METAIRIE, La. — Sean Payton sat at the mic Friday night shortly after the second and third rounds of the 2013 NFL draft had ended and acknowledged that most coaches proclaim the annual selection a success even if it’s not actually the case.
Thing was, for Payton and the Saints, the night couldn’t have gone much better.
New Orleans stood pat and grabbed an athletic left tackle that could be a future standout at No. 75. Seven spots later, the Saints found a way to deal Chris Ivory and move up to nab a monster in the middle at No. 82.
In one breath-taking 20-minute swing, the Saints, on paper, had one of their best draft nights in years.
Terron Armstead is, quite simply, an athletic specimen. At 6-foot-5, 304 pounds, he covered 40 yards in 4.71 seconds, the fastest of any offensive linemen at the NFL combine this year. He has a 34 ½-inch vertical and a 9-3 broad jump. He also pressed 225 pounds 31 times.
While he had the talent to play at a major Football Bowl Subdivision school – he had interest from Missouri, Kansas State and Kansas – he opted for the smaller Arkansas-Pine Bluff because the coach allowed him to also be a member of the track and field team.
Over and again, Payton talked about his athleticism.
How athletic? He won the state shot put title in high school with a toss of 57-feet, 7-inches. As a sophomore at UA-PB, he won the SWAC titles in shot put and discus.
But it’s not Armstead’s track and field prowess that has Payton excited. New Orleans’ coach said the team had Armstead graded in the second round and that he sat atop the franchise’s “cloud” of players they hoped for in the third round.
While he might not be an option to start right away, he’ll get the opportunity as the Saints aren’t set at left tackle.
But to me, what made Friday such a success is what came shortly after.
New Orleans was able to unload Ivory, grab and extra fourth-round pick that it could then package to move up into the third round.
And with that No. 82 pick, the Saints took nose tackle John Jenkins.
For everything we heard about Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, their success was partly due to Jenkins, who ate up the blocks of linemen to keep the linebackers clean. He was stout against the run, as well, and helped Georgia keep opponents out of the end zone on the ground.
Georgia’s defense turned the corner not only when it changed to a 3-4 under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, but when Jenkins and Jones and Ogletree became a part of the program.
Payton described Jenkins as a lighter-on-his-feet 359-pounder, one with quick moves off the ball. Jenkins declared during his time talking with the media that he would do whatever it takes to help the team.
Can we assure that these two players will pan out? No, but neither can we say they’ll be failures.
These two picks smell exactly like the picks the Saints have turned into success stories over the past seven years.