Saints select Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro with first-round pick

The best-case scenario for the first half of the NFL draft Thursday night, as far as the Saints were concerned, was to have one of a handful of the top-rated defensive players slide toward the middle of the first round.

So when the Saints went on the clock with the 15th pick, they were looking for some immediate help which they think they got when they chose Texas free safety Kenny Vaccaro.

New Iberia native Markell Gregoire, a cancer patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, announced the pick in New York City with the help of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

After a difficult 2012 season in which they gave up yards and points at a record-setting rate, Saints coach Sean Payton scrapped their old 4-3 defense and hired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to implement a 3-4 alignment.

As a result, the Saints needed some playmakers on that side of the ball and picked up a couple in free agency when they signed cornerback Keenan Lewis and outside linebacker Victor Butler.

In choosing the 6-foot, 214-pound Vaccaro, the Saints made a move to add another player to help shore up a defense that set an NFL single-season record in allowing 7,042 total yards in 2012.