1st Round Pick - 20th Overall Pick: Brandon Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Saints fell in love with the Oregon State Wide Receiver and when he was dropping close to the Saints first overall pick they decided it was very worthwhile to trade up to grab the playmaker. It was very possible that the receiver needy Philedelphia Eagles picking at 22 would have taken Cooks, so trading up was somewhat of an insurance policy to make sure the Saints locked him up. Brandin Cooks was one of the top rated receivers in the draft, but at only 5’ 10” 189lbs, Cooks will be predominantly a slot receiver.
With Sproles gone, the Saints organization felt they needed a playmaker to fill his shoes and Cooks fits the bill. Cooks was one of the most explosive players in the draft with a similar skillset to Sproles, the main difference being that he is a wide receiver. Though a bit undersized, Cooks has incredible hands, the ability to go the distance every time he touches the ball, and provides New Orleans with a more explosive option as a punt and kick returner.
While I don’t want to say the Saints were trying to replace Sproles and Lance Moore, Cooks seems to be a mix between those two players. He has the speed of Sproles, and the hands and reliability of Moore. If the Saints would have gotten Cooks at pick 27 they deserve an A+ for this pick, but since they gave up a 3rd round pick to secure him I will have to drop the grade just a tad.
2nd Round Pick – 58th Overall Pick: Stanley Sean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
Following Seattle’s lead, New Orleans picked up the coveted “big” corner of the second round. I was a bit shocked to see Sean-Baptiste drop to the Saints in the second round. Baptiste is an above average press-man corner with great size at 6’3” 218 lbs.
Along with following the Seahawks lead, this was a very reactive pick. With Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin drafted by Tampa Bay and Carolina respectively, and the Falcons already with Julio Jones, the Saints will be required to man up to those big body receivers at least six times a year.
The Saints seem to have one of the best defensive backfields in football coming into the draft, with youth and size at corner being a pretty big need. Watching the passing game between the teams in the NFC south is going to be really fun to watch this year.
4th Round Pick – 126 Overall Pick: Khairi Fortt, ILB, UCLA
The Saints added depth at inside linebacker with this pick. Fortt may not be a starter day one but has potential to be a very solid contributor on defense. With Lofton, Hawthorne, and Humber playing inside linebacker, the Saints now have a good bit of depth to play around with. Fortt is a strong linebacker who played outside linebacker in Cal's 43 defense. He has average speed but can hit holes hard. Fortt can also provide help on special teams. He was a play maker on Cal’s lackluster defense last season and should be a great addition to the Saints roster.
5th Round Pick – 167 Overall Pick: Vinnie Sunseri, S, Alabama
I have mixed emotions with this pick. The Saints already have a ton of depth at safety, but Rob Ryan wants to play a lot of three safety sets this season. Sunseri adds depth to one of the Saints deepest positions on the roster.
Sunseri is the son of a coach and an extremely smart player. He was the play caller so-to-say of Alabama’s secondary and while he may have not been the most talented safety of Alabama’s roster, he was a solid contributor. Talent-wise he could use a bit of improvement in pass defense, especially man coverage, but it shouldn’t be too much of a concern as he is our 5th safety on the roster and shouldn’t be required to be in man coverage too often.
The ultimate reason the Saints chose to draft Sunseri over, say a center, is that Sunseri is a beast on special teams and with his football intellect, Sunseri has the potential to be a special teams captain.
5th Round Pick – 169 Overall Pick: Ronald Powell, OLB, Florida
I like this pick a lot. Powell shows flashes of being an incredible pass rusher. It’s amazing that the Saints could find a pass rusher with his talent in the 5th round. Powell would have been picked much higher if he was injury free. If Powell can stay healthy he could be one of the biggest steals of the draft.
When healthy, Powell has shown signs of being a dominant pass rusher. He has speed and is explosive off the snap. The only thing I don’t like about this pick is that now New Orleans has two injury prone pass rushers in Powell and Victor Butler. If the two can stay healthy, the Saints ability to rush the passer could be drastically improved from last season. This is a great value pick at 169 overall.
Injury is now seemingly the only thing that may prevent the Saints from having one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Saints last defensive selection in the draft rounded out the Saints much needed depth on the defensive side of the ball.
6th Round Pick – 202 Overall Pick: Tavon Rooks, OT, Kansas
Depth on the offensive line was a concern for the Saints coming into the draft. While the offensive line was much improved towards the end of the season with Teron Armstead taking over at left tackle, center, and right tackle were still a need. Luckily the Saints re-signed Zach Strief making right tackle less of a need.
The Saints addressed the right tackle position anyways because depth was needed as well as a possible replacement for Strief. Unfortunately this was New Orleans last pick, so they were not able to draft a center.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents:
Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
The Saints add a big 6’6” receiver with loads of potential. He is a great red zone threat and I have no idea how he wasn’t drafted. Coleman has a good shot at making the roster and contributing immediately in the red zone. He may be more of a developmental player right now, but I’m ecstatic that Coleman signed with the Saints.
Matt Armstrong, C, Grand Valley State
Armstrong is a two sport athlete (track and football) who provides much needed help at the center position. The Saints tend to do well with undrafted lineman so I’m hoping this is another case of that. Tim Lelito is slotted to play center for the Saints but Armstrong will compete for a spot on the roster as well as possible a starting spot.
Logan Kilgore, QB, Middle Tennessee
An eventually replacement for Drew Brees will have to be found soon. Luke McCown, while a solid backup, will not be a replacement. Kilgore will compete with Ryan Griffin to be the possible 3rd QB on the roster.
Brandon McCray, DE, Louisiana-Lafayette
As a student at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and a huge fan of McCray, I had to include him to this list. He was a force on UL’s defensive line the past few seasons and depth is needed behind Cam Jordan and Akiem Hicks at defensive end.
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