NFL Wire News

Saints get bulk on line with selection of Peat


The Sports Xchange

NEW ORLEANS — The common belief was that the New Orleans Saints would eye a pass rusher or wide receiver with the first of their two picks in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday.

They fooled everyone and filled neither spot with the 13th and 31st selections in the opening round — the latter coming in the trade that sent All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks in March.

The Saints overlooked glaring needs when they passed on Kentucky outside linebacker Alvin “Bud” Dupree and Louisville wideout DeVante Parker with their first choice, shocking everyone when they took Stanford tackle Andrus Peat and later Clemson inside linebacker Stephone Anthony.

With a desire to beef up an offensive line that at times had quarterback Drew Brees running for his life last season, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton took a big step toward making sure the face of the franchise has enough protection for however many years he will play.

While the Saints have two returning starters at the position in third-year pro Terron Armstead, who plays left tackle, and 10-year veteran Zach Strief, who plays on the right side, they need to make sure Brees can stay healthy for the final two years of his contract, and that trumped the other two areas of need.

It wasn’t immediately known where the 6-foot-7, 315-pound Peat, who played left tackle at Stanford, will fit in because it is unlikely that Armstead, a third-round draft pick in 2013, or Strief would move inside to guard.

Peat was one of the top pass blockers in college football last season. He gave up just two sacks and seven pressures in 423 pass-blocking assignments and did not allow a quarterback hit.

The Saints sent a message that their offensive line will look different in 2015 when they traded former Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs to the Kansas City Chiefs and acquired Pro Bowl center Max Unger as part of the deal that shipped Graham to the Seahawks.

“We viewed (tackle) as a position that wasn’t a high priority in the draft, but it was certainly a need position,” Payton said. “Maybe not a must, but a need.

“Terron and Zach, shoot, one’s a veteran, experienced, tremendous leader for us at right tackle and the other one is a real sharp and talented left tackle. Andrus will come in, and I’m sure we’ll give him reps at both positions.”

Payton cited the team’s philosophy of drafting players who are highest-ranked on their board when their pick comes up regardless of position.

“It would be easy if you were just selecting right where you need a player, and honestly I don’t think that’s the right way to approach it,” he said. “We’ve never approached it that way. I feel like we’ve got a real good offensive lineman coming in.”

The Saints hoped they found a suitable replacement for linebacker Curtis Lofton, whom they released in March, when they took Anthony with the 31st pick.

Anthony, who was projected as a late first- or second-round pick by most draft analysts, is expected to play the middle linebacker spot although Payton said he could possibly play outside as well.

The first inside linebacker taken in the draft, Anthony had 75 tackles, including 10.5 for a loss, and 2.5 sacks last season.

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