METAIRIE — In a flurry of activity Friday night, the New Orleans Saints moved quickly to fill two areas of need with a pair of third-round selections on the second night of the NFL draft.
With their third-round pick, the Saints grabbed Arkansas-Pine Bluff tackle Terron Armstead at No. 75. Just minutes later, they executed a pair of trades that enabled them to get Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins with the 82nd pick.
After selecting Armstead, the Saints, who didn’t have a selection in the second round, quickly went back to work and traded running back Chris Ivory to the New York Jets for a fourth-round pick (No. 106) in a deal that had been anticipated for several days.
Then, General Manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton packaged the pick from the Jets with their own fourth-rounder (No. 109) to acquire the 82nd pick from the Miami Dolphins.
“I’m excited about tonight,” Payton said later. “We started the day with a list of seven or eight guys, and Armstead was at the top of the list. Then we were able to get ourselves a player (Jenkins) with presence and size.
“We wanted to become bigger, and we had that opportunity,” Payton said of Jenkins, a 6-foot-4, 359-pounder who will have a chance to help shore up a defense that ranked last overall and was 31st against the run in 2012.
When the draft resumes at 11 a.m. Saturday, the Saints, who didn’t have a second-round choice, will have single picks in the fifth and sixth rounds at Nos. 144 and 183.
They won’t pick in the fourth or seventh rounds; they sent their seventh-round choice to the Seattle Seahawks for linebacker Barrett Ruud last summer.
The 6-5, 306-pound Armstead, who was ranked as the fifth-best tackle by NFLDraftScout.com, was taken by the Saints about three hours after the draft resumed Friday evening.
Armstead has soared up the draft boards despite not getting a lot of attention until late January, when he stood out in the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. One of the things that caught the eyes of scouts was his quickness when he posted a time of 4.71 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in February.
According to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, that was the fastest time recorded in combine history by an offensive lineman.
“So he can run,” Payton said of Armstead, an Illinois high-school shot put champion who also competed in track in college. “He’s real intelligent with good size and length.”
NFLDraftScout.com had Armstead ranked behind four tackles who went quickly in the first round Thursday night — Eric Fisher (No. 1 overall), Luke Joeckel (second), Lane Johnson (fourth) and D.J. Fluker (11th).
The Saints were looking for a left tackle after two-time Pro Bowl pick Jermon Bushrod signed with the Chicago Bears in free agency, leaving only former second-round pick Charles Brown and free-agent signee Jason Smith at the position.
Payton wasn’t ready to say whether Armstead would be penciled in as the starter to protect Drew Brees’ blind side, but he said he’ll have an opportunity to compete with the players in front of him.
Jenkins was regarded as a solid run-stopper in the middle during two seasons at Georgia after dominating the competition at Gulf Coast Community College.
“(Jenkins) was a hard worker with good character, and that’s important to him,” Payton said. “The thing we saw when we watched the tape was his get-off and initial quickness. He’s been disruptive, and we liked the size. We see putting him at the nose (tackle) position, having played that at Georgia in a similar scheme (3-4) to the one we’re going to use.”
Payton said it was difficult to part with Ivory, who was stuck in a crowded backfield behind Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. That prompted the Saints to try and acquire an extra pick after forfeiting their second-round pick in the bounty scheme.
“It just became a position where we had a lot of depth,” Payton said.
“We were ready to move forward with the current depth at running back. That was one spot where we had a little more depth than others.”