overall mentality (more on that in my “Fit” article coming up in the next hour).

    Cooks was a player I had with a late first-round/early second-round grade. So it’s a bit of a reach, but considering his acumen as a receiver and returner, it is a fine selection for New Orleans. Giving up a third-round pick to make it happen is where the stretch knocks the grade for the selection down a bit.

    In an immediate interview with the New Orleans’ media, Sean Payton boasted of Cooks, that his “interview was fantastic” and that he sees Cooks as “tough and durable”.

    Grade: B

Round 2, Pick No. 58: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    With the 58th pick in the 2014 NFL draft the New Orleans took Nebraska’s cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste—a 6’3”, 218 pound cornerback. Jean-Baptiste had four interceptions and a touchdown in his final season at Nebraska in 2013.

    He also had a pick-six in 2012. He is a playmaking defensive back—something the Saints had been emphasizing all offseason. He is also incredibly tall—which became strikingly more important after Thursday night’s first round, when both the Buccaneers and Panthers took large receivers.

    Jean-Baptiste is a good, but not great athlete who excels in a plethora of different coverages. He is not a one-trick pony in that regard. He has good “catchup speed” on routes he gets burned and good ball skills.

    He had 11 and 12 passes defensed, respectively, in the past two seasons. He began his collegiate career at Nebraska as a receiver but became a “black shirt” in 2012 after seeing little action and showing less promise on the offensive side of the ball.

    Jean-Baptiste hails from Miami, Florida meaning he’ll get to play in the same region he grew up in.

    With Pierre Desir, Marcus Martin and a handful of other options on the clock the Saints were loaded with options but went with their highest rated corner. He figures to fit well in Rob Ryan’s defense.

    Grade: B

Round 3, Pick No. 91

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Saints gave up this pick when they traded up to gain the 20th pick of the first round. 

Round 4, Pick No. 126: Khairi Fortt, LB, California

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Coming into the draft the Saints were thought to be interested in adding at least one piece to the linebacker depth chart. In selecting the Cal Bear, the Saints found a player described by many analysts as versatile. 

    He fits the hybrid defensive scheme the Saints want to play under Rob Ryan, in that he's probably more of a 4-3 linebacker, but can operate comfortably in a 3-4. 

    Truth be told, though, Fortt is not a player who was talked about much prior to the draft. In the day three primer, I had the Saints making a head scratching selection at some point today. 

    This pick qualifies. With Pierre Desir, Devon Kennard, a few decent centers and even more attractive receiving options on the board, the Saints went with a player no one knew much of anything about. 

    It's the typical "Who?" pick that Saints fans have become accustomed to on day three of the NFL draft. Stay tuned for my "Fits" article. I'll have a more detailed look at Fortt then. 

    Grade: D

    (Fans like to give Loomis & Co. "the benefit of the doubt", but I simply cannot afford to do that.)

Round 5, Pick No. 167: Vinnie Sunseri, S, Alabama

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints took a player many fans have heard of, I'm guessing. Vinnie Sunseri was a highly productive player at Alabama before an ACL tear ended his senior season early. 

    Playing in an almost identical defense at Alabama to the one he'll now play in with the Saints, Sunseri was the playmaking safety to Ha-Ha Clinton Dix's hype train. 

    Sunseri is the son of a coach, which has to be an encouraging. Sunseri proved to be a very intelligent player in his time at Alabama. 

    The pick is not sexy and seems to be superfluous as the Saints already have four quality safeties. But Rafael Bush is a player who can shift to corner in a pinch, as is Kenny Vacarro. 

    Sunseri allows the Saints even more depth and versatility, assuming he ever sees the field on defense. If nothing else, Sunseri a great value pick as the best player available on the Saints' board. 

    Grade: A+

Round 5, Pick No. 169: Ronald Powell, OLB, Florida

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    With the second of two fifth round picks (and with just one slot in between them) the Saints further added to their defensive depth, drafting Florida outside linebacker Ronald Powell. 

    Evan Silva quickly noted: 

    #Saints pick at 169 overall, Ronald Powell, was the No. 1 HS recruit in the nation per Rivals in 2010: http://t.co/V895DVA3Uk

    — Evan Silva (@evansilva) May 10, 2014

     

    Gaining a player so highly ranked out of high school isn't a guaranteed formula for NFL success. But if nothing else, it shows that Powell is talented. Maybe the University of Florida wasn't the best fit for him as a collegian. 

    This isn't to say Powell was a bad player at Florida, he just didn't shine in the way he was expected. If Rob Ryan and the Saints' defensive staff can find the key to open the gate of talent, Powell could be a steal in the fifth. 

    Really, not much more can be asked in the fifth round. 

    Grade: A-

Round 6, Pick No. 202: Tavon Rooks, OT, Kansas State

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    Ross Franklin/Associated Press

    Have you noticed a theme here? All four of the Saints' day three picks suffered major knee injuries in college. It's as if the Saints are just trolling us now. 

    They know there isn't any room on the Saints' roster/depth chart, but in all four players there is potential value in one-to-two years. 

    Getting to Rooks specifically, it may tell you all you need to know that he is nowhere to be found in nfldraftscout.com's top-50 at offensive tackle or guard. It took until page three and the 69th out of 70 offensive tackles listed to find Rooks. 

    Again, the only possible explanation is that the Saints simply don't care. They just wanted to end the night as quickly as possible so they could do what they love to do: sign college free agents.

    Grade: F+ (at least they made a pick) 

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