NFL draft: Saints take CB Robinson in first round
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
METAIRIE, La. — Two years in a row, the New Orleans Saints have put their secondary first in the NFL draft.
The Saints selected cornerback Patrick Robinson out of Florida State with the 32nd overall pick on Thursday night, adding depth to a pass defense that ranked 26th in the NFL in yards passing allowed per game with 235.6.
The move gives the defending champions the flexibility to move last year's first-round choice, cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, to safety if they are unable to bring back free agent Darren Sharper.
"They'll be a lot of scenarios discussed, and we've got a lot of time to sort it out," head coach Sean Payton said. "Malcolm had an outstanding season in his first year and made a lot of plays that impacted games. We're excited about another young corner."
Teams passed for a lot of yards against New Orleans, in part because they had to. The Saints have had the No. 1 offense in the NFL for three of the last four seasons and in 2009 led the league in scoring with 31.9 points per game.
When Saints opponents fell behind, they were virtually forced to throw. And during stretches of the regular season when injuries sidelined starting cornerbacks Tracy Porter (sprained left knee) and Jabari Greer (sports hernia), New Orleans yielded a pile of yards passing.
"Cornerback was a position that we felt like we'd like to address," Payton said. "We went through some injuries, and we all appreciate the importance of having solid play out there. When we were healthy, you saw the difference defensively. It's a position that's hard to find in free agency."
The Saints were expected to use their top pick on a defensive player in an effort to strengthen a unit that ranked 25th in the NFL in yards allowed (357.8 per game) in 2009.
Robinson, who is 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, will give the Saints another potential nickel back behind their starting cornerback tandem of Porter and Greer.
"I know they play a lot of man-to-man defense and that's something I was doing when I was at Florida State, so that's a great thing for me," Robinson said by phone from his family's home in Miami. "I'm just excited to be a Saint. I'm very excited to come in and show exactly what I'm made of."
Robinson had seven interceptions during his Seminoles career, but none last season and only one in 2008 after picking off six passes during his sophomore season in 2007. He was also implicated in an academic fraud incident at Florida State that resulted in a four-game suspension, including the bowl game at the end of the 2007 season and the first three games in 2008.
In 2009, he started all 12 of Florida State's games and was credited with 52 tackles, 11 passes defended and two forced fumbles. He also returned 11 kickoffs for 218 yards, with a long of 32 yards.
Before the draft, Robinson visited a number of teams, including Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Minnesota, the New York Jets, Detroit, San Diego.
The Saints went into the second round with five remaining draft choices — the 32nd pick in every remaining round but the fifth, when they had no pick.
They still appear to have needs at linebacker. Starting outside linebacker Scott Fujita left for Cleveland in free agent and the Saints have yet to sign a free agent linebacker to replace him.
In picking Robinson, the Saints passed on TCU linebacker Daryl Washington, one of the top prospects at his position and the leading tackler on the top-ranked college defense in the nation last season.
"There are still a couple of positions you would like to be able to address in the draft and hopefully as (Friday) progresses and finishes on Saturday ... I think it would be a little bit easier to talk about those spots," Payton said. "But we're excited that we were able to add another good defensive back that has ball skills and plays with confidence and really has done a good job, not just in one year. He's had a pretty productive career."