Brian Allee-Walsh

When the Saints traded up in the draft, I expected more. But there’s logic in the pick.

Texas A&M center Erik McCoy had an impressive showing at the NFL Combine, running a sub-4.9-second 40-yard dash and putting up 29 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
Texas A&M center Erik McCoy had an impressive showing at the NFL Combine, running a sub-4.9-second 40-yard dash and putting up 29 reps on the 225-pound bench press. Texas A&M Athletics

Utilitarian.

That’s the word that came to mind when the New Orleans Saints traded up 14 spots in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday night to take Texas A&M center Erik McCoy.

After devoting countless hours evaluating hundreds of draft-eligible players and spending tens of thousands of owner Gayle Marie Benson’s dollars, the best General Manager Mickey Loomis and all the Saints’ scouting department could do was settle on a center.

C’mon. A center.

A plain, ol’ homogenized Texas-born, -raised and -educated center; a player designed to be useful and practical on a football field rather than splashy, trashy and flashy.

Not an edge rusher, or a quarterback, or another play toy for quarterback Drew Brees and play-caller extraordinaire Sean Payton, or a defender who creates turnovers or delivers bone-jarring hits, but a player who snaps the ball and operates all game-long in virtual obscurity.

BORRRING!

McCoy does spell his first name with a K and not a C, so he does have that going for him.

Look, I get it: McCoy, 21, fills a need. He should challenge free-agent signee Nick Easton and others for the vacancy created by the sudden retirement of veteran center Max Unger. McCoy’s pre-draft profile is impeccable: A team captain as a red-shirt junior at A&M, he’s regarded as an excellent pass- and run-blocker, is smart and quite athletic for his size (6-4, 303) but needs work on his shotgun snapping.

I guess I was expecting more when I heard the Saints had worked a deal with the Miami Dolphins to move up from No. 62 to No. 48 in the second round. The second coming of Michael Thomas or Alvin Kamara, perhaps. Too, a team can never have enough good corners, pass rushers, linebackers and running backs.

If nothing else, McCoy should provide depth and versatility. He also can play guard, though Payton said his primary position will be center for the time being.

Know this: The Saints traded their second-round pick, plus a sixth-rounder this year (No. 202 overall) and a second-round pick in 2020 for Miami’s No. 48 pick and No. 116 pick (fourth round). So, McCoy must have been highly graded on the Saints draft board and team officials feared he would be gone if they had stayed put at No. 62.

So they took a leap of faith.

McCoy finds himself in rarefied Who Dat air. By my calculations, only one true center other than McCoy has been picked higher by the Saints. In 1983, the Saints took Arkansas strongman Steve Korte with the 38th overall pick and he switched to guard with the arrival of Iowa center Joel Hilgenberg (fourth round) in ‘84. In 2002, the Saints selected Ohio State guard LeCharles Bentley at No. 44 and he eventually became a Pro Bowl center in New Orleans before injuries short-circuited his NFL career in Cleveland.

Time will tell if Erik is the real McCoy.

For now, he’s nothing more than the center of attention.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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