METAIRIE — Other than not having suspended head coach Sean Payton having his hands in the draft for the first time in seven years, there wasn’t a lot different about how the New Orleans Saints went about adding to their roster Friday and Saturday.
Maybe there was one other difference: The Saints had no picks in the first and second rounds for the first time in the organization’s 46-year history.
But when they finally got around to selecting what they hope are the stalwarts of the future for the embattled franchise, it was business as usual — especially when it comes to finding talent at the smaller schools.
It never seems to matter where they have to go. They’ll roll up their sleeves and do their due diligence to find the next Marques Colston at Hofstra, Jahri Evans at Bloomsburg State, or Jermon Bushrod at Towson.
Ever heard of Tiffin University before the Saints signed undrafted running back Chris Ivory? Or Stillman College, where they got defensive end Junior Galette — both in 2010?
With two of their first three picks in this year’s draft, the Saints found what could be hidden gems at the University of Regina in Canada and Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., in the third and fifth rounds, respectively.
If defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and cornerback Corey White pan out, it’ll be worth the time and effort for the Saints.
While some teams shy away from the players that haven’t received a lot of notoriety for whatever reason, the Saints embrace the chance to leave no stone unturned.
In fact, they relish it.
“I think there are some teams that may not want to draft guys from smaller schools; we’re not scared of that,” assistant head coach Joe Vitt said Friday night after the team took Hicks, who adds more size and depth to the middle of their line.
While Hicks was projected as a possible sixth or seventh-round pick by at least one draft website, which said he was the 124th overall prospect in the draft, the Saints didn’t have any problem picking him where his name was put when they stacked their boards.
“We just stick to the discipline of the board,” Vitt said. “This is where we had this player rated.”
The Saints also saw White in a different light as well. Rated as the 625th player available by one site and not being drafted, the Saints liked him at No. 162 near the bottom of the fifth round.
“He’s one of those guys that showed up a little bit at an all-star game … a small-school player, but a guy that shows up,” said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Vitt said new Saints defensive backs coach Ken Flajole locked on to White early in the process and liked what he saw — especially when Samford went up against Auburn, a plus for a player that ordinarily might get overlooked.
“That’s what our scouts dug up, a good name, a good prospect,” said Spagnuolo. “We all looked at him and thought he was a pretty good football player.”