My general overview is that the Saints’ 2014 draft was successful. There could have been a couple picks that I would have liked them to do differently, but we’ll get into that with each pick. I wasn’t completely in love with any pick right then and there; they had to kind of sink in with me for me to understand them.
1st Rounder – Brandin Cooks – Originally, I really was kind of all in on Jason Verrett, who ended up going to the San Diego Chargers. After thinking about the pick and listening to the analysts tell me more about Cooks as a player and a person, I started really liking this pick. The Saints traded up to get this guy, which was a good thing because there was no way he would have been there at 27 because the Saints had the Chiefs waiting to take him. At one point during the suspense, I thought they made this trade to go after Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard who I thought was close to Gilbert as the draft’s top CB. Anyways, the Saints needed somebody to take the top off the defense, and that’s what Cooks brings. He was the top receiver in college football last season in terms of yardage and he ran the fastest 40-time at the combine with a 4.33. I think this pick will end up better than the Verett pick I wanted because of who is throwing him the ball. Pick Grade: A
Alternative Pick I would have liked – None. I feel like after thinking about it, this was the best pick the Saints could have made at this point. They were aggressive in getting him, which is respectable as well.
2nd Rounder – Stanley Jean-Baptiste – I was hoping so bad the Saints would get Kony Ealy (who I had as a backup pick in my first round mock draft). I was in shock he fell to #58 and I was sure that the Saints were going to take him. I understand the pick the team made instead though. With the big receivers that were just drafted in the NFC South (namely Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans) the Saints need a bigger corner to compete with those guys and Jean-Baptiste closely resembles Richard Sherman in terms of measurables. In technique and how refined he is, he has a long way to go from what I hear. I hear he’s really raw and he has stiff hips but he has the ability to make plays and develop into the kind of player that the Saints need. I was hoping the team would go after Brandon Browner in the offseason exactly for this reason. They needed a bigger corner eventually and now they have one. Pick Grade: B
Alternative Pick I would have liked -Kony Ealy – DE – Missouri – I feel like pass rusher here would have been better than what the team got later in the draft in Powell. What’s worse is he went to the Carolina Panthers who already have a pretty fierce pass rush now mixed in with what many considered a first-round talent? Look out.
4th Rounder – Khairi Fortt – I’ve never heard of this guy. From what I hear and read though, he’s a natural fit for Rob Ryan’s defense. The only concern with this guy is that I’m not sure it was worth the risk with the history that the team has had (mainly in 2013) with injuries. I do kind of like the pick though because Cal players have been good to the Saints in recent memory, thinking back to Scott Fujita and even more recently, Cameron Jordan. Pick Grade: C+ (Injuries and because I don’t know how good he is)
Alternative Pick I would have liked – AJ McCarron – QB – Alabama – Everyone knows I’m high on McCarron. He lost 4 total games as a starter at Alabama and won 2 Titles. I don’t care what anyone thinks, I like the dude. I’m even on record saying that he will be the best QB out of this draft class when it’s all said and done with. We’ll see how he does in Cincy.
5th Rounder #1 – Vinnie Sunseri – I’ve watched this dude play all his years at Alabama, and when he was with Nick Saban’s team, he showed to me that he could play in the NFL. A pretty stocky safety, he had a tough break with a torn ACL late in the year or else his draft stock might have been a little bit higher than a 5th round pick. He was a starter on Alabama’s defense until he went down, so that should tell you he does have some skill. This pick for me was a head-scratcher at first because the team just drafted Kenny Vaccarro last year and then signed Jairus Byrd in the off-season. Then I got to thinking about the depth the team has at that position. Zero. Zero depth because of Harper’s departure. So the pick began to make more and more sense to me. He will be a special teams guy and Mike Mayock’s scouting report says he could potentially become an NFL starter one day. We’ll have to see. Pick Grade: B-
Alternative Pick I would have liked – None considering the depth the Saints have at Strong Safety.
5th Rounder #2 – Ronald Powell – An outside linebacker from Florida, the Saints are really trying to bolster their defense. I wonder if Rob Ryan had a major part in the draft room in deciding which players to pick? Anyway, SEC defensive players are always nice to have on your team because the SEC is known for their bigger and stronger defenders. He will most likely compete with Victor Butler (who is coming off a pre-season ACL tear) and Parys Haralson for a roster spot which I expect Victor Butler and almost would be willing to guess Powell to come out on top. Pick Grade: C
Alternative Pick I would have liked – Antonio Richardson – OT – Tennessee – At one point, this guy was pretty highly rated and I feel like he could give the Saints and Strief the best chance to upgrade their offensive line. In the 5th round, this guy would have been a straight up value pick. He’s now an undrafted Free Agent so there is still a chance the team picks him up, but I feel like he would have been better than Tavon Rooks.
6th Rounder – Tavon Rooks – Never heard of this guy either, but at least the team got an offensive lineman in there to compete with Zach Strief. I like Terron Armstead at LT, who I think began to step it up big time at the end of last year (Watch the Seattle playoff game) but for some reason, I’m just not sold on Strief. I feel like he gives up too much pressure and that leads to Brees throwing prematurely and sometimes ending up in picks. Hopefully this guy can at least give Strief an honest competition and maybe even be the next Jahri Evans of tackles? Wishful thinking. Pick Grade: C
Alternative Pick I would have liked – LaDarius Perkins – RB – Mississippi State – Call me biased because this is my former school (I’m now at Washington State University), but this dude would have been a very successful replacement for the now departed Sproles. He’s short and stocky like Sproles is, and whereas he might not be as fast as Sproles, he is a better between the tackles runner. He catches passes out of the backfield well, and he was the guy and also a fan-favorite in Starkville for 3 years. He’s also an undrafted rookie, and I hope he gets a shot, even if it’s not with the Saints.