Saints select WR Meachem with first pick

Published 11:26 pm Saturday, April 28, 2007

The New Orleans Saints’ prolific passing game has another young threat.

The Saints chose Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem with their first-round pick in the NFL draft on Saturday, hoping he’ll help quarterback Drew Brees repeat his league-leading passing totals of 2006.

Meachem, the 27th pick overall, will join a receiving corps that lost veteran Joe Horn, who asked to be waived during an offseason salary dispute and signed as a free agent with NFC South Division rival Atlanta.

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In choosing Meachem, the Saints passed on talented Arkansas cornerback Chris Houston. But the Saints’ need for help in the defensive backfield was not as urgent after acquisition a day earlier of restricted free agent Jason David.

David played for the Super Bowl champions Indianapolis Colts during the past three seasons, but the Colts declined to match a four-year, $15.6 million offer from New Orleans by Friday’s deadline.

With David and Mike McKenzie the Saints’ apparent starting cornerbacks, New Orleans turned its attention back to its offense.

Meachem will compete with Terrance Copper and David Patten to join Marques Colston and Devery Henderson as a starter.

Last year, Colston, picked in the seventh and final round of the 2006 draft out of Division I-AA Hofstra, surprisingly ended up as New Orleans’ most productive receiver. New Orleans wasn’t counting on finding a late round treasure this season, and snatched up one of the top-rated receivers in the entire draft.

In 37 games at Tennessee, the 6-foot-2, 214-pound Meachem caught 125 passed for 2,140 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.

Last season, he led Tennessee with 71 receptions, 11 for touchdowns and compiled a school single-season-record 1,298 receiving yards.