METAIRIE, La. ― The Saints gave Sean Payton his quarterback project for the future with their final pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, taking Oregon State’s Sean Canfield with selection No. 239.
But going to New Orleans might just mean more to Canfield than Payton.
You see, he’ll get to learn the quarterback position behind Drew Brees, a player he grew up watching and someone who showed Canfield that it was possible come back from a torn labrum.
“I watched Drew Brees play in San Diego being a native of San Diego in Carlsbad 30 minutes from Qualcomm Stadium,” Canfield said. “And watching what he’s been able to do overcoming injury, which is something I did in my sophomore year. I drew some parallels there.”
Canfield (6-foot-3, 221 pounds) has a career completion percentage of 64.1 percent as a left-handed quarterback. He threw 38 touchdowns to 26 interceptions in four seasons, but had a 3-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a senior.
He was injured during the 2007 season and missed some of 2008 with the torn labrum in his left throwing shoulder, but returned in 2008. In 2009, he led Oregon State to an 8-5 record and had the Beavers within an eyelash of the Pac-10 championship, when they lost to Oregon in the final game of the regular season.
He finished 2009 303 of 446 for 3,271 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Canfield averaged a career-best 251.6 yards per game passing as a senior.
One of the reasons Canfield went to Oregon State was to play for Mike Riley, whose aggressive play-calling at times mirrors Payton’s.
“Watching the style of play that New Orleans has and the type of offense they play with, very prolific and a very offensive oriented team with Coach Payton at the helm,” Canfield said.
Yet, it was a relationship Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis has with Riley that could have tipped New Orleans off to Canfield. Riley coached with the Saints in 2002, Loomis’ first year as GM.
“He’s a guy we’ve seen enough from that we thought he had a draftable grade on him,” Payton said. “He’s a lefty. We think he’s accurate. We think he’s a good decision-maker. Really played a year and a half there.”
In fact, the Saints were the only team Canfield formally interviewed with at the NFL combine and one of the few teams that showed any interest in him.
Still, don’t be surprised if the Saints try and sign a veteran to at least push the rookie for the backup spot. Behind Drew Brees, the Saints have Chase Daniel, a second-year player on the roster. Mark Brunell, the backup for the past two seasons, is an unrestricted free agent.
“I think that possibility still exists,” Payton said. “I think that’s something that’ll sort itself out sooner than later.”