Welcome Back Who Dat Nation! This week we begin season 2 of the Rookie Run-Down series where we review and discuss the New Orleans 2014 rookie class. In the new version of the Run-Down, we will cover the players who were drafted this spring and also the undrafted free agents (Thanks CC58). Each week we will look at the rookies who actually suit up on game day and provide a quick status report of the players who are on the practice squad or are injured. The grading system will be fluid and applied quarterly to gauge the performance of the players. The crop of young talent this year is led by 1st round draft pick Brandin Cooks who is exciting to watch when he touches the ball!
And now the introductions!
Currently signed to practice squad:
WR, Brandon Coleman - Coleman joined the Saints as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers University. He is a big target who physically looks like Marques Colston but taller. The 6'6" WR experienced highs and lows in training camp which landed him on the practice. If he can become more consistent in catching passes, Coleman could be a good addition to the deep Saints receiving corps.
TE, Nic Jacobs - Jacobs is a McNeese State (Lake Charles, La.) product who spent his first 3 years of college at LSU while receiving little to no playing time. While with the Cowboys, Jacobs caught 13 TD passes while performing against lesser competition than he faced in the SEC. Another big target who requires some development, Jacobs could contribute to the run game by demonstrating exceptional blocking. Realistically, the opportunity is there when Ben Watson moves on, assuming Jacobs can hang around until then.
WR, Seantavius Jones - Jones attended Valdosta State and appeared in 49 games in college. He was 1st Team All Gulf Coast Conference in 2012 & 13 and caught a total of 33 TDs in college. Jones possesses speed and good hands but will need to improve his route running to crack the active roster. Earning a practice squad spot after a camp that was deep at WR is a good start for Mr. Jones.
T, Tavon Rooks - Rooks is a right tackle who was drafted in the 6th round out of Kansas State. Rooks played 2 years at Navarro Junior College then enrolled at KSU for his junior and senior seasons. Rooks started 23 of 26 games at KSU and is considered a solid pass and run blocker with is an asset to any team. The Saints recently made a deal with RT Zach Strief to stay in New Orleans, but this can be considered an opportunity to groom Rooks into his eventual replacement.
NT, Lawrence Virgil - Virgil is undrafted free agent who signed with the Saints in May and played his college football at Valdosta State like Seantavius Jones. In 3 years as a starter for VSU, Virgil collected 14.5 sacks and 126 tackles from the DE position. At the pro level, his 6'5" 290 lb frame lends more to the NT/DT position in Rob Ryan's 3-4 hybrid defense. With plenty of depth ahead of him on the roster, Virgil can use this season to train his body and mind and remain ready just in case he is called to the active roster by season's end.
S, Pierre Warren - Warren signed as an undrafted free agent out of Jacksonville State in May. He started 2 seasons and picked off 8 passes, returning 2 for TDs. Warren is a bigger Safety at 6'2', 200 lbs, but is very athletic. His preseason was a mixed bag as his camp was outstanding but his game-day performances never quite matched up with his flashes from practice. Warren was also unfortunate to be in a battle for a roster spot at a position that ran 6 deep with at least 4 players who could start on half the teams in the league.
Injured Reserve designated to return:
OLB, Khairi Fortt - Fortt is a 4th round draft pick from the University of California. In the vein of this year's crop of rookies, Fortt is also recovering from an injury (bicep) that cut his senior season short. Prior to his playing days at Cal, Fortt was a special teams contributor at Penn State but took the opportunity the Sandusky situation presented and bolted to the Golden Bears. Though he was eligible to play right away, Fortt took a red-shirt season to recover from surgery to repair his patella in 2012. Unlike the other wounded warriors in this class, Fortt couldn't shake his injury-riddled past and strained his hamstring at the combine then subsequently landed on the on the Saints IR with a designation to return. He is eligible to practice after week 6 and play in games after week 8.
Injured Reserve lost for season:
S, Ty Zimmerman - Zimmerman is an undrafted free agent from Kansas State. Like Sunseri, he's a coaches' son who uses his training, teaching, and high football IQ to keep him around the ball. In 48 games, 42 starts, in college Zimmerman totaled 256 tackles and 13 interceptions, impressive for a safety. Sticking to the current script, Zimmerman also has an injury that is preventing him from contributing right away for the team. More film study won't hurt this player and with the depth at safety in New Orleans, he wouldn't have many opportunities this season anyway.
The Saints have done an impressive job in building a solid class of rookies. It is no surprise that the collection of late rounds picks and UDFAs has performed well when you consider the history of PayLoo in the drafts. What may surprise some is the fact that it appears the Saints have hit on consecutive 1st round picks! I'm expecting a strong season from this rookie class! Stay tuned as we follow their journey through their first NFL season as a member of the Black and Gold family of the New Orleans Saints!