|NFL DRAFT: Saints select WR Meachem with first pick|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 28 April 2007 15:20|
The Saints chose Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem with their first-round pick in the NFL draft on Saturday, hoping he'll help quarterback Drew Brees repeat his league-leading passing totals of 2006.
``I know they had the top offense in the league with some young receivers just like me, a young Reggie Bush, a great quarterback and a great offense,'' Meachem said. ``I am very excited right now.''
Meachem, the 27th pick overall, will join a receiving corps that lost veteran Joe Horn, who asked to be waived during an offseason salary dispute and signed as a free agent with NFC South Division rival Atlanta.
Meachem confidently asserted that he would pick up where Horn left off ``in every area,'' then wavered when asked if that included Horn's flamboyant, outspoken style.
``I'm going to do my best,'' he said, chuckling.
In choosing Meachem, the Saints passed on talented Arkansas cornerback Chris Houston. But the Saints' need for help in the defensive backfield was not as urgent after the acquisition a day earlier of restricted free agent Jason David.
David, entering his fourth season in the NFL, played for the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis, but the Colts declined to match a four-year, $15.6 million offer from New Orleans by Friday's deadline.
With David and Mike McKenzie the Saints' apparent starting cornerbacks, New Orleans turned its attention back to its offense.
``We worked this offseason to put ourselves into a position that we could take the best player available to us and that's what happened,'' Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said. ``That's been successful for us in the past - guys like Will Smith and Deuce McAllister - so we definitely wanted to go into this draft with that approach.
``At the end of day, (Meachem) was the highest-rated player on the board when we picked - significantly so. That's what it kind of came down to,'' Loomis said.
Loomis said the Saints talked to other teams about trades that could have resulted in a higher pick for New Orleans. He declined to say which teams were involved in the negotiations or which player the Saints hoped to secure by making such a deal.
Meachem will compete with Terrance Copper and David Patten to join Marques Colston and Devery Henderson as a starter.
Last year, Colston, picked in the seventh and final round of the 2006 draft out of Division I-AA Hofstra, surprisingly ended up as New Orleans' most productive receiver. New Orleans didn't count on finding a late-round treasure this time, snatching up one of the top-rated receivers in the entire draft.
``There's a lot of things about him, his size and speed, his hands,'' Loomis said. ``We were surprised that he was available to us at 27, but I think someone said accurately this is a deep draft for wide receivers, so it's a nice addition for us.''
In 37 games at Tennessee, the 6-foot-2, 214-pound Meachem caught 125 passed for 2,140 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.
Last season, he led Tennessee with a career-high 71 receptions, 11 for touchdowns, and compiled a school single-season-record 1,298 receiving yards.
``Just like Reggie Bush, I bring yards after the catch,'' Meachem said. ``I played running back just like him and then I moved over to receiver. My yards after the catch is real important to me. I hate to get tackled by the first guy.''
The Saints traded their second-round pick, 58th overall, to Detroit in exchange for the Lions' third-round choice, 66th overall, and a fifth-round pick, 145th overall.
The deal meant the Saints would have two picks in the third round and two in the fifth, along with two they already had in the fourth round and one in the seventh.