The Saints have continued to improve the defense in Day 3 of the NFL Draft. After taking cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste in Round 2, the Black and Gold have gone all defense in Rounds 4 and 5.
Linebacker Khairi Fortt – 6'2, 248lbs – was the 4th Round selection. Fortt transferred to Cal from Penn State and only played one season for the Golden Bears. He played outside linebacker for Cal, but I think he's more suited to play inside linebacker in the Saints 3-4 defense. What I saw watching his tape was an athletic player who can flow well from sideline-to-sideline but still needs some work.
The Saints had two 5th Round picks, and they got two players with a lot of upside. With their first pick, they selected Vinnie Sunseri, a safety out of Alabama.
Sunseri – 5'11, 210lbs – missed a chunk of the 2013 season after tearing his ACL in October; but he appears to have recovered. At Alabama's Pro Day, he ran the 40 yard dash from between 4.48-4.52. Sunseri isn't the most physically gifted player, but he plays his heart out and has incredible football intelligence. Like Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Khairi Fortt, Sunseri is physical. He's a hard-hitting, good tackler. He can play both strong and free safety. Rob Ryan loves playing extra safeties, and he got another great one to add into the rotation.
Check out Sunseri's pick six against Johnny Manziel:
In my Friday Post-Round 1 mock draft, I had the Saints selecting Ronald Powell with their second 5th Rounder pick (169th overall) and that's exactly what happened. Powell – 6'3, 237lbs – was a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker for the Florida Gators. A former #1 overall recruit, his college career was marred by two ACL injuries in 2012. He returned in 2013 and led the Gators in sacks (with 4) but was somewhat inconsistent. However, he's an athletic player who will be two years removed from those ACL injuries; so he should just get better. Another player with a lot of upside. The Saints had the league's 4th best pass rush last season; Powell should add to it.
The Saints are selecting defenders who can contribute immediately and looking ahead to the future. I love, love, love how this draft is shaping up.