The New Orleans Saints drafted Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks 20th overall after trading with Arizona to move up from the 27th slot in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night.
In addition to the 27th overall pick, the Saints also sent their third-round pick to the Cardinals, who selected safety Deone Bucannon of Washington State with the 27th pick overall..
Cooks caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013, when he won the Biletnikoff award as the top receiver in the nation.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Cooks is also fast, having run the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds at the NFL combine. But it wasn’t just his talent and his measurable skills that made him attractive enough to the New Orleans that the Saints felt compelled to trade up to get snag him, coach Sean Payton said.
“One thing about him that stood out is he’s a tough player both physically and mentally,” Payton said. “He’s been very consistent, very durable. Obviously, he runs well.
“His interview was fantastic,” Payton added. “A lot of intangibles besides just his skill set as a player that were really exciting.”
Now Cooks joins one of the NFL’s elite passing attacks, led by record-setting quarterback Drew Brees.
The Saints ranked second in the NFL in passing last year, averaging 307.4 yards per game. But this offseason, New Orleans released receiver Lance Moore (37 catches, 457 yards, two TDs) and traded speedy running back Darren Sproles, who was also a receiving threat, catching 71 passes out of the backfield or from in the slot for 604 yards and two touchdowns.
Sproles also returned kickoffs and punts.
For those reasons, Payton said the Saints had identified an elite, versatile receiver who can be a deep threat, as well as a special teams standout, as “a need” in this draft.
“We just saw this guy as a real good fit,” Payton said. “In this case he filled a need. ... He does give us a (deep) threat and he’s a guy that can be used in a lot of ways.”
Arizona’s selection of the 6-foot-1, 211-pound Bucannon adds a needed component to a defense that was ranked sixth in the NFL last season but had difficulty defending the league’s big tight ends. He joins second-year safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is coming back from knee surgery.
Bucannon had 15 interceptions as a four-year starter at Washington State.
Arizona had only six picks before the draft-night trade, having sent its seventh-round selection to Oakland as part of the Carson Palmer trade.