METAIRIE, La. -- The Pacific Southeast?
The New Orleans Saints continued to reshape their secondary in the mold of the Seattle Seahawks on Friday night when they drafted super-sized cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste out of Nebraska in Round 2.
As coach Sean Payton pointed out, the Saints actually began the radical transformation of their secondary last year, when they signed free-agent cornerback Keenan Lewis and drafted safety Kenny Vaccaro in Round 1 of the 2013 draft.
But whether or not they were directly inspired by the Super Bowl champs, the Saints are clearly following the same playbook.
"Look, [the Seahawks] got a fantastic secondary. And we've had a chance to see it firsthand," Payton said. "But I think it was really trying to fit what we're doing. And a year-and-a-half ago, starting before last year's draft, we made an effort to really put a high value on size."
Jean-Baptiste (6-foot-3, 218 pounds) generated a lot of pre-draft buzz because of physical comparisons to Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman.
Some analysts, including the NFL Network's Mike Mayock, thought Jean-Baptiste might sneak into Round 1 because of that potential. ESPN's Todd McShay rated Jean-Baptiste 40th overall and said he "has a chance to be a steal."
And it was a timely move during a week in which the NFC South has only continued to load up on physical pass-catchers in this year's draft (receiver Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to Tampa Bay and receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Carolina).
"When you start looking at our division and you start looking at the receivers that we line up against, that size and length I think is really necessary," Payton said of a division that also includes Atlanta's Julio Jones and Roddy White and Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson. "With the amount of bump-and-run coverage that we want to play, I think the longer corner helps in that regard. But I would also say the ball skills are important, because, offensively, when we play someone that doesn't have those ball skills, we [aren't afraid to target them].
"So you go into [the evaluation of Jean-Baptiste] with, 'What does he do well?' We think he can play press man [coverage], and his ball skills are something that we also put a value on."
Jean-Baptiste is still considered a bit of a developmental project even though he's 24 years old, so he won’t automatically leap ahead of fellow corners Bailey, Corey White and Patrick Robinson for playing time. But he might have the most long-term potential of the bunch.
Because of academics, Jean-Baptiste spent a year in prep school and a year at a community college before transferring to Nebraska, where he didn't play as a freshman. He began his sophomore season as a receiver before making the switch to cornerback.
By last season, he had really grown into the cornerback role, starting with an interception in each of his first four games.
"I was aware of it, everybody comparing me to Richard Sherman. I heard all of the rumors and all of the details. I was paying attention to everything they're saying," Jean-Baptiste said. "I think it had a big part to play in [my draft stock], but hopefully, the Saints picked me for the person I am and the skills that I bring."