By Richard Fischer
The 2014 NFL Draft has come and gone.
Here’s a breakdown of the six players taken by the New Orleans Saints.
1st round (20th overall) – Brandin Cooks | WR | Oregon State
Last year, the one thing the Saints offense missed was a speedy receiver who could blow the top off of the defense.
After running a 4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine (second among all runners), Cooks brings dynamite athletic ability to the fold.
“There were a few players that, going into the evening, we said if the opportunity presents itself we would move up, depending on the cost, to get one of these few players,” said GM Mickey Loomis. “Brandin was one of them. We had the opportunity to do that, and we were able to move up and get him at the cost of a third round (pick). That’s not inexpensive; that’s an expensive cost, and yet we felt that was worth it for us and for that player.”
Add in his hands and make-you-miss jukes after the catch, and Cooks could be the most dangerous weapon in Drew Brees’ arsenal next year and in the future. That’s really saying something.
The knock on Cooks is his size at only 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, but that didn’t stop him from shattering records and winning the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s best wide receiver.
Look for New Orleans to give Cooks a try as a punt returner also.
New Orleans acquired the 20th pick from Arizona for the 27th and 91st picks.
Great trade. Great fit. Great pick.
2nd round (58th overall) Stanley Jean-Baptiste | CB | Nebraska
Drawing comparisons to the NFL’s highest paid corner Richard Sherman upon his selection, Stanley Jean-Baptiste not only has the perfect name for New Orleans, but is also a perfect fit.
At 6-foot-3, he has the right frame to eventually go against the tall targets across the NFC South in Julio Jones of Atlanta, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans of Tampa Bay and Kelvin Benjamin of Carolina.
“At 6-foot-4 and 218 pounds, he is today’s NFL corner,” said NFL Network scout Mike Mayock. “He’s a lot like Richard Sherman in that he’s a converted wide receiver, but he has the size of Brandon Browner. I think (New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator) Rob Ryan is going to turn him into a future All-Pro.”
Despite only starting 19 games for the Huskers, Jean-Baptiste broke up 22 passes and made seven picks in college.
It may take time for him to fulfill his potential at the NFL level, but the upside is certainly there. And in the mean time, who better to learn from than Champ Bailey?
4th round (126th overall) – Khairi Fortt | OLB | Cal
After addressing two of their most glaring needs with their first two picks, the Saints drafted the versatile Khairi Fortt from Cal.
Fortt started his career at Penn State but transferred to the Golden Bears in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Fortt is an athletic edge defender, who can be used in several spots on the field to wreak havoc in the opponents’ backfield. In order for him to live up to his potential, he will need to improve his technique, but considering his work ethic has been lauded by several northern California media entities, bet on his willingness to learn.
“I feel like I’ll be good at playing in a 3-4 defense,” Fortt told the AP, “and I’ll learn quickly.”
This pick may have been a slight reach, but if Rob Ryan likes him, you should too.
5th round (167th overall) – Vinnie Sunseri | SS | Alabama
The phrase “coach on the field” has been thrown around so many times about Vinnie Sunseri it’ll make your head spin. He lacks the physical tools to likely ever make a Pro Bowl, but he makes up for it with incredibly high football IQ.
Sunseri fills the “quarterback of the defense” role that will diagnose plays before they happen and make sure teammates are always in the right places.
The Alabama alum knows he may get a little Louisiana flack for his Tide days.
“It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t catch a little bit of grief,” he said, “but hopefully I can win them over whenever I hit a couple people during the season.”
Before seeing his final season in crimson and cream cut short with a torn ACL Oct. 19, Sunseri made a pair of picks, including a weaving interception return to pay dirt versus Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M.
He won’t blow you away physically, but you’ll like what he’ll bring to New Orleans.
5th round (169th overall) – Ronald Powell | DE/OLB | Florida
After making the safest pick imaginable with their first fifth round pick, the Saints went for the gusto two picks later with Ronald Powell. He’s your quintessential boom or bust draft pick.
Powell arrived at Florida as a 5-star and the No. 1 player in America back in 2010.
Then came the injuries.
While at Florida, Powell missed games due to an undisclosed upper body injury and a sprained ankle, and he missed the entire 2012 season after tearing his left ACL twice. That’s right. Twice!
Then as if that wasn’t enough, Powell strained his hamstring running the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
Despite all those red marks against his name, Powell is an absolute physical freak and can be a multi-time All Pro selection health permitting.
“The good news for him he has recovered and played on his injury and he was a very highly recruited player,” said Saints coach Sean Payton. “We think there’s certainly upside when you watch him. He loves playing and he has great football instincts, great character. We are excited about him. He is young still.”
6th round (202nd overall) – Tavon Rooks | OT | Kansas State
Finding information on Tavon Rooks after New Orleans drafted him 202nd overall was about as hard as finding legit info on the Kennedy assassination.
Rooks was an afterthought on most experts’ draft boards, but clearly Mickey Loomis and co. saw something they missed.
And after selecting unheralded offensive linemen like Jahri Evans, Zach Strief and Jermon Bushrod, who wants to disparage this pick?
Asked what he liked about Rooks, Payton didn’t hesitate to answer:
“His athleticism. Again, I don’t want to use the word undersized but he is 299 or 300 pounds and when you watch him he is very athletic, so he can move his feet. I think there growth potential when you look at him, growth potential with regards to the weight room. I liked the way he moved around.”