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Did Saints draft their QB of the future?

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METAIRIE, La. — After using the 13th pick in the first round of the draft to acquire a tackle who can protect quarterback Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints may have selected his successor with the 75th selection in the third round.

The Saints started the draft on Thursday night by taking Stanford tackle Andrus Peat even though it wasn’t a big need area for them. Sixty-two picks later, they chose Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson to perhaps replace Brees whenever he’s finished.

Saints fans have been getting nervous the last few seasons, wondering when they were finally going to draft the heir-apparent to Brees, who has made the Pro Bowl in eight of his nine seasons with the Saints.

That day may have come Friday when the Saints were able to snag him with the first of their two third-round picks.

Saints coach Sean Payton worked out several quarterbacks and put a second-round grade on Grayson, then hand-picked him as the only one of those players he wanted.

“Throw out the grade,” Payton said. “He was a player we wanted.”

“I’m just extremely excited to get behind him and learn as much as I can,” Grayson, who had 7,702 yards, 55 touchdowns and 18 interceptions the past two seasons, said of possibly playing behind Brees. “I’m going to come down there and compete like I’m the starter, like any position should.

“I’m just extremely excited to learn from him, and hopefully, I’ll learn as much as I can to prepare me through the next couple years.”

–At least one NFL personnel executive liked the decision the Saints made to get Grayson in the draft, saying that the former Colorado State star might have been the best quarterback in the draft.

The executive, who asked to remain anonymous, told USA Today he wouldn’t be surprised if Grayson winds up being a better quarterback than the first two players taken in the draft — Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.

“I just think he’s got the intangibles,” the exec said. “He’s got a good presence about himself in the pocket. He’s got the physical traits. His arm is strong enough, and I think he’s got the right temperament.”

–While the Saints were expected to maybe do a little wheeling and dealing during the draft after going into it with nine selections overall, they were kind of quiet on the trade front during the three-day process.

Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis have been known for their trades during the draft, but they chose to stick with what they had and wound up taking nine players in the seven-round draft.

They did make one minor deal when they traded their sixth-round pick this season (No. 187 overall) and a 2016 sixth-rounder to the Washington Redskins to get back into the fifth round after earlier making two picks in their round.

The Saints used the 167th pick obtained from the Redskins to take Georgia cornerback Damian Swann, who is said to be at his best in bump-and-run coverage like Saints starters Keenan Lewis and Brandon Browner.

Swann had eight interceptions during his career, including four last season, and he also broke up 25 passes.

–The nine players chosen by the Saints was the most since 2002 under coach Jim Haslett.

Prior to this season, the largest draft class for Payton was in his first season in 2006 when he had eight picks — several of whom played key roles when the Saints won their only Super Bowl in 2009.

A closer look at the Saints’ picks:

–Round 1/13 — Andrus Peat, T, 6-7, 316, Stanford

The Saints wanted extra protection for Drew Brees, which came in the form of Peat, an All-America selection that started his last 27 games at left tackle.

–Round 1/31 — Stephone Anthony, ILB, 6-3, 243, Clemson

Excelled against the run and the pass at Clemson with 34.5 tackles behind the line, 9.5 sacks and three interceptions in starting 35 games.

–Round 2/44 — Hau’oli Kikaha, OLB, 6-2, 253, Washington

Certainly fills the need of a pass rusher for the Saints who led the nation with 19 sacks last season after coming back from two ACL surgeries.

–Round 3/75 — Garrett Grayson, QB, 6-2, 213, Colorado State

Could this productive passer, the Mountain West Conference player of the year, be the heir-apparent to Drew Brees in a couple years?

–Round 3/78 — P.J. Williams, CB, 6-0, 194, Florida State

Well-known for his leaping ability, the Saints are hoping he can add some depth behind starters Keenan Lewis and Brandon Browner.

–Round 5/148 — Davis Tull, OLB, 6-2, 246, Tennessee-Chattanooga

The Saints like the pass-rushing ability of Tull, whose rare combination of size, speed and strength helped him collect 10 sacks last season.

–Round 5/154 — Tyeler Davison, DT, 6-2, 316, Fresno State

Big player in the middle can also pressure the quarterback with 14.5 sacks the last two seasons, but could be asked to play outside as well in 3-4.

–Round 5/167 — Damian Swann, CB, 6-0, 189, Georgia

Saints had to trade up to get a shot at Swann, whose forte is in bump-and-run coverage like their two current starters — Lewis and Browner.

–Round 7/230 — Marcus Murphy, RB/KR, 5-9, 198, Missouri

The Saints were in need of an all-purpose threat like Murphy, who also returned seven kicks for touchdowns while at Missouri.


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