METAIRIE, La. (AP) – The New Orleans Saints moved aggressively to improve their interior blocking in the second round of the draft, trading up 14 spots to take Texas A&M center Erik McCoy with the 48th overall pick they received from Miami.
The decision Friday night to take the 6-foot-4, 303-pound McCoy came after 2018 Pro Bowl center Max Unger’s recent decision to retire.
The move up the draft to snag McCoy also came despite New Orleans’ signing of free-agent center Nick Easton, who started 12 games for Minnesota in 2017 but missed all of last season because of neck surgery.
McCoy asserted that his presence on New Orleans’ roster gives the Saints a player with a combination of “power, strength and speed that’s kind of rare as a center.”
“I’m really good at getting to the second level,” McCoy said, referring to his ability to block downfield. “But I can also maintain a block and really be a pile-mover on the first level.”
The Saints entered the draft seeking immediate contributors who could provide depth to a team that has its sights set on a Super Bowl run after losing in overtime of last season’ NFC title game.
The addition of McCoy holds the potential to improve depth at both center and guard, positions critical to protecting record-setting, 40-year-old quarterback Drew Brees.
“I would say I’m very flexible,” McCoy said. “I have a lot more experience at center, but I played guard pretty much every spring I was at A&M. I have a couple of starts there, and I played it in high school.”
McCoy said he has been to New Orleans only once before but is eager to settle there and start his pro career with an offense that has been among the NFL’s best since coach Sean Payton and Brees both joined the Saints in 2006.
“Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFL,” McCoy said, adding that he also has been impressed by the Saints’ running game and offensive line. “It’s a winning organization.”
McCoy took a redshirt in 2015 before starting the past three seasons for the Aggies. He was a captain in all 13 games for A&M last season and was named offensive MVP at the team banquet after being a top blocker for a unit that gained 6,131 total yards.
The Saints gave up second round picks this year – 62nd overall – and next year in the trade. New Orleans also sent Miami a sixth rounder this year in exchange for a fourth-rounder.
New Orleans entered the draft with no picks in the first, third or fourth rounds, having traded those away in 2018 in deals that brought in defensive end Marcus Davenport, cornerback Eli Apple and reserve QB Teddy Bridgewater.
In addition to their newly acquired fourth rounder, the Saints now have one remaining pick in both the fifth and sixth rounds, and two in the seventh.