Trading up for the New England Patriots' seventh overall pick in Saturday's NFL draft, the Saints selected Southern California defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis.
The 6-foot-1, 305-pound lineman was the Pac-10 defensive player of the year in 2007, when he made 58 tackles, including 8 ½ sacks. Ellis also batted away seven passes and recovered two fumbles.
The Saints, who went 7-9 last season, initially had the 10th overall pick. They sought to move up to the fifth pick, possibly to take LSU's Glenn Dorsey. Kansas City refused to relinquish that pick, however, and took the Tigers' All-America lineman.
Dorsey and Ellis were widely considered the top two interior defensive linemen in the draft and there was some debate as to who was better.
One thing the Saints made clear is that they viewed improving their pass rush as the best way to solidify a defense that ranked 30th in the NFL against the pass last season.
So while all of the top prospects at defensive back were available at the seventh pick, the Saints instead went with Ellis, a three-year starter at USC who was recruited out of high school by former Trojans assistant coach Ed Orgeron, now the defensive line coach for New Orleans.
"He knows what kind of football player I am," Ellis said of Orgeron. "He knows when I come to play football, that's my life and I'm serious about it. Great players need great coaches and I think it will be a great matchup."
New Orleans waited until the second round to take a cornerback, using the 40th overall pick on Indiana's Tracy Porter, who played his high school football in Port Allen, La.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound defensive back had six interceptions last season. His 16 career interceptions rank second all-time at Indiana.
In the trade with New England, New Orleans gave up both its 10th overall pick as well as its third-round choice. In return, the Saints also got New England's fifth-round pick.
Ellis spent draft day in his hometown of Chino, Calif., with about 100 friends and relatives at a Dave & Buster's restaurant, known for its wide selection of video games.
A fan of video games himself, Ellis was too anxious to play them before his name was called.
"I was nervous as heck," Ellis said. "I was sitting glued to the TV. Now I'm going to go play some games."
Orgeron, who was at Saints headquarters in suburban New Orleans on Saturday, said Ellis and Dorsey "were very close in a lot of things, although I have a lot of respect for Glenn Dorsey and the type of player he is."
Ellis has a "great burst" at the snap of the ball, is very tough and brings leadership qualities to the locker room, Orgeron said.
Although his natural position is nose guard, where veteran Hollis Thomas plays, Ellis also is versatile enough to play the other tackle position and be in the game for both running and passing situations.
"Saints fans are going to be very happy with his pass rush skills and his ability to make plays," Orgeron said.
While pushing Thomas and fellow defensive tackle Brian Young for playing time, Ellis also is expected to take pressure off of defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant.
"We're going to have an outstanding defensive line," Orgeron said. "All the tools are in place."
In New Orleans, Ellis will join former USC teammate Reggie Bush, who was part of the same recruiting class as Ellis in 2003.
"It will be cool being back on a team with somebody I know who can show me around the city and get me acclimated a little bit," Ellis said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press