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 prior to 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 Metairie 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 believes as many as six wideouts could be taken in the first round. “Lee ... (is) the sixth one,” Mayock remarked.