Saints pick South Alabama wide receiver Kawaan Baker in 7th round

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Kawaan Baker

South Alabama wide receiver Kawaan Baker was selected by the Saints late in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL draft on Saturday.

Chosen 255th overall, the 6-foot-1, 210 pounder caught 51 passes for 659 yards and eight touchdowns last season.

Baker was a playmaker as a receiver in space and on deep routes as well as a dangerous ball carrier on designed running plays over his four years with the Jaguars. His 1.49 10-yard split was the best recorded among this year’s draft eligible receivers.

The Athletic
SUMMARY: Kawaan (kah-WAHN) Baker played baseball, football and track (11.02 100-meters) at Hapeville Charter Academy, finishing with 38 catches for 937 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior. A no-star recruit, he had mostly FCS-level interest until South Alabama entered the picture. Lined up mostly as the H receiver in the slot, Baker’s production increased each season and he finished top three in school history in most receiving categories, including No. 1 in receiving yards (1,829) and touchdown catches (16). He is straight-line explosive with sharp footwork to defeat the jam and make defenders miss (before and after the catch). Though smooth, Baker is more dull than dynamic at the top of routes, limiting separation opportunities. His ball-tracking and route adjustment skills appear more natural than forced.
Overall, Baker needs to cut out the drops, but he checks boxes for speed, strength and tenacity with a feel for finding catches and getting the most out of them.

NFL.com
Overview: Rounds 5-6
Under-the-radar wideout with explosive athleticism and experience to play inside or outside. Baker crushed his pro day with outstanding speed and leaping numbers to go with a huge set of hands. His 1.49-second 10-yard split verifies the tape, as Baker plays with electric acceleration that can help him race past press corners or take a short throw and turn it into a long touchdown. He’s a fluid athlete with natural feet and is developing a feel for separation inside his routes, even though there is more work to do. His ball-tracking is solid, but his hands are very average. Baker hasn’t seen pro-caliber cornerbacks, so an adjustment will be necessary, but he has the traits and talent to be considered one of the sleepers of this draft.

Baker, a native of Atlanta, will compete for a roster spot with New Orleans in a position group that returns intact from last season except for the departure of Emmanuel Sanders, the Saints leading receiver last season.

New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Kawaan Baker
Video Call with New Orleans Media
Saturday, May 1, 2021

For those who aren’t familiar with your game and who you are as a person describe yourself as a player and a human being?
“Man just me as a person I feel like people just have to know that I’m very humble very to myself and I’m very much a competitor. I’ve been a competitor all my life and everything. I’ll say my game, just gave me the ball, so I made plays. I break tackles, I’m real fun to watch.”

First just how special is this for you and also what’s it like for someone who grew up in Atlanta being on the New Orleans Saints now?
“Man the moment is special man, just a blessing man. (I’ve) just been waiting on it my whole life and my dreams coming true. It don’t know no matter where I’m from or where I go. I’m going to work hard, make the best of it. But coming from Atlanta, we Saints fans now.”

You’ve been working your way toward New Orleans. I mean, you’re just two hours away, right?
“Yeah, down in Mobile.”

Where have you lined up the most and where do you envision yourself being the best fit wide receiver positions?
“Throughout my college career, I’ve probably lined up in the slot the most. So I’ll say I’ll have more success there, but I could definitely move around that’s part of my game.”

Could you say who your game is kind of like is just looking at your stats and watching some highlights?
“I’ll say Deebo Samuel, just more of a physical, physical person and can move around make plays, break tackles. I’d relate it to him.”

What’s it like for you just knowing this this type of offense that you’re coming into and the success they have with wide receivers?
“Yes, sir. I am very aware of it. That’s why I was going to sign in free agency with them. Just to give me the best opportunity for myself and to have the best fit there.”

You’re the first University of South Alabama player drafted by the Saints since that program started. How much pride do you take in that?
“Being the first one, I take a lot of pride in just the hard work I put in for these four or five years I’ve been at South (Alabama), just making it out of South in general it’s just huge and for the Saints to give me opportunities. It’s a blessing, man. I just give it up to God and I’m going to make the most of it.”

Did you say you would have signed with the Saints if you hadn’t been drafted? Had you had talks with the saints about that already?
“Yes, sir. I was on the phone with them getting a contract over and everything and then I got a call again and Sean Payton was on the phone saying he had some good news and from there it was up.”

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