The Saints traded up to select Florida Safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to start off the fourth round at 105 instead of 116. Garnder-Johnson (CGJ) stands at 5’10” and weighs in around 210 pounds. He’s a Safety that flies all around the field with his 4.48 speed and can fill a ton of assignments on the defensive side of the ball. He can play single-high, he can stalk in the box, and he plays very well in the nickel, where he played for his final year in Florida.
CGJ was one of my five prospect to watch from this morning. His versatility, special teams value, insane athleticism and speed make him an excellent talent to grab this late in the draft. In his coverage, he allowed a career catch percentage of only 54.8% and a mere 42.5 passer rating when targeted. CGJ was widely mocked as a first-round or early second-round selection so to land him at 105 is just outstanding. His versatility in particular makes hims someone special for this Saints team. CGJ has a ton of fits in New Orleans. Let’s look at the biggest that stand out to me.
Vonn Bell enters the final year of his deal in 2019. If Bell and the Saints, for some reason, cannot get a deal done to bring him back next season, CGJ is a natural fit at his position. So the Saints have protected themselves in the off-chance that they lose a valuable and important aspect to their defense. Sean Payton has been very complimentary of the play of Bell and should see all of those elements he like in CGJ as well.
Next, CGJ played what is referred to as the STAR role in Florida which is basically a nickel corner. This, I think, is his most natural fit because of his speed and physicality. He can fly all over the field and is a violent tackler. His physical nature is built very well for slot protection taking on slot wideouts, Tight Ends, and Running Backs out of the backfield. He fits here just in time as Patrick Robinson enters the second year of his contract with an out looming afterwards. If he proves to be further injury prone moving ahead, the Saints are protected well in that they have CGJ in the wings to take over that nickel role without missing much of a beat.
He might have some impact this season as well. The Saints only played 82 three-safety sets last year and while most like to try and attribute that to Kurt Coleman’s play, it really has more to do with the fact that the Saints finally had an effective nickel corner in Patrick Robinson and then P.J. Williams. While Robinson is healthy, Williams will be the back up in the slot. However, Williams was arrested this offseason with a DUI and might end up suspended for the first portion of the season (think Willie Snead). If that were to happen, the Saints didn’t have a viable back up on the roster in case Robinson ends up hurt again. Now, they do in CGJ.
The Saints traded picks 116 which they received in yesterday’s trade and pick 168 in the fifth round to move up and make this selection. Getting in ahead of the Raiders. They will no longer select, at this time, in the fifth round but have an early sixth round selection only nine picks from 168 at 177. New Orleans hasn’t been shy so far about getting the guys they want. I don’t expect that to stop now.
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