April 26, 2008

Tracy Porter, cornerback, Indiana

Second Round - 9th Pick - #40 Overall
Tracy Porter, cornerback, Indiana
5'11, 188 pounds, 4.29 40 yard dash, 18 reps of 225

Porter, 21, is a very fast, very athletic cornerback. A former basketball and track star, Porter didn't play football until 2003, during his senior year of high school. He was recruited by Nick Saban at LSU and the Indiana University, but IU offered first and Porter stuck to his commitment.

He is a native of Port Allen, which is directly west across the Mississippi river from Baton Rouge, only 75 miles northwest of New Orleans.

Porter has natural man-to-man skills, though his game obviously needs refinement. He has adequate size but a thin frame, and plays with more finesse than physicality. He's a gambler but has quickness to recover, and is a lousy tackler at this point.

The Saints clearly like him for his athletic ability and cover skills, but they'll need to prod him to take his willingness and aggressiveness to the NFL level. On the positive side, like many college cornerbacks he doesn't rely on contact and hopefully won't become a flag factory in New Orleans.

The reason he was drafted over other cornerbacks at #40, like Reggie Smith, Justin King, Tyvon Branch or Antwaun Molden, was his return ability. Porter was one of the better punt returners in the country, and he scored collegiate touchdowns on an interception return and punt return. He was an All Big Ten cornerback pick. Porter is dangerous in the open field and had unteachable balance and agility.

At IU he started all four years, 43 starts total, improving his game some each year. Finished with 16 interceptions in college, six as a senior.

Like Ellis, Porter was outstanding at the Senior Bowl and flashed elite cover skills. He ran a 4.37 at the Combine and then left smoke trails at his pro day by running a 4.29. Clearly, Porter is an experienced, elite athlete.

Injuries are not unknown to him. A broken collarbone in 2004 was carefully checked out. He might be criticized for lack of real physical tackling, but his toughness shouldn't be bundled in with that. Porter led the Hoosiers defense on the field as a team captain through various injuries including a concussion.

Rob "Boomer" Rang of NFLDraftScout.com's scouting report:

One of the few top talents to leave the state of Louisiana, Porter quickly established himself among the Big Ten's elite athletes while at Indiana. Scouts would like to see more toughness and physicality out of Porter, but his legitimate speed and burst give him the athleticism to rank as one of the better cover corner prospects of the 2008 draft -- and a likely Top 40 pick.

Alternatives: Here at NOPF, we love the pick, as we selected Porter to be taken by the Saints in our last three mock drafts. Its the highest the Saints have taken a cornerback in years and a needed one too. No cornerbacks were picked 20 picks after Porter, which makes sense as Porter was the last of his tier of quality at the position. Behind him are Penn State's Justin King, Oklahoma's Reggie Smith, East Kentucky's Antwuan Molden and Connecticut's Tyvon Branch. Defensive back Tyrell Johnson out of Arkansas State went to Minnesota three picks later and would have made sense. Another local product, Tulane's Matt Forte, Notre Dame DT Trevor Laws, USC TE Fred Davis, Auburn DE Quentin Groves were other sensible choices at 40.

We were expecting not a draft pick but a trade at 40, however. The Saints were tightly linked to trades involving veterans TE Jeremy Shockey and CB Lito Sheppard, but they didn't budge off their offer. When the Saints selected at 40, both these trades became unlikely.

Impact on the Saints: As 2007 third-round pick Usama Young ascends, Porter fills in. Look for Porter to fill in as a dime back as a rookie, anything more substantive than that is an pleasant but unexpected surprise. Porter is simply not yet ready to face the class of the NFC South yet (Steve Smith, Joey Galloway, Roddy White), though he can likely run with any of them. As a return man, Porter should see more face time and will challenge Reggie Bush for every punt return and kick return in the preseason.

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