Cooks draws praise from competition

METAIRIE, La. -- Some of the most flattering scouting reports on new New Orleans Saints receiver Brandin Cooks came from his competition. Or perhaps it would be better to describe them as his victims.

Immediately after the Saints traded up to snag Cooks, Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro called it a “great pick” and tweeted:

“Almost blew out a hamstring trying to chase this cat @brandincooks down in the Alamo bowl”

According to Saints coach Sean Payton, that kind of response was the norm when the Saints’ scouts and coaches polled other players who had gone up against the dynamic receiver while he was at Oregon State.

“When you talk to any of the coaches in that conference -- and our scouts, certainly our coaches when we go to workouts, have that interaction not just with Oregon State but with all the other schools in that conference -- his name keeps coming up as someone that’s a very good football player,” Payton said. “Anytime we are interviewing or visiting with a defensive back, it’s normal for us to ask him at the end of the interview 'Who are some of the better players you went against?' And vice versa, we would ask the receivers the same thing. It was pretty apparent that he was one of those guys.

“Coaches at the school, anyone who has seen him play and anyone who has been involved with his career there have been really positive.”

I mentioned this in my story Thursday night, but it bears repeating that the Saints did not bring in Cooks for a visit to their facility this year because they felt so good about everything they learned from him throughout the scouting process. From on-field reviews to the way people raved about his character and competitiveness off the field, to how impressed the Saints were by Cooks during their personal meeting at the scouting combine.

People always try to read into whether a team brings players in for a visit. But Cooks is an example of why a team might not bring in a player even if they clearly covet him. I remember defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis being a similar example in 2008, partly because then-Saints defensive line coach Ed Orgeron had recruited Ellis to USC.

“He was someone that was as clean and clear as to who he was, the type of player he was, and how he approached the game ... He was really impressive,” Payton said of Cooks, adding that the Saints were high on Cooks even before they met him at the combine.

“His grades came in well before that,” Payton said. “The first time we get to really meet a lot of these players is at the combine. The scouts, however, have spent a whole season really tracking and preparing reports. You do get those impressions, then, when you first meet him. He’s someone you guys will see the first time you have a chance to visit with him, is very impressive.

“He’s very competitive. He was a big part of what they did offensively and often drew safety help [in] coverage. His makeup and his skill set were things that the scouts had obviously seen in the beginning, and as we came to the combine become familiar with. And then you kind of take it from there. ...

“He’s the type of guy that I’m excited that our players will have the chance to meet, and I think he will fit in really well with our locker room.”

As long as he doesn’t blow out any hamstrings.