NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said the Saints could stand to select a good cornerback in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft, despite the team being ranked No. 2 against the pass last season.
Mayock, speaking during a conference call with the national media, singled out Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste as a good fit for the Saints if other more highly touted prospects at the position are gone.
“He’s a long corner that fits today’s game with an exciting skill set,” Mayock said. “I could bet on that kind of guy.”
The 6-foot-3, 218-pound Jean-Baptiste has drawn second- to third-round grades after tying for the most interceptions on the Cornhuskers with four and leading his team in pass breakups with 12 last year. He had the best vertical jump (41.5 inches) at February’s scouting combine, and pundits have compared him to Brandon Browner, who was with Seattle from 2011 to 2013 before signing with New England in free agency.
Jean-Baptiste was among several defensive backs the Saints hosted at their headquarters for a pre-draft visit in April.
Defensive backs Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State), Bradley Roby (Ohio State), Pierre Desir (Lindenwood), Aaron Colvin (Oklahoma) and Demetri Goodson (Baylor) and Louisville safety Calvin Pryor also visited New Orleans before the draft.
Gilbert, Roby and Pryor are all considered first-round prospects. Desir is thought to be a second- or third-rounder. Colvin would’ve been there with Desir and Jean-Baptiste, but he tore an anterior cruciate ligament during a Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Ala., and is expected to be available in later rounds.
It’s also anticipated that Demetri Goodson will be available late in the draft or in undrafted free agency.
New Orleans’ secondary for now is composed of cornerbacks Keenan Lewis, Corey White, Champ Bailey, Patrick Robinson, Rod Sweeting, Terrence Frederick and Trevin Wade. They also have safeties Jairus Byrd, Kenny Vaccaro, Rafael Bush and Marcus Ball.
Lewis, White, Vaccaro and Bush played substantial roles on a defense that helped the Saints win 12 of 18 games and reach the divisional round of the NFC playoffs in 2013. Byrd and Bailey were marquee pick-ups in free agency for a unit that last year had the fourth-fewest takeaways (19).
Robinson missed all but two games last year with a knee injury but has been with the Saints since 2010. Sweeting, Wade and Frederick are less experienced, and Ball recently joined New Orleans after two seasons in the Canadian Football League.
Lee at 27
His belief that the Saints need a cornerback notwithstanding, Mayock predicts New Orleans will take Southern California receiver Marqise Lee with their first-round selection at No. 27.
Lee, a speedy 6-foot, 192-pound wideout, caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2012 and won the Biletnikoff Award for best receiver in the nation. But his numbers were significantly less impressive his junior year with the Trojans: 57 grabs, 791 yards and four scores during a campaign in which coach Lane Kiffin was fired after five games. He has mostly blamed that drop in production on leg injuries that kept him out of three games.
Mayock said that the draft is loaded with talent at receiver, and he said as many as six wideouts could be taken in the first round. “Lee ... (is) the sixth one,” Mayock said.
N.O. great to announce picks
Morten Andersen, the former Saints kicker and all-time leading scorer in NFL history, will announce New Orleans’ second-round draft pick at Radio City Music Hall in New York on May 9, the league announced Thursday.
And Andersen won’t be the only legendary player with ties to the Crescent City who is supposed to be revealing a Round 2 selection that day. Aeneas Williams, a New Orleans native and 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, will be doing the same for the Arizona Cardinals, the NFL also said.
Former players have been announcing second-round selections since 2011.
Andersen kicked for the Saints from 1982 to 1994 and last played in the NFL in 2007. He was a five-time All-Pro who was picked for seven Pro Bowl games. He scored 2,544 career points, booting 565 field goals and 849 PATs while playing for five teams, among which were the Saints’ fiercest rivals: the Atlanta Falcons.
Andersen is the only NFL player to lead two franchises in scoring (the Saints and the Falcons).
He was a Hall of Fame semifinalist in 2013 and a finalist this year but fell short of induction on both occasions.
Williams distinguished himself with Arizona and the St. Louis Rams during his 14-year NFL career.
The cornerback and safety who attended prep school at Fortier had 55 career interceptions, was All-Pro three times and got chosen for eight Pro Bowls.
The third round of the 2014 draft will also be on May 9. The first round will be May 8, and rounds four to seven will be May 10.
The draft begins at 7 p.m. local time May 8. It will resume at 6 p.m. on May 9 and at a 11 a.m. on May 10.
The event will be televised on the NFL Network as well as ESPN and ESPN2.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Saints officials were flying from New Orleans to Las Vegas on Thursday night to relax for the final weekend ahead of the draft.
“Saints feel as if they have done necessary work for draft, decided it would be best to take break (and) attack draft fresh on Monday,” Schefter said via Twitter.
“The draft is typically in April, and the pushed-back date this year motivated the decision, Schefter also said.