Glen Gilbeau / GANNETT LOUISIANA
METAIRIE – The 2014 NFL Draft is being held in New York City, and the New Orleans Saints’ war room is here just outside New Orleans.
But this draft so far for the Who Dats is all about Seattle.
The Saints suffered losses of 34-7 late in the regular season and 23-15 in the divisional round of the NFC Playoffs last season to the Seahawks in which their offense and quarterback Drew Brees looked bad at Seattle, which went on to win the Super Bowl in resounding fashion, 43-8 over Denver. And quarterback Peyton Manning looked worse than Brees because of the Seahawk-sized ball hawks in the secondary.
The Saints decided to join Seattle strategically Friday night by supersizing their cornerback position with the selection of 6-foot-3, 220-pound cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste of Nebraska with the 26th pick of the second round and 58th overall. He has very similar size and ball skills to Seattle superstar cornerback Richard Sherman (6-3, 195), a two-time All-Pro who is considered the best at his position in the NFL and recently became the highest paid cornerback at $57.4 million over four years.
On Thursday night, the Saints tried to beat Seattle’s secondary with the choice of one of the fastest and most accomplished wide receivers in college football – Brandin Cooks of Oregon State.
“Look they’ve got a fantastic secondary,” Saints coach Sean Payton said of Seattle. “And we’ve had a chance to see it firsthand, but I think it was really trying to fit what we’re doing. We’re really putting a value on size, and we’ve been able to do that defensively.”
Jean-Baptiste, who has a Cajun name but is from Miami, drew raves at the Senior Bowl in January in coverage and as an aggressive tackler. In two seasons at Nebraska, he made 50 solo tackles and 74 overall.
“I hope to make an immediate impact,” Jean-Baptiste said on a teleconference at the Saints’ facility late Friday night. “The Saints have a great defensive coordinator (Rob Ryan) and great defensive backs.”
Jean-Baptiste added that he hopes the Saints picked him for his skills – not because of the comparisons to Sherman.
“What does he do well? We think he’s a guy who can play press man, and he’s a very willing tackler. He’s physical,” Payton said. “His ball skills are something that we also put a value on.”
The Saints have been known in recent years for having defensive backs who are often in position to make a play but can’t get their hands on the ball or make an interception. Jean-Baptiste played wide receiver at North Carolina Tech Christian Academy before transferring to Nebraska, where he intercepted seven passes over the last two seasons and had 28 pass breakups or pass defended in 2013.
“He was our highest-rated prospect at the time we picked him,” Payton said. “He stood out from the others left on our board, so he ended up being a good fit for us. With the receivers we see and the amount of bump-and-run coverage that we want to play, I think the longer corner helps in that regard.”
The Saints entered the off-season with a hole at cornerback as veteran starter Jabari Greer injured the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee last season and was released after the season.
“His skill set as a young player is something you get excited about,” Payton said, “especially at that position.”
New Orleans enters the fourth through seventh rounds on Saturday with one pick in the fourth round at 126, two picks in the fifth round at 167 and 169 and one in the sixth at 202.