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Monday, May 12, 2014
Leftover nuggets from Saints draft

By Mike Triplett

METAIRIE, La. -- Some leftover news and notes from the New Orleans Saints' draft weekend:

QBs considered: General manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton both said the quarterback position didn't rank among the Saints' top priorities in the draft. But Payton said the Saints talked about Georgia's Aaron Murray, Alabama's AJ McCarron and LSU's Zach Mettenberger as they fell into the fifth round.

“Those three players were guys we looked closely at and began to see a value once it got into the later rounds, that our grades were maybe a little bit better than where they were selected,” Payton said. “They were in the discussion and talked about.”

Surprise pick: On the flip side, the Saints' sixth-round draft pick, offensive tackle Tavon Rooks, was so far off the radar among draft analysts that Rooks himself admitted, “I didn't think I was getting drafted.”

“I thought [Kansas State teammate] Cornelius Lucas, he was the most talked about offensive tackle. I thought all the offensive line coaches wanted him, so it was a shocker to me,” said Rooks, who was asked if he thought the phone call he received from Payton might be a prank.

“To tell you the truth, I did when Coach Payton called me the first time,” Rooks said. “I was like, ‘Coach Payton?' No, this is not him.'”

That doesn't mean Rooks was a total reach. The Saints obviously had him rated highly enough to draft him there. And they didn't have a seventh-round pick, so they decided not to risk missing out. Payton said the Saints like Rooks' athleticism and his ability to grow into his frame. He was listed at 280 pounds last year, though he said he eventually worked his way up to 305.

X's and O's: A couple of the Saints' rookies talked about how heavy the focus was on X's and O's talk with Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan during some pre-draft interviews. Fourth-round pick Khairi Fortt said that was especially true during his 15-minute session with the Saints at the scouting combine.

Fortt said most teams spent time talking about his background (which included a knee injury and a school transfer).

“They brought me in, had me sit down and went over like 10 to 15 plays that they do on defense, and they had me write them up on a sheet of paper,” Fortt said. “That was pretty mind-boggling because they were asking me pretty wild questions while I was doing it. …

“Most of the other interviews they asked me about my life, why I changed schools. (With the Saints) it was more straight to the point, ‘What can you do from this point on?' The past is the past and we want to see what you can do.'"

Fortt wasn't too surprised by Ryan's approach, though. He said he knew a lot about the Saints already since he's been close friends with New Orleans defensive tackle John Jenkins since about the 10th grade.

Insider knowledge: Speaking of longtime friendships, Loomis and Oregon State coach Mike Riley go way back because of their Oregon roots.

“Mike was a high school player in Corvallis, when I was growing up in Eugene. He was a really good player -- and I wasn't -- in all sports,” Loomis cracked.

Riley also later served as the Saints' defensive backs coach for a year in 2002. But Loomis said those ties didn't play a big role in the Saints' selection of receiver Brandin Cooks in Round 1 since he was such an obviously good choice on all fronts.

Riley's review: The Times-Picayune's Jeff Duncan caught up with Riley for his thought on Cooks landing in New Orleans.

Good marriage: Also, ESPN columnist Jeffri Chadiha ranked the Saints-Cooks pairing as one of the best “marriages” in this year's draft.

Cooks' schedule: According to Payton, Oregon State is one of the colleges on a quarters system, which means Cooks will have to miss some time during OTAs. He will be able to attend this weekend's rookie minicamp, however. And he will join the Saints in June for many of their offseason practices.

Worth repeating: Saints fifth-round pick Vinnie Sunseri on going from Alabama to LSU's backyard: “It wouldn't be right if I didn't catch a little bit of grief, but hopefully I can win them over whenever I hit a couple people during the season.”

Worth repeating II: ESPN analyst Louis Riddick on Twitter after Sunseri was picked: “Think of how Rob Ryan used Vaccaro and even Harper when he was there. Then think about Sunseri's game. Makes a ton of sense.”

Jersey numbers: Cooks will wear No. 10 for the Saints. Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste will wear No. 33, Fortt No. 54, Sunseri No. 43, linebacker Ronald Powell No. 56 and Rooks No. 74.