Friday night, the New Orleans Saints stayed put at No. 58 and took a cornerback, in the person of Stanley Jean-Baptiste. The Nebraska senior picked off seven passes in his career, according to Sports-Reference.com. In that past two years, he registered 23 passes defensed.
He is a long, lanky corner, which is exactly what Rob Ryan wants in a corner. On film, Jean-Baptiste showed an acute awareness in zone coverage and great “catchup speed” when getting burned in man-to-man coverage.
Ramon Vargas of The Advocate tweeted out Sean Payton’s thoughts on Jean-Baptiste, in regard to his size:
Payton: Seattle's secondary is fantastic, but really the Jean-Baptiste pick is about what we're doing, and that's a value on size.
— Ramon Antonio Vargas (@RVargasAdvocate) May 10, 2014
He is not a perfect player, but this late in the second round, that should not have been the expectation. Instead, he is a hard worker who is very physical. He is not afraid to get up on a receiver and press him at the line of scrimmage.
He has the hip swivel to press the receiver and stay with him throughout the entirety of the route.
In zone coverage, he shows great instincts and the quickness to come up and make plays on throws in front of him. In off coverage, he does a wonderful job of maintaining just the right distance between the receiver so as to not get beat deep but also maintain the option to come up and make a play on the short throw.
In short, he is exactly what Ryan wants and needs for his defense.
Jean-Baptiste was one of seven defensive backs the Saints hosted at their Metairie facility on April 15. In that meeting, it is likely the Saints were able to get a feel for his rocked physique, physicality and mental capacity to handle the responsibilities asked of him in Ryan’s aggressive defense.
Going forward, Jean-Baptiste is a great complement to Keenan Lewis. In fact, he is a bigger version of the most underrated corner in football. Though he may not start in 2014, Jean-Baptiste gives the Saints an upper hand in the battle to defend the suddenly huge composition of wide receivers the NFC South presents.
As a rookie, he will likely be asked to play that role almost exclusively. From film observation, there is no reason to think he’ll back down from that challenge. Instead, he’ll likely take the “black shirt” attitude and grind for four quarters with some of the most physically imposing receivers in football.
When Champ Bailey is gone, Jean-Baptiste will likely step into the No. 2 corner role (if he doesn’t take it from him before that) and run with it.
In terms of fit, Payton put it this way:
"He was our highest rated prospect...Stan was someone that was separate from guys on our board...it ended up being a good fit for us." --SP
— WWL-TV Sports (@wwltvsports) May 10, 2014
As with any prospect, his ability to immediately contribute on special teams had to be a concern. As a rookie, Jean-Baptiste will compete and likely hold a spot on coverage units as a gunner.
Of course, with the lightened game-day rosters of the NFL, those positions are often held by defensive starters as well—Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins often played special teams throughout their time in New Orleans.
One things is certain, though, as Payton raved about in his post-pick presser, the Saints love Jean-Baptiste’s length and ball skills. That alone made him an attractive pick for the Saints in Ryan’s defense.
Whether it equates to him starting year one is uncertain. But he should see the field, especially against the taller receivers of the NFC South (also, Detroit is on the schedule).
This was a value pick at a position of need. The Saints did well with this pick and may have found an answer at corner for the next five-plus years.