Glenn Guilbeau / Gannett Louisiana
METAIRIE – The New Orleans Saints did not want just any wide receiver.
So late Thursday night they traded their third round pick in this weekend’s draft to the Arizona Cardinals to move up from No. 27 in the first round to No. 20 and selected versatile Oregon State wide receiver/kick returner Brandin Cooks.
Cooks (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) led the nation last season in receiving yards with 1,730 on 128 catches and in receptions per game with 9.85 and won the Biletnikoff Award that goes to the nation’s best receiver. He is also a kick returner and was one of the fastest wide receivers in the draft as he turned in the fastest 10-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February at 1.54 and the second fastest 40-yard dash at 4.33.
“He does give us a threat,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “He is a guy who can be used in a lot of ways. More than anything, he’s the type of guy that really fits our program. As you will find out when you interview him, he’s extremely impressive. He had a great interview with us. He’s very competitive.”
Cooks was the fourth wide receiver taken in the draft and would likely not have been available had the Saints stayed in their original spot at No. 27 in the first round. Sammy Watkins of Clemson was the first receiver taken in the first round at pick No. 4 by Buffalo, followed by Texas A&M’s Mike Evans at No. 7 by Tampa Bay and LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. at No. 12 by the New York Giants.
“This was really a player that stood out,” Payton said.
The Saints did not even bother to bring Cooks in for an interview at the Saints facility because the interview with him at the NFL Combine in February went so well, and the club continued to get such good reports on him.
“We just saw this guy as a real good fit,” Payton said.
The Saints identified a need for a fast wide receiver after the 2013 season as the offense struggled throughout the season to stretch the field. But Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis do not always place need ahead of value, and they believe they did not do that with the selection of Cooks.
“He filled a need, and for us, he was our highest graded player,” Payton said. “In this case, both.”
The Cardinals, picking in the Saints’ No. 27 spot of the first round, selected safety Deone Bucannon of Washington State. Cooks became the first offensive player selected by the Saints with their first pick since 2007 when they took wide receiver Robert Meachem.
On Friday, the Saints will have only a second round pick as they will select 26th overall and will have the 58th selection in the draft overall. The third round pick the club sent to Arizona is for the 91st overall selection. On Saturday when the fourth through seventh rounds are selected, the Saints will have one fourth round pick (126 overall), two fifth round picks (167 and 169) and one sixth round selection (202).