This past draft the New Orleans Saints tried to continue their aggressive offseason ways and draft impact players to help solidify a roster that is primed for a deep playoff and possible Super Bowl run. In the first round the Saints traded up 7 spots to snag Oregon State speedster Brandin Cooks. However, despite the first round splash, Cooks wasn’t the Saints’ best draft pick, though he was an exceptional one.
That distinction actually goes the Black and Gold’s 2nd round pick, Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Jean-Baptiste’s abilities, along with his French rooted name, are a perfect fit in New Orleans. At 6-foot-3, Jean-Baptiste was the tallest corner in the draft, and is the prototypical, new-age long corner that every team covets after the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory.
Jean-Baptiste comes into a secondary that is loaded with talent. Though extremely athletic, he is still very raw; he may not start immediately opposite Keenan Lewis with veteran Champ Bailey in front of him, but he is going to get some playing time and could possibly take the starting job from Bailey. Also, with all the injuries last season, management knows it is important to be able to go 5, or even 7 deep, at cornerback.
Besides the depth and obvious talent, Jean-Baptiste’s progress is of paramount importance given the trend in the NFC South. The up and coming Tampa Bay Buccaneers just drafted 6-foot-5 Mike Evans and big bodied tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to team up with 6-5 Vincent Jackson. The rival Atlanta Falcons already have their twin towers with Julio Jones and Roddy White. And last year’s NFC South Champion Carolina Panthers drafted 6-5 Kelvin Benjamin.
Basically, the NFC South is starting to look like a basketball division. And to defend all these power forwards and centers at receiver, one needs corners that can hang. Jean-Baptiste can do exactly that. With his height and 40-inch vertical, Jean-Baptiste will be able to get physical at the line and hold his own in jump ball situations.
Though Cooks may make more of an immediate impact and start for the Saints’ offense on day 1, Jean-Baptiste is a better pick because of the need to defend the taller receivers in the division. In addition, some mock drafts had Jean-Baptiste going in the first round; and his athleticism and measurables were good enough for first round billing. With this in mind, being able to stay in their original spot late in the second round and get such a talent may end up being one of the bigger steals in the draft.