Lewis: Chips fall in Saints’ favor this time

Kenny Vaccaro of Texas arrives on the red carpet before the first round of the NFL draft Thursday, April 25, 2013, at Radio City Music Hall in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle) Show caption
Kenny Vaccaro of Texas arrives on the red carpet before the first round of the NFL draft Thursday, April 25, 2013, at Radio City Music Hall in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

METAIRIE — Most mock drafts get busted in April about as quickly as brackets do in March.

But for the Saints on Thursday, things probably worked out as they hoped they would.

Basically unable to move up from the No. 15 spot due to the lack of a second-round pick — thanks, Roger Goodell — and not really wanting to move down unless the players they had targeted were gone, the Saints stayed put.

And, as things developed pretty much as they expected in front of them, not necessarily in who did what but who was selected, the Saints went on the clock with two players they coveted.

They chose safety Kenny Vaccaro of Texas.

The other player shall officially remain nameless. But outside linebacker Jarvis Jones of Georgia would be a good guess. The Pittsburgh Steelers tabbed him two picks after the Saints.

“There are a handful of names that you grade very high,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “But those guys went early. And within that cloud, it got to there were three picks and we had two names, so clearly we had to have a backup plan. But both teams ahead of us took two different players, so we were left with two guys that we were going to be really excited about.”

Those two teams were the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers, both of whom took defensive tackles — Sheldon Richardson of Missouri and Star Lotulelei of Utah.

There were, Payton added, few surprises in the 14 picks ahead of them. Buffalo, which had traded down from No. 8, provided that by going with Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel at No. 16.

Credit that with the large number of offensive linemen (six) who went in the first 11 picks. All of those players were safe choices, meaning none of the left tackles who might have filled in immediately for the departed Jermon Bushrod were going to be there.

Actually, Payton said, surprises would have complicated things a bit.

“You go though various mock drafts and try to anticipate things,” he said. “Sometimes the dots slide towards you and, instead of helping, it causes you a little grief for 10 or 15 minutes. But in this case, it didn’t.”

As with Jones, Payton didn’t identify anyone else who they thought might be available at 15. But he indicated the team wasn’t that interested in a defensive tackle. So if cornerback Dee Milliner or tackle D.J. Fluker had been there, it’s safe to say some of that “little grief” might have been present.

And with the Saints’ habit under Payton of taking offensive linemen in lower rounds and grooming them for a year or two (Bushrod, a fourth-round pick in 2007 saw almost no action for two seasons before becoming a starter for the Super Bowl team), there was little motivation to trade down where players like Justin Pugh (No. 19 to the Giants) and Kyle Long (No. 20 to the Bears) were chosen.

“If the two guys we wanted weren’t available, then possibly we would have moved down,” Peyton said.

“But they were, so we didn’t make a move.”

So did the Saints take the right guy?

Obviously that remains to be seen.

The switch to the 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has placed a lot of focus on getting more pass rush from the edge.

Jones would have probably provided that, although his workout numbers didn’t match his productivity.

And it could be that the Saints are comfortable with free agent signee Victor Butler, who played for Ryan in Dallas, and fourth-year man Junior Galette, who is now listed at linebacker.

In Vaccaro, the Saints are getting a versatile player who has seen action at both safeties, nickel back and even linebacker. Versatility is a quality Ryan covets.

Vaccaro is likely replacing Roman Harper or Malcolm Jenkins, both good locker room guys whose production has been disappointing.

So welcome to New Orleans, Mr. Vaccaro.

Your presence is certainly needed.