Saints trade up in second round to take Texas A&M center Erik McCoy

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The New Orleans Saints traded up 14 spots in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft to select Texas A&M center Erik McCoy with the No. 48 pick Friday night.

To move up, New Orleans sent its initial second-round pick (No. 62) as well as the higher of its sixth-round picks (No. 202) and a 2020 second-round pick to the Miami Dolphins.

The Miami Dolphins sent the No. 48 pick and a fourth-rounder (No. 116) to the Saints for the No. 62 overall pick, a sixth-round pick (No. 202) and a 2020 second-round pick. Miami then traded the No. 62 pick with their 2020 fifth round selection to the Arizona Cardinals for second-year quarterback Josh Rosen.

A team captain for the Aggies, the 6-foot-4, 303 pound McCoy started all 39 games of his college career including 37 at center. He did not allow a sack at A&M.

The Saints lost Max Unger to retirement earlier this year but signed former Vikings center Nick Easton in free agency. Easton has also played guard in the NFL while McCoy is expected by draft analysts to compete for immediate snaps.

New Orleans Saints Center Erik McCoy
2019 NFL Draft Media Availability
Friday, April 26, 2019

“Thank you. I appreciate it a lot.”

Where are you right now?
“I’m back in my hometown, Lufkin, Texas with my family.”

Are you having a little party? Big party? What’s going on?
“It’s a little party right now. I’d say there’s probably 40, 50 people here, mainly family members, close friends.”

And how did you react when you got the call?
“Burst into tears. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for my whole life. My family, they have sacrificed a lot for me here and just to be around all of them in this moment. It was honestly the best feeling in my life.”

What do you know about this Saints team?
“Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFL. (They) Have a great running back – duo of running backs. Very, very good offensive line. Terron Armstead, (I) look up to him a lot. And it’s really a winning program, a winning organization.”

I’m assuming that they talked to you about what position you’d play, are you coming in as a center?
“Yes sir. I am coming in as a center.”

Have they talked to you about where you’d play?
“Yeah. When I got on the phone with them, they viewed me as a center and that’s what they want me to come in and play.”

Did you watch Max Unger a lot just growing up? Was he a center that you kind of looked up to?
“Being a longtime vet, yes. I am not going to sit here and lie and say that I watched a ton of him. But I do know that he’s a heck of a player. And he’s definitely a guy that I would like to model my game after.”

How much communication do you have with the Saints before the draft?
“Before the draft, I had a formal meeting with them at the Senior Bowl. Then coach (Dan) Roushar came down to College Station, he worked me out for pro day. We had a film session so we had a solid amount of communication going back and forth.”

They worked you out at pro day or after pro day?
“At pro day.”

When the Saints traded up to make the pick, did you think your name was about to be called?
“Honestly, I had no clue. I knew that there was interest, but on this business you never know.”

How flexible are you as far as moving back and forth between center and guard?
“I would say I’m very flexible in that aspect. I have a lot more experience at center, but I played guard pretty much every spring I was at Texas A&M. I have a couple of starts there and I played it in high school so I would say I’m pretty flexible for that.”

What were your impressions of Coach (Dan) Roushar?
“I can just tell right now he is a hell of a coach. He is going to push me a lot mentally and physically. That is something that I feel like every rookie coming into the NFL (has to go through). I’m just really excited to get to work with the organization and coach Roushar in particular.”

Where do you feel like you thrive as a player?
“I would say that I’m really good at getting to the second level, but I also maintain a block and (can) really be a power mover on the first level. I think it’s a combination that I have of power, strength, and speed that’s kind of rare as a center.”

Have you played with anybody on the team? Do you know anybody here yet?
“No sir. Not that I’m aware of.”

You mentioned Terron Armstead, but have you watched much of the rest of the Saints’ offensive line? They’ve been among the best in the league the past couple of years.
“(Terron) Armstead, (Andrus) Peat, Max Unger as you said, those are the three guys that I know them the most.”

Have you spent much time in New Orleans?
“I’ve only been to New Orleans once in my life, but I have some friends that live up there.”

Who did grow up a fan of?
“Growing up just in East Texas, my family were Cowboy’s fans.”

How did your family react tonight?
“They were all happy for me. They were ecstatic. We kind of learned once we got to college that we had to put favorite teams behind us and just move forward to where I could possibly be.”

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
NFL Draft Press Conference
Friday, April 26, 2019

Did versatility play a role in this selection?
“He’s one of those players that in the process stood out. I think you see his strength on tape in each game you watch. We really had a high grade on him. He obviously played at a high level of competition and you see the consistency and there were just a lot of things to like with the player. But yes, there’s a versatility element relative to it. I think he’s a center and look Nick’s (Easton) someone who’s played center and played guard. We just felt real good about the vision for him on our team and helping our team.”

Was there a group of guys that you were targeting all along?
“He was kind of the guy coming in today, paying attention last night, (we) wouldn’t have been surprised if he was someone that was selected at the end, towards the latter part of the first round and you started seeing the corners go early today like we thought would happen and a few of the receivers and you just kind of pay attention and you begin talking with a few teams. But he was different, he wasn’t in a group. He was I would say probably the target coming in here this morning or just feeling like you know this would be the clear vision and certainly we felt really good about his talent.”

Was it hard to get a team lined up at the pick you wanted to select him?
“Yes, You start that process maybe you five, six, seven picks in(to) the second round and we had multiple conversations with a number of teams. Fortunately it worked out.”

Did you think he would slide to pick 62?
“We felt strongly that he wouldn’t make it to 62. That was one thing that we didn’t think he would be there at that time.”

Did you have a first round grade on Erik McCoy?
“I think specifically, we probably had a real early two on him. But yes, we were pretty confident that he wasn’t going to be available if we stood pat.”

