METAIRIE, La. -- Once again, the New Orleans Saints filled their most pressing need with the highest-rated player on their board Friday night, drafting Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the second round.
Coach Sean Payton acknowledged that cornerback was a position the Saints wanted to address in this year’s draft. And the board matched up well when Jean-Baptiste was still available with the 58th pick.
Payton said the Saints probably would have traded down if Jean-Baptiste didn’t fall to them.
“Stan was someone that was separate from the guys on our board. It ended up being a good fit for us,” Payton said.
Payton said the Saints also discussed the idea of trading up in the second round, despite already giving up their third-rounder to get receiver Brandin Cooks in the first round. Payton didn’t specify whether the move would have been for Jean-Baptiste.
Hope for running backs? The Saints didn’t have tunnel vision for corners only. In fact, Payton said the Saints even discussed LSU running back Jeremy Hill at one point -- despite being deep at running back already.
Payton brought that up when he was asked about how far the value of running backs seems to have fallen in recent years. The first running back didn’t go until the 54th pick in this year’s draft.
“Look, there will be another Adrian Peterson,” Payton said. “There will be another really good player that will hard to pass up on. So I think it’s just a matter of team’s needs and how they view or grade a player, but I don’t know if it will be a continuing trend. I think there is a feeling that you can find good running backs later in the draft or possibly in free agency, but that doesn't discount the notion of someone being a really unique and rare skill set of being taken still in the first round. I think that really is just how this class was graded.”
In good company: Naturally, Jean-Baptiste said he was excited to join a loaded Saints secondary that includes future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey and standout players like Jairus Byrd, Keenan Lewis and Kenny Vaccaro.
“I’m just happy to be part of it,” Jean-Baptiste said.
When asked specifically about Bailey, he said: “My reaction is I am excited really. Hopefully he will take me in with open arms and he can teach me what he knows.”
And when asked about defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, he said: “I love Rob Ryan, great defensive mind. You never know what he is going to bring, what kind of defense he is coming up with. I think he is just a great defensive coordinator.”
Long, winding road: Jean-Baptiste didn’t take a direct path to becoming a NFL cornerback. Because of academics, he spent time at a prep school and junior college before transferring to Nebraska, where he didn’t play as a redshirt fresman. Then he began his sophomore year as a receiver before switching positions.
But he said both experiences helped mold him.
“It just taught me a lot, growing up, that being on your own you just have to keep working at it, you can’t give up. Junior college really taught me all of that,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Going to Nebraska, it just sunk in and that’s when I started focusing up and understanding that I could go as far as I want to go.
“I think playing receiver helped me with a lot of things. It helped me with ball skills. It helped me read the formations real easy. It helped me break down the tendencies that receivers like to do. It helped me a lot.”
Finding a fit: Payton said the Saints will probably start with Jean-Baptiste in one specific role since he’s still a developing corner, rather than moving him around to a variety of spots.
Payton didn’t specifically address how he expects the competition to play out among Bailey, Corey White, Patrick Robinson and Jean-Baptiste, among, others for the No. 2 and 3 cornerback roles.
“I know Rob and his staff will look closely at what these guys do well,” Payton said. “His skill set as a young player and what we’ve seen is something that you get excited about, especially at that position. Because I mentioned last night there are certain positions, the pass rushers, the left tackles, the cornerbacks. Those [positions] are harder to find and they typically go pretty quick in the draft, especially the first day and a half or two days.”
Perfect name: Jean-Baptiste gets his name from his parents’ Haitian roots. But it sounds like it was made for New Orleans. In fact, New Orleans was founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville.