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NFL Draft 2013


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captureNew Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton

Media Availability Following Selection of S Kenny Vaccaro

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Opening Statement:

“We’re still working through the end of this first round. We are excited that we were able to get a player that we had kind of put in our cloud that we spent a lot of time on. You really don’t know how things will go in front of you. There were a few trades and you just want to be sure that you have someone that you felt like you’ve done your homework on and had a vision for. With Kenny, clearly he’s a guy that we felt comfortable with and have a good vision for what his skill set is.”


Q: Were the phones ringing with trade offers and possibilities?

A: “For us, no. It was pretty quiet. There wasn’t any discussion that I can recall with any teams.”


Q: Do you see him more as a strong safety or free safety?

A: “He has versatility. I think when you watch him play and you study game tape, he plays a lot of nickel because of the amount of spread offenses they saw in their league last year. There were a lot of snaps where he is down in the paint with two safeties behind him, covering down on the number two. One of the things that is attractive about this player is that he can do that and he’s got that versatility to play not only safety, but to play down over the slot. You saw a lot of evidence of that. In fact, we had to go back and get more snaps of true safety film on him, rather than nickel film. I think he’s versatile enough to play either one of the safety positions and certainly a guy that can handle some of the nickel.”


Q: Typically when you draft a guy in the first round, you’d like for him to come in and play right away. How does this affect the two starters (Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins) that have been there for a while?

A: “We see how it goes when he comes in. We say the same thing every year: we’re going to create competition with everyone in our camps. We felt like if he was available, we were getting an awfully good defensive football player to help our team. Now it will be up to him and us as coaches to get him up to speed along with everyone else. That kind of stuff will sort itself out. There will be a lot of competition, not just at safety.”


Q: Did he play a similar role, like when you interviewed Tracy Porter and Nnamdi Asomugha? Were you looking for a physical coverage guy?


A: “I think in Tracy’s case, he’s played some nickel before, but this is a different player. It is a little unique that you see him play a lot of nickel and you see him play against some really good receivers. Clearly, if you’re in just a two-safety defense and you want to drop him down in a slot formation without removing a linebacker, you can do that. If you want to use him against some of the substituted offensive sets, you can do that. That versatility is unique and something that I think is beneficial.”


Q: How can Roman Harper benefit from the switch to Rob Ryan’s defense?

A: “I’m not going to speculate; you guys can. I think that we’re going to have competition at both safety spots. We’re going to have competition at the nickel position. This is a good young football player that we’re going to add to our defense, and we’ll see what happens.”


Q: How many people did you have on your board when it came to the 15th pick?

A: “There were two, I won’t mention the other guy’s name. You look, and there are a handful of names that you graded very high, but those guys went early. Within that cloud, it got to where there were three picks with two names and so you clearly have to have a backup plan. Both two teams ahead of us took different players and so we were left with two guys that we were going to be real excited about.”


Q: When you won the Super Bowl, you really upgraded your secondary that year. Do you think four years later that getting better in that area was a prerequisite for making that step again?

A: “I think we entered the draft, even the offseason, really about helping our team get better in areas, where could we create competition, are the right players available’ We were able to sign a couple of guys prior to this draft that we felt like we had a pretty good vision for, not just in the secondary but at defensive end, at outside linebacker. I think when you finished where we did and struggled like we did, you look at every possible avenue to help ourselves get better within the framework of the money we have to operate and, most importantly, find the player that you have a vision for that fits what you want them to do rather than just randomly go sign players. So this is a player that you can see a vision for in regards to his versatility, both at a safety position and at a nickel position. But I think entering the draft, I don’t know that you can be that specific.”


Q: When you move into tomorrow with a third round pick, are there any specific groups you guys are looking for?

A: “It is just such a long ways away that you pay close attention to the grade. I think the mistake often times is ‘Well, they need this so they’ll just draft this.’ A lot of these guys getting drafted today may not have success or the success that everyone thinks they’re going to have tomorrow morning once they get up. You hope that you’re finding guys that you feel like are competitive, that are physical, and smart. So when tomorrow comes, there will be obviously a lot that goes on before that pick, and we’ll see where it’s at. We worked on these scenarios for the third round pick, and we have gone as far as the fourth and the fifth round scenarios with just taking players off the board. Based on history over the last ten years, six more corners go. If you do that to your own board, you could begin to have some possible scenarios that develop.”


Q: Did you have any opportunities to move down and how tempting was that?

A: “No. We didn’t want to move down. We would’ve wanted to move down, possibly, if one of those two players weren’t available. But, no.”


Q: Six offensive linemen were first round picks. Is that kind of out of the ordinary?

A: “There has been years when the quarterback position has been strong. Certainly that’s always kind of played a significant role in the first part of the draft. This year, not so much. The tackles were all good players. The grades on a lot of those linemen were real strong. Historically, that position has been probably, I don’t want to say a safer pick, but there has been a better ‘hit ratio’ on offensive tackle than on most other positions. The grades were there on those players. Each one of them in a different way has a lot of talent. (D.J.) Fluker from Alabama, the right tackle, is another player that played exceptionally well and was very durable. It is unusual but each year I think there is. With juniors entering the draft, and I think with the quarterback position, you didn’t see the quarterback, receiver, running back enter into any of that. And so obviously something is happening with these other positions.”


Q: Were there any offensive players that could’ve been in that group if the draft fell a certain way?

A: “Absolutely.”


Q: Did you have any dialogue with Mack Brown about the player (Vaccaro)?

A: “That always will take place, first with the area scout then it will be the cross-check. He’s been interviewed at the combine; we flew him down here for an interview. He was one of our campus visits. We saw every snap he’s played and spoken to everyone that we valued the opinion of and then went back and really paid attention to his resume and that’s what was on tape.”


Q: How do you see him as a blitzer?

A: “I think he’s got very good football intelligence. Part of being a pressure guy from the back end is the anticipation of the snap count, disguise. I think he’s an instinctive player and you see that on tape. I think he’s got a high football IQ, and I think that’s important. I don’t know that he had a lot of pressure opportunities, but I know that he’s had a lot of snaps down over the slot and a lot of snaps back where they were in their base package as opposed to their nickel package.”


Q: Does he have that “Wow!” factor?


A: “I think he’s got that toughness and that suddenness that you would like at that position. I think he brings a physical dimension to his game, which I think he plays with, and I think you can see it when you study the tape. He’s been well-coached; they do a great job there defensively. There were a lot of things to like about him.”


Q: If there were two players left at number 15, it doesn’t sound like there were many surprises?


A: “There weren’t. That was the concern as you go through the various mocks you try to anticipate. That was the concern. I think we felt like there might be a quarterback taken ahead of us, which would push (someone else back). We felt like there might be a defensive tackle picked ahead of us. When that doesn’t happen, then your dots slide in the direction away from you as opposed to towards you. It causes a little bit of grief for ten or fifteen minutes.”


Q: How do you weigh his lack of interceptions this past season?

A: “Well so much of it was down low. He’s got great ball skills. But when you’re taking a player that’s playing zone defense on the back end with eyes to the quarterback, I think you have high production in that area. I think when you bring a player, on tape you see him playing the nickel, a lot of his snaps are eyes in back away from the quarterback because of what he’s being asked to do. He’s carrying the West Virginia receiver (Tavon Austin) across the slot effectively. That’s not uncommon when you’re playing that nickel.”


Q: Do you think Rob Ryan feels comfortable with what you’ve done, not only tonight, but with Keenan Lewis and Victor Butler as well, to be successful?

A: “It’s an ongoing process. Clearly we are on the same page and we go through these scenarios. We’re not in two different rooms up there, we are in one room.”


Q: Does Rob Ryan’s defense provide more man-to-man coverage?


A: “I think its fair to say that we have to be somewhat flexible as we get into the minicamps and the training camps to see, ‘Hey, what are we doing well?’ I think we’ve had a pretty good background in history of playing man-to-man prior to last season. I think that’s part of the art of coaching. In other words, it’s the New Orleans Saints defense no different than the New Orleans Saints offense. We were somewhat flexible and have been with regards to who we and how we evolve both offensively and I think that’s one of the strengths of Rob is to come in and pay close attention to what it is that we do well. I think the mistakes are made often times of saying ‘This is what I’m familiar with doing so we’re going to…’ I think we have to pay attention to it. With this selection, all of the sudden some things potentially change for us. No different from 2006 when there was a certain mindset to what we’re going to do offensively and then all of the sudden, Reggie (Bush) is available and we got three or four more personnel packages in the face of what we may want to do or changes to some degree and I think that’s something that is still ongoing as we get into these later rounds. I think until we get to the padded practices in July, (it’s a process to) try to plug our current players into this defense. Where are the strengths? Do we feel like they fit? I think that’s the challenge.”


Q: How does his versatility help against the spread option/read option offense that many NFC teams are now running?

A: “I think the versatility from his experience seeing some of those offenses is helpful. I think a player than can run and tackle is helpful. I think speed, defensively, is helpful when you’re talking about defending those packages that really present a challenge to you and really stress you defensively with an additional player involved in the run scheme.”


