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Saints vs. Falcons Final Score: Brandin Cooks Shines in NFL Debut

The New Orleans Saints used the draft and tryouts to assemble a very strong rookie class for 2014. With the Saints Week 1 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons complete, we get to review the performance of many of these rookies in real NFL action!

The first of many TDs (hopefully) by rookie WR Brandin Cooks
The first of many TDs (hopefully) by rookie WR Brandin Cooks
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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 on the active 53-man roster:

WR, Brandin Cooks - The Saints moved up from #27 to #20 to pick Cooks in the first round because he would bring an exciting element to the offense from the WR position. Cooks is the 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner as the best WR in college football as a member of the Oregon State Beavers. Upon joining the Saints for rookie camp, Cooks quickly displayed the skill that caused such hype surrounding him before and after the draft. During the preseason, the speedy wide-out revealed sure hands and shifty feet. In his first real NFL game, Cooks impressed Saints with contributions in receiving, rushing, and returning. Expectations are even higher now! Caught a TD pass in NFL debut versus Falcons.

Season Stats: 7 rec, 77 yards, 1 TD; 1 car 18 yards

CB, Brian Dixon - Dixon is an athletic CB from Northwest Missouri State who signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent. Dixon was a member of the 2013 NCAA Division II Football champion Bearcats and contributed 51 tackles and 6 picks in 25 games with the team.

Season Stats: DNP

OLB, Kasim Edebali - Edebali signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent after playing his college ball at Boston College. As an Eagle, he accumulated 166 tackles and 11 sacks in 49 games. His contributions during the preseason earned him good favor with the coaches and an opening day roster spot. Saw spot duty in week one versus Falcons.

Season Stats: No stats accrued

CB, Stanley Jean-Baptiste

After making an exceptional pick in the 1st round and losing a 3rd round pick in the trade up, the Saints rolled the dice in the 2nd by picking up rangy and raw CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste out of Nebraska. SJB arrived at Nebraska as a wide receiver but later converted to CB. After playing sparingly in 2011, Jean-Baptiste was able to rise to the top of the depth chart and became the top CB on the roster in 2013. Considered by some 'draft experts' as a reach in the 2nd round, SJB fits the mold of big and physical CBs that are required to cover the big receivers across the league.

Season Stats: DNP

OLB, Ronald Powell

Powell was the second of two Saints picks in the 5th round of the draft. A very lean player with a muscular build, Powell has the frame to be a solid pass rusher or coverage backer. The young man looks very fast which is noteworthy because he tore his left ACL twice while in college during his 2012 season at the University of Florida. He bounced back in 2013 with a good season but faced a setback when he strained his left hamstring at the NFL combine. The Saints are beginning a youth movement and LB is definitely a good place to start. Powell has the potential to be a solid contributor and also fill a position on special teams in the meantime. Appeared on special teams in week one versus Falcons.

Season Stats: No Stats

S, Vinnie Sunseri - Sunseri is another player that the Saints selected in the 5th round of the draft who has a recent major knee injury. Like Powell, Sunseri tore his ACL while in college, however Vinnie did so midway through his 2013 season. That's right, he is less than one year removed from the tear and is already making a name for himself. Sunseri is a former Alabama high school defensive player of the year and also a coaches son. Like most players who have fathers that are coaches, Vinnie is a cerebral player with a high football IQ. His instincts seem to always lead him to the ball which was demonstrated in his 23 tackles in preseason and 1 INT, which came on a play where he appeared to be the intended receiver because he read it so well. Appeared on special teams in week one versus Falcons.

Season Stats: No Stats

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!

Stay tuned for Part 2 this week as we cover the players who made the practice squad or are currently injured and not eligible to participate.