Nearly three weeks from draft day, the New Orleans Saints continued their due dilligence into potential targets for this year's crop of picks. Early this week, Cornerback and Safety seem to be the team's positions of choice, as the team ran the rule over several defensive back prospects at their facility in Metairie, LA.
The biggest name of the bunch, Oklahoma Sate's Justin Gilbert, was one of the playes who traveled to New Orleans to meet with the Saints. Gilbert, a 6-0 200 lb. corner is widely considered one of this year's top defensive back prospects and rated by some as the best available DB in the draft. Coming off a year in which he garnered first-team all-Big 12 and consensus All American honors, Gilbert turned in a nice showing at the scouting combine, where he posted a 4.37 40-yard dash. Gilbert picked off 7 passes last season, and showcased his return skills throughout his 4 years in Stillwater, running back 6 kickoffs for scores in his career. The Saints have been busy looking at some of this year's best DB prospects.
Assuming no deals are made to move up in the order, Gilbert will almost surely be off the board by the time the Saints make their first-round selection at pick 27,but that has not stopped the team from bringing him in for a visit and further evaluation as they look to narrow down their list of potential targets at that spot.
In addition to Gilbert, Ohio State's Bradley Roby was another prospect who made the trip down south this week. Roby, a 5-11 192 lb. corner, entered the draft following his redshirt junior season in Columbus, a year in which he tallied 3 interceptions, returning one 63 yards for a score. Roby missed his team's Orange Bowl matchup with Clemson in January due to a knee injury, but appeared to be recovered as he posted a 4.39 forty time at the combine. A good athlete with prototypical size and speed for his position, Roby may have a better chance of being available when the Saints make their pick.
Another corner who made the trip to New Orleans was Lindenwood's Pierre Desir. Desir would be a later round option for New Orleans, who has a history of selecting small school players in the middle to later rounds of the draft. Jahri Evans, Jermon Bushrod, Marques Colston and Terron Armstead are recent examples. Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert
Desir, who was born in Haiti before emigrating to the United Stated with his family as a boy, began his collegiate career at Washburn University before transferring to Lindenwood to be closer to family. Following a nice senior season in which he picked off 4 passes and recorded 8 pass breakups, Desir, who measured out at 6-1 198, was invited to both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl, where he showcased his skills and demonstrated the ability to hang with some of College Football's best skill players. A superb athlete with tremendous ball skills, good size and the ability to excel in zone coverage, Desir could be a nice value pick for a team on day 3. If selected, Desir owuld become Lindenwood's first ever NFL draft pick.
Oklahoma's Aaron Colvin was also amongst the group of players who visited with the Saints. Colvin, a 5-11 177 lb. corner, played his final collegiate game for the Sooners right in front of Saints' brass in the Superdome, where Oklahoma defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. A good cover man with fine technique and ball skills, Colvin would be another day 3 option for New Orleans.
Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste was another visitor to the Saints' facility earlier this week. Possessing incredible size at 6-3 218 with versatility to play both Safety and corner, Jean-Baptiste possesses two essential characteristics of a cover man, balance and body control. He was also very productive, picking off 7 passes in 19 starts for the 'Huskers. With smallish hands and a lack of top-end speed, Jean Baptiste could be available in the middle rounds of the draft.
Another prospect who met with Saints officials was Baylor's Demetri Goodson. The younger brother of New York Jets Running Back Mike Goodson, Demetri transferred to Baylor after starting his collegiate career as a Basketball player at Gonzaga. Listed at 5-11 194, Goodson clearly possesses the required athleticism to play both Point Guard and Cornerback, and has good reactionary skills and showcased his ability to jump routes and make plays on the ball. Though he does have upside in terms of his Football development, Goodson will be a 25 year-old rookie with an injury history, meaning he should be another option in the later rounds for teams like the Saints.
Corner was not the only position that caught the Saints' attention this week, as the team also brought in Louisville's Calvin Pryor for a visit. Pryor, regarded as one of this year's top Safety prospects, is known for his physical style of play and hard-hitting ability. The 5-11 207 lb Free Safety was a first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection. Like Gilbert, however, Pryor may be long gone by the time the Saints make their first pick, but that has not stopped the team from meeting with him ahead of the draft. Louisville's Calvin Pryor.
Even though the team signed former Bills Safety Jairus Byrd, matched the Falcons' offer sheet for Safety Rafael Bush, and brought in former CFL standout Marcus Ball in free agency, the team continues to explore every option across the pool of defensive back talent in this year's draft.
Players like North Carolina's Tre Boston, LSU's Craig Loston, Florida's Jaylen Watkins and Utah's Keith McGill could also be later round options as the Saints look to bolster their talent in the back end of their rising defense. Even with their recent additions in the defensive backfield, including the signing of future Hall of Famer and 12-time Pro Bowler Champ Bailey, the team is eager to add further talent to it's secondary.
A player like Gilbert or Roby could challenge for a starting job opposite Keenan Lewis, and adding another corner is likely as the team looks to add depth at that particular position. The team released veteran Jabari Greer in February, and although Bailey provides experience and depth, the team would like to add another younger option to go along with Lewis, Corey White and Patrick Robinson.
The New Orleans Saints have never shied away from taking the best available player on their board when it comes time to pick. Furthermore, they have not hesitated from trading up to grab a coveted prospect, as they did with Mark Ingram in 2011. Therein lies the reason why the team explores all its options ahead of next month's draft, with defensive backs high on it's list of wants. From potential top 10 picks to prospective undrafted free agents, the team continues to sift through an impressive crop of DB talent.