Saints Pleased With Top Draft Picks After Rookie Minicamp

For the New Orleans Saints' coaching staff, the chance to get a good first look at the six players they selected in the draft last month wasn't the only objective when they held a three-day rookie minicamp.

Since the arrival of coach Sean Payton in 2006, the Saints have used the rookie minicamp to take a look not only at their picks and the undrafted free agents they signed in the hours after the draft, they've taken advantage of the opportunity to kick the tires on a few veterans as well with nothing to lose.

While the Saints were eager to get their two first-round draft picks -- Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore and Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk -- integrated into their system, they had their eyes on a lot of other players.

"Listen, he is doing well like the rest of these guys," Payton said of Lattimore, who was expected to be a top-five or top-six pick before falling to the Saints at No. 11. "He's going out there and getting the calls. They're getting a lot installed right now, but he's a quick study and he's picked it up."

Ramczyk, who was chosen 32nd overall with the pick the Saints received from the New England Patriots in the Brandin Cooks trade, has been something of a surprise. The potential heir apparent at right tackle to veteran Zach Strief, Ramczyk had surgery on a torn labrum in his hip in January and wasn't expected to be ready until training camp.

But he arrived at minicamp ahead of schedule in his rehab and could participate before the Saints wind up their off-season work in mid-June.

"He's receiving a lot of work, but he's not receiving the team work," Payton said. "He probably is three to four weeks out with his labrum, but he's picking things up very quickly. He's in good shape and much further along than really we anticipated even with his surgery. It's been good, been a good exposure."

Getting a chance to see safety Marcus Williams (second round) and running back Alvin Kamara, linebacker Alex Anzalone and defensive end Trey Hendrickson (all third-rounders) was important as well. Especially Anzalone, who might have been picked higher had he not had some injury problems at Florida.

Payton said he has the ability to play the Will and Mike spots and possibly Sam as well for a team that is perennially searching for linebackers.

At the same time, the Saints wanted to make sure they are leaving no stone unturned in bringing in 50 players on a tryout basis -- including five veterans -- as well as the free agents they've already signed even if it is a difficult process.

"Every year, we can find Jake Lampman, we can find Khiry Robinson, we can find Billy Miller, we can find these players that were tryout players," Payton said. "Certainly, with the way you're practicing it's a little bit harder to do.

"But we watch the tape with the scouts and look at every drill trying to make sure we're properly evaluating every one of these guys. Not just the guys that are under contract, but the 55 players who are here for a three-day workout."

Saints Expect Unger To Return In Preseason - Thumbnail Image

Saints Expect Unger To Return In Preseason

The Saints were missing one of their top undrafted free agents when they held their rookie minicamp.

According to the NFL Transactions report on Friday, the first day of their minicamp, the team waived rookie guard Collin Buchanan with a "left squad" designation. Buchanan, a former Miami (Ohio) standout who started 33 games during his college career, was one of the Saints' top signees after the draft. He was a second-team All-Mid American Conference pick this past season.

The 6-foot-5, 316-pound Buchanan started 12 games at right tackle in 2016 and was one of the reasons Miami (Ohio) averaged 136.3 yards rushing per game last season.

As a priority free agent, Buchanan was given a $10,000 signing bonus and was guaranteed $10,000 of his base salary, according to the New Orleans Advocate.

"Thursday night we met, Friday he came in and spent some time in my office and he felt confident he didn't want to play anymore," Payton said Saturday. "That happens from time to time.

"Look, I told him this ... and it's the truth, really, it's not for everyone," Payton added. "He was just one of those players that felt like he was ready to get on with his next life job."

Needing extra bodies to get through a three-day minicamp, the Saints, as they usually do, brought a handful of veteran players in on a tryout basis this weekend.

Among the players trying out were offensive linemen Bryce Harris and Khalif Barnes, who both have a little history with the team; wide receiver Louis Murphy and tight end Clay Harbor.

Harris played with the Saints from 2012 to 2014 before playing with the Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins the last two seasons. Barnes was signed several times last season as an injury fill-in.

Murphy previously played with the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last season, he played in six games with the Bucs and caught 10 passes for 198 yards. Harbor has been in the league since the 2010 season, playing for the Eagles, Lions, Patriots and Jaguars during that time.

Copyright © 2017 TTWN Media Networks Inc. Photo: Getty Images

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