Erik McCoy admits he didn't get to watch Max Unger much.

But he knows all about the reputation of the former New Orleans Saints center, a three-time Pro Bowler who retired in March.

"I know he's a heckuva player and he's definitely a guy I'd like to model my game after," McCoy said.

Now the Saints will look to McCoy to fill Unger's giant shoes.

The Saints traded up Friday night and took McCoy, who starred at Texas A&M, with the 48th overall pick of the NFL draft.

"I burst into tears. This is a moment I've been waiting for my whole life," McCoy said shortly after he was drafted.

McCoy watched the draft in his hometown of Lufkin, Texas, with about 50 familiy members. 

He started 39 games for the Aggies. He played center in 37 of those games and played guard in the other two.

According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just one sack in more than 1,500 snaps.

"He's tough; he's durable," said coach Sean Payton, who expects McCoy to be a center. 


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McCoy was the Saints' first pick in this year's draft because they didn't have a first-round selection Thursday, having packaged it last season to move up and take defensive end Marcus Davenport.

Payton said he was hoping to get McCoy when he made his way to the Saints' practice facility Friday. 

"In the process, he stood out," Payton said. "You see his strength on tape each game you watch. We really had a high grade on him. He played a high level of competition, and you see the consistency. There were just a lot of things to like." 

They traded up from the No. 62 pick to the No. 48 pick and gave up one of their sixth-round picks this year and a second-round pick next year.

"We felt strongly he wouldn't make it to (No.) 62," Payton said. 

The Saints also gained a fourth-round pick this year.

McCoy is one of two centers the Saints have added in the offseason. They signed center Nick Easton in free agency.

"Both of them are smart guys that we feel like have that flexibility," Payton said. 

The Saints have now drafted 14 offensive linemen since Payton took over in 2006. They struck out on one of their two offensive linemen from last year. Rick Leonard, whom the Saints drafted out of Florida State in the fourth round, never panned out and was cut in October.

He has been on three different rosters since then. 

The Saints added to a unit that was one of the team's greatest strengths last season.

The Saints averaged 126.6 yards rushing per game, ranking sixth in the league. The team gave up just 20 sacks all season. That was the second-fewest total in the NFL, trailing only the Indianapolis Colts, who gave up just 18 sacks.

McCoy, whose family grew up Dallas Cowboys fans, looks forward to joining the Saints.

"Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFL," he saod. "They have a great running back duo. A very good offensive line. Terron Armstead, I look up to him a lot. It's a winning organization."

The Saints are hoping McCoy will be as productive as their previous three second-round picks.

They drafted safety Marcus Williams out of Utah in the second round two seasons ago.

The year before that, they landed Ohio State receiver Michael Thomas and safety Vonn Bell. Williams and Bell both start as safety, while Thomas, in just three seasons, has already made a strong case as perhaps the best receiver in franchise history.

The Saints have to hope McCoy is a dependable player, in part because they didn't have any picks in Thursday's first round.

Payton said Tuesday that he thinks the team can land some solid players in the later rounds as well. The team drafted LSU offensive lineman Will Clapp in the seventh round last year, and Clapp ended up making the roster.

"Fortunately we have been able to find good players, not just in the early rounds, but in the later rounds," Payton said. "Hopefully we can do the same this year."

McCoy said he first started bonding with the Saints at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, in January. Then Saints offensive line coach Dan Roushar attended his pro day in College Station.  

“I can just tell right now he’s a hell of a coach," McCoy said. "I can tell he’s going to push me, push me a lot, mentally and physically. That’s something I feel like every rookie needs coming into the NFL. I’m just really excited to get to work with the organization and coach Roushar, in particular.”



Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.