METAIRIE, La. (AP) — The New Orleans Saints turned their attention to defense in the second round of the NFL draft, selecting defensive back Alontae Taylor out of Tennessee on Friday night.
Taylor, 6-foot, 195 pounds, had four interceptions during his time with the Vols, including two last season. He made 162 tackles in his career.
Former Tennessee head coach “Bob Pruett saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself,” Taylor said shortly after being drafted. “He said with my physicality, if I want to go to the NFL, cornerback might be my best opportunity.”
While Taylor played primarily cornerback in college, the Saints might take a look at him at safety or nickel-back where they have more pressing needs.
New Orleans lost its starting safeties from last season when Marcus Williams signed with Baltimore as a free agent and Malcolm Jenkins retired. The Saints added former Jets safety Marcus Maye in free agency.
C.J. Gardner-Johnson has emerged as a defensive leader at nickel-back and the Saints have solid starting cornerbacks in Marshon Lattimore and Bradley Roby. Lattimore was a No. 1 pick in 2017 and has been one of the team’s top defenders. The Saints traded a third-round draft choice to Houston last season to acquire Roby and recently signed him to a new contract.
They also recently re-signed backup cornerback P.J. Williams.
If he does end up having to move, Taylor has shown he is adaptable.
He arrived at the Tennessee as a wide receiver, but quickly switched to cornerback and became a starter as a freshman.
“They didn’t mention a specific position to me,” Taylor said of the Saints. “I can play corner, nickel or even safety. Whatever the Saints need me to do I’m willing to do and I feel like I will have a lot of success.”
Tennessee secondary coach Willie Martinez agrees.
“He was a quarterback in high school,” said Martinez, who recruited Taylor. “There was a fight on our staff about which side of the ball he was going to play because he was a really good athlete.
“We don’t recruit corners or safeties. We recruit DBs. You have to be very versatile,” Martinez said. “He could have played inside for us last year. He could have played nickel or safety. He’s very physical and a very cerebral player.”
New Orleans does not have another pick until the fifth round Saturday. It also has a sixth-round pick.
The Saints focused on the offense Thursday night in the first round of the draft.
The Saints traded third- and fourth-round picks to Washington and moved up from No. 16 to No. 11. They selected Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave with that pick before taking Northern Iowa tackle Trevor Penning at No. 19.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL