Saints stay on attack with Cooks trade

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints are attacking this offseason with the same aggressive mentality they usually reserve for hapless defenses inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

I love the bold move they made to trade up seven spots for Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks with the 20th pick in the draft. It filled their biggest need. And it fell in line with their bold move to sign safety Jairus Byrd in free agency.

The Saints have a Super Bowl-ready roster. And they're on the hunt for impact players who can help push them over the edge.

Not to lump too much on one rookie receiver, but Cooks' speed and versatility could help fill the voids left by both Darren Sproles and Lance Moore -- in both the passing game and the return game.

Cooks (5-foot-10, 189 pounds) led all FBS receivers with 128 catches for 1,730 yards last season, earning him the Biletnikoff Award. Then he helped cement his stock with the fastest 40-yard dash time among all receivers at the NFL combine (4.33 seconds).

"They were talking about me playing in the slot, outside and possibly returning kicks. That's my game, so I'm excited about that," said Cooks, who played in a pro-style offense under Mike Riley, a former Saints assistant coach who has a close relationship with Saints general manager Mickey Loomis.

The cost was palatable. The Saints gave up a third-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals to move up.

The reward could be huge.

Coach Sean Payton said this was a case in which the highest-rated player on their board also filled a need. Yeah, they always say that. But it's easy to believe him in this case since the fit seems so perfect.

Payton said the Saints still had three players left in their "cloud" of targets. But Cooks was the only one they had deemed worthy of trading up to get.

"Periodically, you have a real strong conviction on a player, and this was one of them," said Payton, who raved about everything from Cooks' consistency to his toughness to his character.

Cooks' character was lauded by many coming into the draft. And Payton echoed that repeatedly Thursday, saying how well he'll fit into the Saints' culture, as well as their offense.

The Saints didn't even bother bringing in Cooks for a visit since Payton said there were no question marks about him. Only one team visited with Cooks -- the New York Jets.

"He gives us a threat, and he's a guy that can be used in a lot of ways," Payton said. "And more than anything else, he's the type of guy that fits our program."

Likewise, Cooks said he loves the idea of playing with Drew Brees, whom he called a potential Hall of Famer. The best part, Cooks said, is that Brees "gets the ball to all of his players."

When asked how he's so familiar with the Saints' offensive tendencies, Cooks said it's simply because he's a football fan.

"Obviously we all know about the New Orleans Saints," Cooks said. "You can ask anyone. They'll tell you they like to let the ball fly."

And they're clearly not about to slow down now.