“I always say this: This is the time where everyone has gotten their guy,” Coach Sean Payton said Saturday evening.
And yet, New Orleans’ history under Payton suggests that on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the Saints absolutely found the draft-eligible players who have the best chance of making their roster, including undrafted rookies.
That doesn’t mean the Saints have batted 1.000 – like any other franchise, and any other collaboration of general managers, personnel directors, coaches and scouts, they’ve swung and missed in the draft.
But New Orleans has honed its swing and collects hits at a fairly impressive rate, given the dearth of openings available on a roster of a successful team, one that has won 10 or more games in five of the seven seasons that Payton has been head coach.
From last year’s draft, safety
From the 2012 draft, defensive tackle
So this year’s draft class – receiver
“I think that there is a vision for each one of these players, maybe some more rapidly than others,” Payton said. “Time will tell and I think we always spend 90 percent of the time talking about 10 percent of the draft, or the first round. And yet, the real good drafts are the ones that include players throughout the rounds.
“This next step where they come in, and you meet them, and rookie camp is always exciting because you get to see how they interact with each other and the other guys that we sign. That rookie camp will consist of these drafted players, the players that we sign (Saturday night) and then we always will sign a group of three-day tryout players that can come in, Khiry (Robinson) being one of them a year ago.
“We always try to preach to those guys that the business of acquiring the player is one thing but once they get here, we really try to go by what we see.”
What the Saints hope to see is that they’ve drafted a home run hitter in Cooks, a speedster (4.33-second 40-yard dash) who was the nation’s top receiver last year at Oregon State (128 receptions for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns) and has the ability to take a 5-yard pass another 65 yards to the end zone.
“We are excited, certainly, about the receiver (Cooks), with us being able to get him,” Payton said. “He was a guy that we felt would really, really help us. I am excited to have a chance to work with him, I know our staff is.”
Jean-Baptiste and Sunseri could add valuable depth to the secondary (last year two cornerbacks and a safety –
Fortt and Powell could vie for time at linebacker and add depth to that position, and Rooks’ athleticism as a right tackle is an appealing trait.
Also, each has the ability to help the Saints’ special teams units.
“I thought we covered real well,” Payton said of last year’s special teams. “We were one of the better teams with both our kick and punt coverage. I would say, the kickoff itself and the kick return game itself has change dramatically with where the ball is being kicked from, so you see a greater number of touchbacks. The punt return game is something we want to work to improve and that is kind of a point of emphasis this offseason.
“I think finding young players, when you draft them it is important to have a vision as to what is your vision for the player and it doesn’t always come out that way. But I think it is important to have a vision for how you see the player fitting with your team.
“Obviously, they are going to have to compete for these roles that we envision for them. Nonetheless, though, you have to kind of see where they all would play, how you see them playing and how you see them making the team if they do the necessary things and they, in fact, make a spot and earn it.”
If they earn a spot, though, it won’t necessarily be a surprise.
The Saints feel like they got the players they wanted. Perhaps more often than most, they’ve been right about that feeling.