Grade : B
Round 1 Pick 20 – Brandin Cooks WR
Round 2 Pick 58 – Stanley Jean-Baptiste CB
Round 4 Pick 126 – Khairi Fortt LB
Round 5 Pick 167 – Vinnie Sun S
Round 1 Pick 169 – Ronald Powell OLB
Round 1 Pick 202 – Tavon Rooks OT
After losing in the divisional playoffs to the eventual Superbowl Champions last season the Saints went into the 2014 draft needing to find the personnel to push them over the top.
By trading up seven places to grab wide receiver Brandin Cooks the Saints made a dramatic statement of intent. Drew Brees may be getting on a bit but the Saints are going all in on the gunslinger and giving him the weapons to make another Superbowl charge.
To move up seven draft spots and get Cooks then the Saints traded away their third round pick. That was a huge demonstration of faith in the OSU wide receiver. Given the depth of talent at wide receiver however, there could be questions about why the Saints didn't keep their third round pick, take a wide receiver later and use their first round pick to fill another need.
Expectations for Cooks then are high and he could well meet them by being a real difference maker for the Saints. A superfast wide receiver Cooks ran a rapid 4.33 second 40-yard-dash at the Combine. He backs these figures up with solid production as well. Last season Cooks recorded 128 receptions for 1,730 yards with 16 touchdowns for the season. He finished 2012 with 67 catches for 1,151 yards and five touchdowns.
Playing in the slot receiver position Cooks should provide the Saints offense with the vertical threat that will stretch defenses.
The Saints followed up the pick of wide receiver Cooks by taking corner back Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Given the league-wide trend of big tall wide receivers it makes good sense for the Saints to grab a big tall corner back.
Standing at 6'3'' and weighing in at 218 pounds Jean-Baptiste certainly ticks this box. Although not blessed with excess pace Jean-Baptiste reads the game well and uses his long arms and strong hands to break up passes. In 2013 he had four interceptions with 12 passes batted and 41 tackles. Expect to see Jean-Baptiste slot into the second cornerback position in a secondary that is looking much tougher post-free agency and post-draft.
After taking two home run picks in the first two rounds the Saints mixed this up by taking a gamble on Khairi Fortt in the fourth round.
Fortt started off his college career well but a knee injury and then transfer from Penn State to Cal seemed to derail his production. Fortt does have positives. He is an athletic inside linebacker who should be able to stay on the pitch in any situation and in both a 3-4 and a 4-3.
Watching his tape though you can't help but think the sum of the parts isn't replicated in the hole. Fortt reads the game quickly, has an explosive first step and is able to move laterally at pace. When he does these things so well you would expect Fortt to deliver more than he generally does.
Overall, the Saints improved in this draft but have they done enough to bring home another Superbowl?
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