New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
2014 NFL Draft first round press conference
Thursday, May 8, 2014
"We're excited with our selection. We were able to move up and get a player that we had valued. I think the interesting part in the early part of the draft was – and we felt would be a question – was how the quarterbacks were to go. You're just hoping that there are a number of them taken, a number of players taken to push, possibly, some players that we had in a cloud or our group of players back. That didn't happen. However, there were a few players that were selected that kind of moved the group back. It unfolded a little bit like we had planned, and we were fortunate to be able to go up a few spots and get a player that we liked coming into the process."
What do you see his role being on this team?
"He's a playmaker. The one thing about him that stood out is that he's a tough player both physically and mentally. He has been very consistent, very durable. Obviously he runs well, but I like his makeup in regards to his mental toughness. His interview was fantastic. We've got a pretty good relationship (with the Oregon State staff) – Mickey (Loomis) does – with Coach (Mike) Riley there. I think there were a lot of intangibles with him aside from just his skill set as a player that we're really excited (about)."
Can he be a return candidate?
"He'll have a chance to do those things. He has returned. We'll work him both as a punt returner and kick returner and see how he does. He has the skill set to do it. He has real good hands. I think he's a tough player. I think in order to be a returner, you have to be tough. He'll get an opportunity to do that."
Obviously you didn't want to risk him falling. How much did you weigh that, looking at the draft board?
"Without going into detail with the names, there were really three guys that were still in our group (left). But the problem was that there was seven or eight picks left. Only one of those three was someone that we felt, prior to the process, that we would move to get and that was Brandin. Prior to the draft even beginning, we put together a list of players, in order, and then kind of a line at a certain point. Above this line we might possibly move to go get, and below that line we would sit tight and see if we could make our pick. He was the one remaining player in that group that was someone that we identified that we might trade up to get if we felt like it was necessary. I think as it began to unfold it was just trying to find the right team, the right partner."
Was there a team that you feared might be interested in Cooks as well?
"You look ahead of you at the teams, but you also understand that the one unknown is always a team coming back in. There were a couple of teams that had a need at receiver. The Jets, before we made the trade officially, we really sat on that pick waiting. They went the direction of safety, and that all of the sudden made it apparent that this could happen."
The team let Lance Moore and Darren Sproles go this offseason. Did any of that have to do with the deep talent at the receiver position in this draft class?
"No I wouldn't say those decisions were based on the way this draft class shaped up. Those were tough decisions, one with the trade and the other with a guy like Lance Moore. They weren't predicated on the depth that we were looking at at all. They were separate."
How much did you weigh giving up a third round pick?
"We weighed it some, but when you're picking 27th in each of these rounds, you're really five picks away from being in the fourth. We really felt, with regards to the value sheets, that it all added up and made sense."
How much did you feel like you wanted to get a home run hitter in this draft since that was an area that was lacking last year?
"I think we have some guys that can run. I think Robert Meachem can run. I think we have other players that are threats. Kenny Stills is someone. Nick Toon, who had a great training camp and didn't receive as many opportunities (in games) a year ago (is another to look at). We have some team speed. This was more about the makeup of this player. Obviously we think he's a good football player and a good receiver. He's very confident. Joe Morgan will be coming back off of an injury. This was really just looking at a player that stood out as we tried to evaluate the first round. We felt there were eight players and maybe a little bit of a space with grades and then another clump. We just saw this guy as a real good fit. There were a few others the same way that might not have been at receiver. It's nice when you're able to grade – scouts, everyone in the process, coaches – a number of players and periodically in each of these rounds, have real strong convictions about guys. This was one of those players."
You mentioned that his interview at the NFL Scouting Combine stood out to you. Was that when he became high on your board?
"No, his grades came in well before that. The first time we get to really meet a lot of these players is at the combine. The scouts, however, have spent a whole season really tracking and preparing reports. You do get those impressions then when you first meet him. He's someone you guys will see the first time you have a chance to visit with him, is very impressive. He's very competitive. He was a big part of what they did offensively and often drew safety help coverage. His makeup and his skill set were things that the scouts had obviously seen in the beginning, and as we came to the combine become familiar with. And then you kind of take it from there."
Did he (Brandin Cooks) come for a visit to the facility? Is that kind of rare?
"No. I have to go back and see the ratio of guys we have drafted and were they on a visit or not. He was someone that was as clean and clear as to who he was, the type of player he was, and how he approached the game. He was really impressive."
Is that how you approach bringing in players for a visit?
"Sometimes. There are a couple reasons. You come away from the scouting combine and you may have some unanswered questions or concerns. You might bring players in for a visit, you might bring players that might potentially be later round or free agent candidates. There's a lot of different reasons to bring players in your thirty and they're mixed. Some to spend more time with that you didn't have a chance to maybe as much as much at the combine. Others it might be to get a little separation or to get a better feel for and we brought players in that we thought would not be drafted and that would help us when it came to free agency on Saturday so that's kind of been our approach. Generally, there might be a question. Not a negative one but just a question with regards to certain things, we'll bring a player in. You interview 75 to 80 at the combine so your visit list is much shorter than that. As you go through the process and the preparation when you're reading the board and putting names up, if there's discussion with regards to a player, you might at that point say, 'Let's use up one of our visits and get this guy in here.' Brandin (Cooks) was a player where there really wasn't that type of discussion. It was pretty clear, as to how he interviewed, how we felt about him."
Can you recall anything specific that he said to you or that you heard said about him that made him stand out?
"He is very competitive. When you talk to any of the coaches in that conference and our scouts, certainly our coaches when we go to workouts, have that interaction not just with Oregon State but with all the other schools in that conference. His name keeps coming up as someone that's a very good football player. Anytime we are interviewing or visiting with a defensive back, it's normal for us to ask him as the end of the interview "Who are some of the better players you went against?" And vice versa, we would ask the receivers the same thing. It was pretty apparent that he was one of those guys. Coaches at the school, anyone who has seen him play and anyone who has been involved with his career there have been really positive."
You guys have obviously shown that you're willing to move up in the Draft. It's probably the third time since you've been here and I know Mickey (Loomis) has done a lot. Can you talk about why you're willing to sacrifice later round picks if you have a conviction on a player like this?
"I think it's when you have a specific targeted player that you have a vision for and then part of that is just finding someone that's willing to do it with you but its player specific where you really ID a guy that you have an interest in. When you are picking later in the draft, there are a lot more variables. Obviously when you are picking early, you are picking very early you can narrow that decision process down but fortunately he was still there."
Does it help to have an established roster? You always like your depth?
"We've got two fives in this draft, we still have a lot of work to do with our second, fourth, two fives, and a sixth. I've said this before, the majority of the draft is still ahead of us that we're going to have to be prepared for."
Would you say he was the best player available or your biggest need or both?
"Well in this case, he filled a need. That was one of the positions we outlined going in and, for us, our highest graded player so in that case both."
Can you just explain so the average person can understand, why does the second-ranked pass offense outline a receiver going into the draft? is it because of the guys you lost?
"Yeah. Look we have some good young players. We don't look at rankings that way. We look more at our roster and the players on our roster at certain positions. He (Brandin Cooks) does give us a threat. He's a guy that can be used in a lot of ways. It's always challenging when you lose a certain amount of touches. Darren (Sproles) provided X amount of offense for us and I think more than anything else, he (Cooks) was the type of guy that fit our program. He's the type of guy that I'm excited that our players will have the chance to meet and I think he will fit in really well with our locker room."
Photos from the 2014 New Orleans Saints Draft. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)