After the Saints chose him in the second round of the draft Friday, Stanley Jean-Baptiste admitted that his standing among his fellow prospects was boosted by some of his similarities with Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, a two-time All-Pro who helped Seattle win a Super Bowl in February.
Yet he hopes that’s not the only reason he’s wanted in New Orleans.
“I was aware of it, everyone comparing me to Richard Sherman,” Jean-Baptiste said Friday after being picked. “I heard all the rumors (and) all the details; I was paying attention to everything that they were saying.
“I think it had a big part to play in it, but at the end of the day hopefully the Saints took me for the person I am and the skill sets I bring.”
Some similarities with Sherman are undeniable. Though he didn’t go to Stanford like Sherman, Jean-Baptiste did start out playing the same previous position the Seattle star did: wide receiver.
He caught 36 passes for 580 yards at North Carolina Tech Christian Academy in 2008. After attending a community college in Kansas in 2009, Jean-Baptiste moved on to Nebraska the following year and red-shirted as a scout-team receiver.
He switched to defensive back in 2011, and his career culminated with a 2013 campaign in which he topped the Cornhuskers with 12 pass break-ups and tied for the team lead with four interceptions, earning him Second-Team All-Big 10 honors.
As Sherman has said before, Jean-Baptiste said playing wideout helped him with the ball skills he used to get his interceptions and pass break-ups. He found it easy to read formations and receivers’ tendencies when he hopped on the other side of the ball.
Though he’s heavier than Sherman at 218 pounds, their heights are about the same at approximately 6 feet, 3 inches.
But Jean-Baptiste on Friday wisely avoided portraying himself as a mirror-image of Sherman, whose 20 interceptions and 61 pass deflections are the most since he entered the NFL in 2011.
Jean-Baptiste knows he’ll be competing for an opportunity to start opposite entrenched No. 1 cornerback Keenan Lewis, but the auditions for that spot will be crowded.
Also in the mix will be Champ Bailey, a 12-time Pro Bowler whose 53 career interceptions are the third-most among active NFL players. There’s cornerback Corey White, who started for much of last year and helped the Saints win two playoff games after the now-released Jabari Greer sustained a season-ending knee injury in November.
And there’s Patrick Robinson, the Saints’ 2010 first-round pick who missed virtually all of the ’13 campaign with a knee injury.
Nonetheless, listening to Saints coach Sean Payton speak on Friday, it seemed he strongly believed Jean-Baptiste had the qualities to mount a viable challenge to start in New Orleans, and perhaps even eventually blossom into a player who resembles the Seahawk the former Cornhusker wasn’t entirely comfortable being likened to on Friday.
Payton said: “I would … say (Jean-Baptiste’s) ball skills are something that are important because I know, offensively, if we feel like we’re playing someone who doesn’t have those ball skills, there’s really not a negative to throw in that direction: it’s complete, it’s incomplete, or it’s pass interference.
“It’s when there’s a corner that can turn around and catch a football that really makes you target and locate your passes. It makes you very leery of just indiscriminately throwing it out there. He’s someone who has those.”