Q: Was the West Virginia film with Tavon Austin one that particularly stood out to you?


A: “Yes. It’s hard to say that there was a lot of great defense played in that game because the score was (a lot). You get to see him do some things in that game that were real impressive and you just continue to watch. You can pick out any game and you could see the same player. That’s a good trait.”

Kenny VaccaroThe Saints selected Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro with the 15th pick of the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night.

Vaccaro is the 10th defensive back drafted by the Saints in the Sean Payton era. Three times in the last 5 years, the Saints have picked a defensive back in the first round.

The Saints drafted cornerback Malcolm Jenkins of Ohio State in 2009, and Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson in 2010.

Head coach Sean Payton said the Saints felt that Vaccaro was “a fit”. Payton said Vaccaro can play safety and nickel cornerback covering a slot receiver.

The  6-0, 214 pound Vaccaro started 32 of 51 games at the University of Texas. Vaccaro started 15 games at strong safety, 13 at free safety, three at strong side outside linebacker, and one at middle linebacker.

Vaccaro had 5 interceptions at Texas, and 21 pass deflections. Vaccaro attended the NFL draft in New York Thursday night. He told reporters by phone that he thought there was a real chance the Saints would draft him.

“I’m excited to come down there and play. It was my last visit and I just had a really good feeling walking out of there that I might be a Saint,” said Vaccaro. “I’m excited to get down there and play some football.”

Payton would not say how the selection of Vaccaro would affect the status of veteran safety Roman Harper.

Payton would only say there would be “competition.”

The draft continues Friday with the second and third rounds. The Saints currently do not own a second round pick.  They do have a pick in round 3, #75 overall.

Saints draft safety Kenny Vaccaro from University of Texas in the 1st round of the 2013 NFL draft.  Ed Daniels reports from Saints headquarters in Metairie.

vaccaro_kenny_2009.jpgQ: I know you visited with the Saints during this process. How do you feel like you fit in with this team considering on defense, they’ve had two starting safeties for a little while?


A: “I’m excited to come down there and play. It was my last visit and I just had a really good feeling walking out of there that I might be a Saint. I’m excited to get down there and play some football.”

Q: How do you feel like you will fit in with this defense?

A: “I’m versatile (and) I can do a lot of different things. I don’t think I have a lot of limitations. I can cover and (handle) run support so I think I can bring that to the team.”

Q: You played both free and strong safety at Texas. Do you know how the Saints plan to use you?

A: “I don’t even know. I plan on doing whatever they tell me to do.”

Q: Throughout this process how much were the Saints in touch with you?

A: “My agent usually does all the talking to the teams and stuff, but yes they showed interest the whole process and the visit went really well for me so I had a good feeling.”

Q: What are some of the things you need to work on?

A: “I think you can always get better as far as tackling technique the way the rules are changing. You have to fit guys in different areas, so you have to change your technique. But like I said, I’ve perfected my craft and my goal is to be the most complete safety I can be and I think I have gotten to that point.”

Q: You only had five interceptions in three years at Texas, was that more because offenses were throwing away from you or the system at Texas?

A: “I was always the nickel and a lot of times when maybe an interception was thrown (it was) because I was locking up the slot receiver on the other side of the field. I actually got offered a spot as a receiver when I first got there so my ball skills are pretty good and I think that’s the reason.”

Q: What were your impressions of Rob Ryan?

A: “We talked a little bit at lunch and I just told my agent that I would love to come and play for him. We hit it off. He is a high energy guy, laid back, but takes football seriously and that’s the type of person I am to the team.”

Q: What was the last 24 hours like being in New York City?

A: “I have been kind of anxious and nervous.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be because I have been working for this my whole life and it’s my time for me to take it to the next level.”

Q: What do you think your strengths are and what are some things you need to work on?

A: “Strengths I’d say just being able to a number of things, free safety, strong safety, nickel and just being compete and being able to come up and hit.  Like I said, you can always fix your tackling technique as a weakness because the game is changing, especially in the NFL.”

Q: What do you think about joining a defense that struggled last year?

A: “I am going to come in and help that.  Obviously they felt like that they needed to fix that and I understand that is what they drafted me for, so that’s my plan.  If I can make an impact early on whether that be special teams (or defense), whatever they want me to do I’m going to do.”

Q: Who helped you pick out your suit?

A: “My agent had a girl that he’s worked with the past couple of years, so we used her to help design my suit.”

Q: Did you and Eric Reid have any friendly wagers about which safety would be taken first?


A: “Not really, we are good friends but we didn’t discuss as far as draft boards and how it was going to go, we have just been trying to enjoy this whole process.”


