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Quarterback Ian Book believes New Orleans Saints offer opportunity for success

Book, tackle Landon Young, receiver Kawaan Baker round out Saints' six-man draft class in 2021

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book (12) warms up before their Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Alabama in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book (12) warms up before their Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Alabama in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

Notre Dame's Ian Book believed New Orleans would be a good spot for him, in large part because he noticed that a quarterback of similar physical stature – Drew Brees, who also is listed as 6 feet tall – flourished in New Orleans.

Book was one of three New Orleans Saints draft picks on Saturday, the final day of the 2021 NFL Draft. Book was selected in the fourth round, No. 133 overall, and was joined by Kentucky offensive tackle Landon Young (sixth round, No. 206) and South Alabama receiver Kawaan Baker (seventh round, No. 255).

"That's been the story my whole, entire life," Book said of reservations about his height. "I've always had a chip on my shoulder. I'm not getting any taller. It's the same thing every single time, (but) Drew Brees being able to do it, there's many other quarterbacks and you can go down the list of being able to do it. We all have a similar playing style.

"But I feel like the league is changing. You don't have to be 6-5 anymore and you can make it work, and that's what I plan on doing. Once you're out there, you forget, it doesn't matter. You're as tall as you're going to be and you're out there playing football the way you've been playing it your whole entire life. So nothing's changing for me, I'm just going to go out there and give it my all. That's just the player I am.

"I've got a chip on my shoulder and I'm just here to prove the people in my circle right. I don't want to prove anybody wrong, you're always going to hear the doubters and the naysayers, but that's the game we play and that's the position I play."

Saints Coach Sean Payton said the team spent a lot of time interacting with Book, who holds the school record with 30 wins and passed for 8,948 yards and 72 touchdowns, with 20 interceptions.

"The first thing you see is a guy that has won a lot of games," Payton said. "He's someone that I think is a good foot athlete. Real good competitor. We liked a lot, he has played in big games, played at a high level. We felt like it was right at the right time in the draft that would be good for us, and we're glad he was there."

"I just think it's Coach Payton and the offense there, and obviously I think it's huge that Drew Brees was there for as long as he was, doing what he was doing," Book said. "We're different players but we're similar in stature.

"He proved to everybody down there and in the world that he could do it, and I want to do the same thing. I just feel like I fit in that system well. Those are big shoes to fill, there's no doubt about it, but that's an exciting challenge for me. I think it's just that system and what Drew had done."

New Orleans moved up in order to draft Young, trading the Nos. 218 and 229 overall picks to Indianapolis, the second time in as many days that the Saints traded up.

"I actually had quite a bit of contact early in the draft process with the Saints, especially during pro day," Young said. "I had one of the offensive line coaches actually come and facilitate our drill, so we had a lot of time to talk there. (The Saints) definitely were someone that I knew was pretty interested, I knew they were an option for me and really glad that it ended up following through with that."

Young said he believes he can play every offensive line position except center.

"That's definitely something I've been working on more," he said. "In college they tried me out when I first got into college in the inside, but liked me better as an outside player. But I had practice all the way from high school into college being as a guard, putting my hand in the ground doing a three-point stance.

"We were strictly in a two-point stance at tackle in college. But in my pro day prep and we had guys out there helping us with our position drills, that was something that they really emphasized, was being able to be versatile, make sure you can play the inside and outside."

The Saints won't test his versatility initially.

"Landon Young, I think reads very clearly for us as a tackle," Payton said. "We'll probably work him at right to begin with."

Baker, though, will be expected to show his flexibility. He finished with 1,829 yards and 16 touchdowns on 126 catches.

"Throughout my college career, I probably lined up in the slot the most, but I could definitely move around," he said. "That's part of my game."

"Kawaan Baker is someone that has position flex, relative to you see him line up in the slot," Payton said. "He's a high IQ player. We'll probably work him outside to begin with."

Payton said he was pleased with the Saints' draft haul this year.

"I like the fact that each one of these picks are prototype relative to their position," he said. "It's a smart class relative to what we're going to ask them to do.

"We felt really good about the height, weight, speed and intelligence of this class, and then also the vision that we have for each of these players. The one area that's super important is, What's the vision onto our roster? And then we kind of go from there."

South Alabama wide receiver Kawaan Baker plays against Jacksonville State during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019 in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Dan Anderson)

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