METAIRIE, La. – The first thing that stood out about cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste on the practice field during the New Orleans Saints’ rookie minicamp?
Jean-Baptiste’s size was well-dissected before and after the draft. At 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, he has the height and length that NFL teams have started to crave more than ever in this age of bigger receivers – especially since the Seattle Seahawks dominated last year with an arsenal of big defensive backs.
But after talking with coaches Sean Payton and Rob Ryan and Jean-Baptiste on Saturday, it’s another trait that stands out most with the second-round draft pick from Nebraska:
“This young guy, we’re getting a piece of clay. And (defensive backs coach) Wesley McGriff’s gonna mold him into something special,” Ryan said of Jean-Baptiste, who began his career at Nebraska as a wide receiver -- after first bouncing through a prep academy and a junior college.
“He’s a tremendous athlete. So he doesn’t just have size, he’s got everything,” Ryan said “He’s just green for the position. But for us, he’s the perfect guy.”
Jean-Baptiste officially became a Saint on Saturday when he signed his four-year contract -- becoming the fourth of New Orleans’ six draft picks to sign. Terms were not disclosed.
Jean-Baptiste will get a chance to compete for playing time opposite starter Keenan Lewis -- competing with veteran candidates like Champ Bailey, Corey White and Patrick Robinson. At the very least, the Saints may start out by using Jean-Baptiste in a specific role where they can take advantage of his press-coverage ability.
“I think he’s doing well,” Payton said Saturday. “I think there’s certain elements to his game that he’s further along at. He’s certainly comfortable at the line of scrimmage in a press technique because of his size. And that being said, because of his size, when you play more off-coverage, that transition becomes a little bit tougher.
“But so far, we really like what we’ve seen from him. He’s athletic, he’s got good ball skills, he played receiver, and he seems to be real smart.”
Jean-Baptiste also pointed to those ball skills when asked to describe his greatest strength at this stage.
He had a career-best four interceptions and 12 pass break-ups last year, finishing his three-year stint at Nebraska with seven interceptions and 22 break-ups.
“Well, a lot of people say my press. But I think it’s my ball skills. So that’s what I’m gonna go with,” said Jean-Baptiste, who said he doesn’t feel like he’s raw as a cornerback -- but admitted he still has plenty to learn at the next level.
“I feel pretty comfortable (as a defensive back). But knowing that I’m playing with different people now, there’s always something I can fix, my technique, get smarter,” Jean-Baptiste said. “With Coach ‘Crime Dog’ (McGriff), Coach Ryan, Sean Payton, they’ll help me out. So I’ll be alright.”