The New Orleans Saints finished their draft class Saturday by taking California running back Daniel Lasco with their fifth and final pick, a seventh-round selection.
Lasco faces a crowded Saints backfield that already includes Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, Tim Hightower, Marcus Murphy and Travaris Cadet, leaving Lasco looking at an uphill battle to get carries.
But the Saints didn’t draft Lasco to be a primary ballcarrier, at least not at first.
“I know I’m a special teams guy,” Lasco said. “I’m going to start making my living on special teams and help the organization out the best I can doing that. With that, I’m going to fit behind some of the great running backs that are there and be able to pick their brains and learn what it takes to be a great NFL running back.”
Lasco, a 6-foot, 209-pounder, never returned kicks or punts for the Golden Bears, but he was a weapon on California’s coverage units.
As a ballcarrier, Lasco tore up the Pac-12 in 2014, racking up 1,115 yards and 12 touchdowns, plus catching 33 passes for 356 yards to generate buzz that he could be a middle-round prospect in this draft class.
He tore the pectineus muscle in his hip two games into his senior season and injured an ankle after he came back, limiting his impact. Lasco got healthy enough to lead all running backs in the vertical leap and broad jump at the NFL scouting combine, but he had to wait through six and a half rounds before the Saints pulled him off the board.
“I know my agents, they kept promising me different things, and I kept telling them not to tell me anything, because I didn’t want to be disappointed,” Lasco said. “Unfortunately, I dropped low, but I’m so happy I got picked up by a great team.”
New Orleans was expected to target a guard in the draft.
The Saints released long-time starter Jahri Evans in February, and although Tim Lelito, Senio Kelemete and Andrus Peat all made starts at guard, New Orleans has tried to add another guard in the offseason. New Orleans believe Peat fits best at tackle. Lelito and Kelemete have both been solid starters, but the Saints would like to add some competition and depth at the position.
But the right mix of player and pick never materialized for the Saints.
“In a perfect world, we would’ve gotten a guard, and we had our eye on a few guys,” general manager Mickey Loomis said. “We just didn’t get the opportunity to draft them where we thought the value existed. We’ve got some candidates in-house, we will be aggressively pursuing some college free agents and we’ll look at some veterans as well.”