The New Orleans Saints opened up draft day in a different perspective than any previous year; as Super Bowl champions. After a relatively quiet, yet productive offseason, highlighted by a couple of key additions on the defensive line, the Saints were able to add youth and depth to several spots, including the defensive backfield, offensive and defensive lines and tight end position.
The NFL draft took a new format this year, with the first round being presented in prime-time on Thursday night with the Saints waiting until the end of the evening to pick. With the 32nd choice, the Black and Gold selected CB Patrick Robinson from Florida State University. The addition of Robinson even further solidifies the cornerback position. Head Coach Sean Payton says of Robinson, “You see his speed, size and production and spending a lot of time just throughout the process and evaluation in putting the grade on the player was a thing that set them apart.” The Saints added Robinson even after using their second round selection in 2008 on CB Tracy Porter, and their first round choice in 2009 on Malcolm Jenkins. This move continues this pattern, injecting further youth and versatility in the defensive backfield.
In respect of his speed and playmaking abilities, teams would often through to the opposite side of the field of Robinson. Once as a sophomore, the playmaker recorded interceptions in five consecutive contests. Even though he excels against the pass, Robinson also has effectively played a run support role as well in his college career. 24 of his 52 tackles came against the run in his 2009 campaign. Robinson was also active as a special teams returner during his stint as a Seminole. He gained 218 yards returning kicks 2009 and used his 4.40 40-yard dash speed to gain a 28.0 yard average returning kicks in his junior season. The selection of Robinson ended the first day, and the second and third rounds continued on Friday.
With their second round pick, the Saints turned their attention to the other side of the ball, first by drafting offensive tackle Charles Brown from the University of Southern California. This 6-5 former tight end uses his tremendous athleticism and agility to his advantage, and has been very successful doing so. Brown started all 26 games in his final two seasons at left tackle. He registered 192 knockdowns and provided 28 touchdown resulting blocks. Even more impressive, Brown was only penalized three times in his 1,810 offensive snaps. When asked about getting Brown so late in the second round, Sean Payton commented that Brown’s “magnet stood out independently.” General Manager Mickey Loomis stated, “He was the best available player on our board by far. We’re excited to have him come in and compete. I’m excited about the upside he has as a player.”
The Saints then added another offensive weapon to their arsenal in the third round. With their third pick the team drafted pass-catching tight end Jimmy Graham from the University of Miami. Even though he has only one year of football experience, Graham demonstrated his athleticism as a four year basketball player for the Hurricanes. He helped the Hurricanes make back to back basketball post-season appearances. His 6-6, 259 pound frame could potentially provide a large and athletic target for Drew Brees, especially in the red zone. When asked about his ability to be a pass catching tight end, Sean Payton said, “He has a unique skill set. He really does. He catches it very efficiently, so it’s exciting.” As a Hurricane, 29.4% of Graham’s catches were for touchdowns in his only season.
To start day three, the Saints had three selections, picks 130, 201, and 259. The team came in to the day prepared to seek out the players they wanted and made moves to ensure that they achieved their objectives. Payton said, “We wanted to go in and be flexible.” The team traded up to the 123rd spot in order to draft defensive tackle Al Woods from Louisiana State University. Woods was one of the most highly touted defensive tackle coming out of Elton High School. Woods took his talent to Louisiana State University and performed as a key contributor on the 2007 National Championship team. Woods finished his collegiate career with 16 starts and appeared in 41 games. Before his senior season, Woods lost 15 pounds to increase his quickness off the ball. This lead to Woods starting all 13 games as a senior for the Tigers. Payton said, “There is a lot in front of him. I like his size and athleticism.” Payton added, “I felt like he will continue to get better.”
The team made a second move on Saturday by moving up to select another offensive lineman, center Matt Tennant from Boston College. Tennant looks to perform as a backup center/guard as another productive addition to a deep offensive line that featured a club record three Pro Bowl selections in 2009. In college, Tennant was just the second player in Eagles’ history to be named a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, an award given annually to the nation’s best center. Tennant started his last 41 games at Boston College only allowing 3.5 sacks up the middle in his 2,787 offensive snaps. Tennant was also responsible for 35 touchdown-resulting blocks, 13 of which came in his senior campaign in which he lead and mentored an inexperienced Eagles’ unit. Tennant has enlisted his wrestling background to adapt to his opponents and take advantage of their limitations.
The team’s last selection came at the end of the seventh round with the pick of quarterback Sean Canfield from Oregon State. The 6-4 quarterback has prototypical NFL size and has a great release for the NFL. Canfield excels at reading coverages and making pre-snap reads. Canfield started 24 games for Oregon State and threw 41 touchdowns. The lefty also shattered the record of season completion percentage, previously set by Matt Moore in 2006, by completing 67.93% of his passes in his 2009 campaign.
In summary, Saints added 2 defensive players and 4 offensive players to their team through the draft. These players will add youth and depth to a talented Saints roster. The newly drafted players will participate in the rookie minicamp on May 7th.