Saints add depth in NFL draft’s final day

Photo provided by Tarleton State University -- Tarleton State defense end Rufus Johnson Show caption
Photo provided by Tarleton State University -- Tarleton State defense end Rufus Johnson

Saints add depth, happy with draft

METAIRIE — After a frantic Friday night netted the New Orleans Saints two players who could shore up their offensive and defensive lines, things weren’t as hectic Saturday when the three-day draft came to an end.

The Saints continued their quest to add more depth to the roster, however, using their final picks in the fifth and sixth rounds to take a speedy wide receiver and a defensive end who projects as an outside linebacker.

The Saints, who didn’t have a fourth-round pick after they traded it Friday night in a deal that helped them land Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins, grabbed Oklahoma wide receiver Kenny Stills Jr. in the fifth round and then took Tarleton State defensive end Rufus Johnson in the sixth.

On Thursday night, the Saints picked Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro in the first round and Friday night selected Arkansas-Pine Bluff tackle Terron Armstead with their third-round pick before getting the opportunity to acquire Jenkins as well.

“I think it went well, real well,” General Manager Mickey Loomis said. “The first round kind of fell like we hoped it might, and that gave us an opportunity to get Kenny (Vaccaro).

“Being able to make the trade and get another third-round pick was unexpected, but I like the way it came out.”

“I think we paid attention to the measurables, and if you look at each player, their size, their speed fits (the team),” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “With the defensive players, it’s the stature and also athleticism of the tackle (Armstead).

“It’s the same way with the receiver (Stills). He is someone that runs exceptionally well. He’s fluid. And I think at the very beginning of the draft with Kenny Vaccaro, there is a real good background or body of work with the way he plays.”

Stills, a 6-foot, 194-pounder, was a productive wide receiver in his three seasons at Oklahoma.

A five-star recruit by Scout.com coming out of high school in California, he caught 204 passes for 2,594 yards and had 24 TDs in starting all 38 games he played in before giving up his final year of eligibility.

After catching at least 60 passes in each of his three seasons, including 82 last year, Stills believes he can compete for playing time with Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Joe Morgan.

“I’m going to go out there and work my tail off every day,” said Stills, who caught passes from Saints quarterback Drew Brees during informal workouts while growing up in San Diego. “I’m going to be the first one in the building and last one to leave, and if things work out, I’ll be out there playing.

“Obviously, I want to do everything I can to help make an impact on the field. If not, I will have to learn and when my time comes I have to be ready.”

Stills’ father, Kenny Stills Sr., and uncle, Gary, both played in the NFL. He’ll become the fourth Saints player to have a father that played in the league — joining Mark Ingram, Cameron Jordan and Nick Toon.

While Payton wouldn’t say that the door closed on unrestricted free agent Devery Henderson because of the addition of Stills, Loomis said Henderson “probably won’t be back” along with defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis and linebacker Scott Shanle.

Johnson, a 6-5, 270-pounder, was a second-team All-American at Division II Tarleton State in Texas. A former junior college player, he had 10 sacks last year and 17.5 tackles behind the line.

Johnson played in a 4-3 scheme at Tarleton State, but was scouted by the Saints to be an outside linebacker in their new 3-4 alignment because of his 4.72-second speed in the 40-yard dash.

Johnson turned heads when he played in the Texas vs. The Nation game, an all-star contest Saints scouts attended.

“He has the physical stature we’re looking for,” Payton said.

“We feel he can rush the passer pretty well and line up at the outside (linebacker) positions. It’s harder to take a small-school player and project how he’s going to do, but we saw signs with his pass rush.”

As the draft wound down Saturday evening, the Saints’ work wasn’t done.

They immediately began the process of identifying and signing undrafted players to fill out their roster. One player who agreed to terms was Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin.

“I think it’s been an important part of the process for us every year we just try to go through,” Payton said. “Every year there are 40 to 50 players — at least — that make rosters.

“So there will be a lot of phone calls, a lot of recruiting going on here pretty soon.”