Saints host slew of defensive back draft prospects

Cornerbacks Gilbert and Pryor, safety Roby among top-rated draft prospects

“You always put a value on corners. You’re always in the business for (that kind of player).” Sean payton, Saints coach

Though they were No. 2 against the pass last season, the New Orleans Saints packed their headquarters Tuesday with draft prospects who could further boost their secondary.

Cornerbacks Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State), Bradley Roby (Ohio State), Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska), Pierre Desir (Lindenwood), Aaron Colvin (Oklahoma) and Demetri Goodson (Baylor) all visited the Saints, a source told The Advocate. So did safety Calvin Pryor (Louisville).

Gilbert had already said he would visit the Saints on Twitter, and Colvin had done the same previously on SiriusXM NFL radio and in tweets. A source had confirmed to The Advocate that Pryor had a meeting set up. Roby, Jean-Baptiste, Desir and Goodson all were revelations Tuesday.

The 6-foot, 202-pound Gilbert and the 5-foot-11, 207-pound Pryor have drawn first-round projections and are among the most coveted prospects at their position. The 5-foot-11, 194-pound Roby is a first- to second-round prospect. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound Jean-Baptiste has second- to third-round projections.

The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Desir is a third-round prospect and won an award recognizing him as the country’s best small-school defensive player in 2013. The 5-foot-11, 177-pound Colvin could be available in the late rounds while he recovers from an anterior cruciate ligament tear he suffered in January.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Goodson may be available in undrafted free agency, per various sites dedicated to draft punditry. His older brother, Mike, is a running back for the Jets.

CBSSports.com’s draft analysts have compared some of the aforementioned players to NFL cornerbacks. They say Gilbert compares to the Bengals’ Terence Newman; Pryor to the Giants’ Antrel Rolle; Jean-Baptiste to the Patriots’ Brandon Browner; and Desir to the Giants’ Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

New Orleans’ secondary for now counts on cornerbacks Keenan Lewis, Corey White, Champ Bailey, Patrick Robinson, Roderick Sweeting, Terrence Frederick and Trevin Wade. They also have safeties Jairus Byrd, Kenny Vaccaro, Rafael Bush and Marcus Ball.

Lewis, White, Vaccaro and Bush played substantial roles on a defense that helped the Saints win 12 of 18 games and reach the divisional round of the NFC playoffs in 2013. Byrd and Bailey were marquee names picked up in free agency. Robinson missed all but two games last year with a knee injury but has been with the Saints since 2010. Sweeting, Wade and Frederick are less experienced. Ball recently arrived after two seasons in the Canadian Football League.

Saints coach Sean Payton has openly said this offseason that his team would be in the market for defensive backs who are talented not only in coverage but also at taking the ball away. New Orleans in 2013 finished fourth-to-last in the NFL in takeaways.

“You always put a value on corners,” Payton said at the annual NFL owners meeting in Orlando, Fla. “You’re always in the business for (that kind of player).”

If the Saints stay put in regards to their allotment of draft picks, they have the 27th selection in the first round; 26th in the second round (58th overall); 27th in the third round (91st); 26th in the fourth round (126th); 27th in the fifth round (167th) and 29th (169th); and 26th in the sixth round (202nd). They traded their seventh-round pick to acquire linebacker Parys Haralson late in the 2013 preseason, but they traded running back Darren Sproles to Philadelphia for the No. 162 pick.

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Correction: This post incorrectly stated one of the Saints’ 2014 draft picks was the 22nd of the fifth round (162nd overall). It’s actually the 29th (169th).