When did you start to kind of zero in on him?
“I think with the time the draft started tonight or more specifically through the process, I think you start with obviously your winter (draft) reads and then throughout the spring, the workouts it still gets back to the tape and in watching that and obviously all the other things he checks the boxes with, but the tape (we had on him) we felt was was real good, very consistent. Yes, there were a lot of things to like.”

How important was it to get a fourth round pick in the trade?
“You’re working with other teams to try to come up with what you think is fair value on both parts and it kind of puts you back in (the early part of day three). I know we’re in the third round here. We’re going to finish this up pretty soon, but it gives you just a little bit more flexibility as well.”

Was center a high priority since Max Unger retired?
“It’s one of the reasons we brought Nick (Easton) in and so we just felt like an interior lineman was going to be important for us. We have some younger guys that are competing at that spot. But I think it was a little bit of a combination of just the right fit, but also more importantly than anything else we really like where our grade was with the player and his consistency and the things that he brings to the locker room.

Where do you see him playing when he gets here?
“Center. I think we’ll see once he gets here. But I see him at the position he played in college and let him come in. (With) Nick (Easton) as well there’s flexibility (and) both of them are smart guys that we feel like have that flexibility. But it’s early now, but I think we see him as someone coming in as a center.”

Did his durability and experience impress you?
“Yes, consistency all those things were impressive.”

Does he have a leadership quality off the field?
“I think when the area scout comes back and then the cross check comes back pretty soon you know you’re getting a guy that we feel like (is) going to fit in here. He’s tough, he’s durable, (a) well-liked captain, all those things. Those are all part of it and you put all of that together, along with a good football player and we feel like we helped ourselves in that round.”

Why did you feel comfortable trading a future high pick?
“It was a second next year. We think it’ll be a later second, hopefully. If there was not that specific target, we would’ve been real comfortable letting the draft come to our pick at 62.”

Do you see Erik as a guy that could play right away?
“All these guys have a transition to make. It is hard to predict that sometimes. He is smart, and yet I think in fairness to the process and the veterans that are here, there’s a lot that has to happen for young players to come in. I think the first thing will be him getting up to speed with what we do and he will come in and compete, but I would never just predict that. I think he has been a real good football player at college and our gut and instincts tell us the same thing will happen at our level. But all of that, he will earn.”

How much does the Texas A&M ties help when scouting a player with four members of the coaching staff having played there?
“I kid these guys if we get one more Texas A&M player in here or coach we’ll be over the limit. It helps at times, but it really starts with the scouting process. The coaches that are here are removed from staffs. It’s more about the relationships with coaches there. Even their head coach (Jimbo Fisher) who we know real well and spoke extremely high of Erik (McCoy). All of that gets into the makeup grade that you’re putting on a player. The tape I think speaks for itself. That’s the starting point.”

How much does it help when (Erik) McCoy goes up against big-time competition?
“It’s important. You get to see him against guys he is going to play against at this next level (playing in the Southeastern Conference). It’s more challenging when it is a smaller school. That doesn’t eliminate the smaller school prospect, but when you see the level of competition, the conference he’s playing in. Some of the better defensive tackles in our country in this draft were coming out of the SEC. He was very consistent. He’s a physical player. He’s smart

How do you feel now having Eric (McCoy) and Nick (Easton) now compared to when you initially found out that Max (Unger) was retiring?
“Look, you never want to lose a player like Max (Unger). He was a great player for us, but you identify the need area and you address it if it’s available without going out and trying to create players that fit the need. In this case, we felt real good about signing Nick (Easton). He’s played at a high level at both center and guard. I think (we feel) a little bit better than the night after Max (Unger) was retiring. Look, we were well-informed and on top of and knew where Max was kind of leaning. He and I had a number of discussions. We share the same agent, so that wasn’t something that caught us off guard. It was really trying to get through the process where the season is over and give him the necessary time to make a decision like that.”

Did anything happen in the first or second rounds that caught you off guard?
“No. I think yesterday we talked about it. It was fairly unremarkable. the first round went fairly smooth. There were a few selections maybe that were surprising, but I thought it went fairly quickly I guess. Maybe there were a few picks, but other than that I thought it was a pretty normal.”

Erik (McCoy) said at his pro day that Dan (Roushar) worked him out and went over film. What was Dan’s reaction?
“All of it was very positive. We got to it (at) a lot workouts at certain positions and you just kept checking boxes. They were good. They were clean. I wasn’t at the Pro Day. Certainly, I was able to see the tape, combine, and all of that, but just watch the film and it’s pretty impressive.”

What did you think of the Dolphins flipping 62 for Josh Rosen?
“We’d heard they were looking to find a quarterback. So that was kind of discussed a little bit yesterday. It wasn’t really surprising.”

Is that a pretty startling turn of events when you think back to grading (Josh) Rosen last year?
“Look, there’s a fit. That happens at times and there is another team that has that level of interest. So going from a first round pick to a second round pick there’s still a commitment by a team. Arizona, for them (it’s) probably good business if they felt they wanted to move in a different direction offensively. I can’t speak for the other teams, but it obviously is a position that is coveted and important. It wasn’t that surprising. I guess the compensation was something we were all curious to see.”

When you say there were discussions, do you mean between you and the Dolphins yesterday?
“No. I think it was the destination of where he might go after Kyler Murray was selected. There were a few teams and that was it.”

Were you worried if you picked a defensive player that Deuce (McAllister) might scratch it out and pick someone else?
“No. Listen, Deuce and Jahri (Evans) they are two different personalities. They both did a good job. Anytime you move up, just between the two of them they have not missed many buffets (laughter). We were wanting to make sure that they were not sitting in the lunchroom when we are trying to make the selection, but those guys represented us well.”

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