Q: Do you have a preference between free or strong safety?

A: “I honestly don’t. I’ve played up, down, sideways, I’ve played everything in college so honestly I’m comfortable. I think that’s what I can bring to the team. I’m comfortable in any position they put me in.”

Q: Didn’t you play some linebacker in college too?

A: “Yes, I played some linebacker.  We had some struggles early on stopping the run so I played nickel, I covered the slot, but I also could cancel the running gaps and help the linebackers out.”

Q: Did you get the sense that Rob Ryan’s defense will allow you to move all around the field?

A: “That’s the plan, that’s what I did the past four years.  Put me in a position to succeed and I’ll do it for you.”

Q: Last time the Saints drafted a player from the University of Texas in the first round, Ricky Williams was headed this way. Have you met him?

A: “YesI’ve met him.  He actually works for Longhorn Network now so I have done some commentary with him and sat down with him, talked football on Pro Day actually, so we had the chance to meet.”

Q: Would you talk about your off the field concerns?


A: “Early in my career at Texas, it was immaturity stuff.  I came to school at 17 from a small town to a big city and kind of had to slow my roll, but I’m good now.  I have a son and I understand that every decision I make I’m making for two people and I am not going to give up football for anything.  I’m clean and completely focused on football.”

Capture(NEW ORLEANS SAINTS) – Tonight, the New Orleans Saints selection will be announced by a 13 year old Louisiana boy named Markell Gregoire from Iberia Parish, along with Commissioner Goodell. Markell suffers from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

He is a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Markell was selected by St. Jude’s to fly to New York for night one of the Draft. Part of the NFL and St. Jude partnership is to have the young man “announce a pick” on Thursday night. Of course, his favorite team is the Saints and would like to announce the Saints pick.

Markell has always been an active kid. He loves basketball, football and playing outside. But in late 2009, Markell started to complain of leg pain. His mom, Monique, took him to the doctor, who thought Markell might be exhibiting signs of early arthritis.

One afternoon when Monique picked Markell up from school, she noticed his left knee was terribly swollen. Alarmed, she took him to a local emergency room, where an X-ray revealed a tumor near Markell’s left knee.

The doctor believed Markell suffered from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, and immediately referred the family to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®. “I didn’t know much about cancer,” Monique said. “I was in shock. All I could do was cry.”

At St. Jude, doctors confirmed the diagnosis. Markell underwent nine weeks of chemotherapy, after which he had surgery to remove the tumor with a limb-salvaging procedure, where the diseased bone was replaced with a prosthesis that could be extended as he grew. Markell then underwent 26 more weeks of chemotherapy, as well as physical therapy.

Markell returned home after treatment and visited St. Jude for regular checkups. In June 2012, he started to experience discomfort in his left leg. St. Jude doctors determined that the cancer had returned. Markell’s left leg below his knee had to be amputated. He underwent physical therapy and adjusted quickly to using a prosthetic leg. He was home by the time eighth grade started in fall 2012.

But in early 2013, Markell’s upper left leg began to swell and hurt. At St. Jude, doctors confirmed the cancer was again back. Disease was found above his left knee and in a spot on his neck. This time around, Markell’s treatment is more aggressive. Recently, he underwent surgery to remove the remaining bone and joint in his left leg. He is currently undergoing radiation to his leg and neck, and he will also receive 12 rounds of chemotherapy.

Monique is grateful for the treatment and care Markell has received at St. Jude. “Everyone is so wonderful,” she said. “St. Jude is like a whole different world.” Despite everything he’s been through, Markell is an outgoing kid who loves karaoke, watching sports and playing the Wii.

And as was previously announced, former Saints S Steve Gleason will announce the third-round selection for the team, from Radio City Music Hall.


Saints 2013 Draft

It’s a big three days in April for your New Orleans Saints.

The Saints made some solid moves in veteran free agency, especially when you consider the limited salary cap room the club possesses.

But, here’s a fact: right now, the Saints roster isn’t nearly as good as the one that ended the season with a playoff loss in San Francisco in 2011.

The Saints stellar veteran corp is aging, and the club needs an injection of youth to the roster.

With so many question marks on defense running back Chris Ivory is a luxury. My guess is before or during the draft the Saints will trade him for a draft pick.

What will the Saints do? Well, since Payton arrived in 2006, 19 of the Saints 42 selections have been used on defensive backs and offensive lineman.

The Saints obviously believe growing your own at those spots is critical.

Getting back to the Super Bowl, especially in the NFC, will be extremely difficult, but the Saints can shorten that journey with success in the 2013 NFL Draft.