This year’s draft crop at cornerback is the deepest its been in years, so much so that there is a distinct possibility that five (if not six) of them could be drafted in the first round.
And one of those first-rounders could land in New Orleans.
Despite recently signing veteran back Champ Bailey to a two year deal, the Saints still have to seriously consider using their first pick to bolster their secondary. The jury is still out on Bailey’s ability coming off the worst year of his career, and even if he’s relatively serviceable the notion that he could man the number two corner spot all year is absurd.
Bailey is also not a suitable resource for the future, which means finding the heir-apparent at corner is imperative.
It’s no secret that we here at cover32 New Orleans have fallen in love with Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller. Fuller is a feisty, in-your-face type of cornerback that is becoming oh-so popular in the NFL these days. He has good size and displays excellent ball skills (which the Saints need considering they only intercepted 12 passes in 2013).
Perhaps his best quality though is his willingness to play in the box. The kid is tough, in fact in last year’s game against Georgia Tech he almost exclusively played at linebacker. Rob Ryan is salivating at the prospect of having a toy like Fuller to line up all over the field knowing he is as polished in coverage as he is physical against the run.
What’s more, it looks like Fuller will likely be available at number 27 overall. According to the editors at cover32 Fuller is the fifth best cornerback in this year’s class, and even though we’ve already discussed how talent-stacked this group is we still feel that ranking is not giving the Hokie a fair shake.
Specifically, TCU’s Jason Verrett was ranked ahead of Fuller which we feel is downright criminal. Verrett, despite running a 4.38 40 yard dash, is a thin 5-foot-10 and will likely need to find a niche role playing in the slot somewhere. The first round is not for niche players though, and Fuller seems talented enough to be a number one guy if he continues to develop.
Past the first round there is still plenty of talent, and if for some reason Fuller is off the board at 27th overall it may behoove the Saints’ to take the best player available rather than reach at corner.
Should this happen there is one guy that they’ll need to target in the second or third round, and that’s Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
Jean-Baptiste continues to climb up draft boards because he fits the mold the Seattle Seahawks have worked so hard to create: mammoth size and long arms. Standing at a full 6-foot-3, Jean-Baptiste uses his length well in coverage; unfortunately, for a 220 pound monster he gives up a bit when it comes to tackling. That being said, Richard Sherman only made 38 total tackles last year and he’s considered to be the best corner in the game. If Rob Ryan can coach him up I would fully expect Jean-Baptiste quickly rise into the upper echelon of NFL corners.
To see where Jean-Baptiste ranks in cover32’s top ten prospects at cornerback, click here.