METAIRIE, La. (AP) - The New Orleans Saints selected Wisconsin wide receiver Nick Toon in Saturday's fourth round of the NFL draft, hoping to give quarterback Drew Brees another big target to go with receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jimmy Graham.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Toon is the son of former New York Jets receiver Al Toon, and Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt mentioned right after the pick that the Saints liked Toon's
pedigree and polish.
"We like the way this guy can run routes right now," Vitt said. "He's competitive. He'll fight you for the ball. He's a good blocker. He's in good shape right now. He's excited to be here, so we're expecting the best."
Toon comes to a Saints team that lost one of its top receivers when Robert Meachem left for San Diego in free agency. Adrian Arrington is expected to be first in line to step into that void as he enters his fifth year as a pro, but Toon, a favorite prospect of Saints wide receivers coach Henry Ellard, could provide some competition.
"We like Adrian a lot," Vitt said, adding that Toon was simply "the next best player that we had" on club's draft list, as well as someone that Sean Payton had spent time with at the NFL combine before the head coach's season-long suspension began in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation.
"Henry Ellard has coached people like Isaac Bruce and Tory Holt, and Henry was really fired up about his route running ability - a polished route runner right now," Vitt said. "He's big like we like to have in our systems. He's more of a Marques Colston-type player. ... This is a guy that Sean met at combine extensively because Sean likes big receivers. So it worked out perfect."
Toon, speaking by phone from Madison, Wis., said Payton talked to him about his family's football background as well as his college career. Toon credited his father for influencing his development as a football player.
"My dad was a great football player and a great resource of mine growing up, Toon said. "He has been a great sounding board for me throughout my career, my entire life - a great blue print as far as a football player. Just a good person and a good leader."
Taken 122nd overall, Toon was the second player drafted by New Orleans, which did not have a pick in the first two rounds. The Saints' first-round pick had been traded away last year so New Orleans could draft Mark Ingram and this year's second-round pick was taken away as part of the club's punishment in the bounty probe.
Toon joins defensive tackle and third-round selection Akiem Hicks in the Saints' 2012 draft class.
Last season, Toon led the Badgers in receiving with 64 catches for 926 yards and 10 touchdowns. He missed only one game last season, which led Vitt to conclude Toon has "no durability issues."
Like Vitt, Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. compared Toon to Colston in terms of both his size and ability, and noted that "he can run faster than people give him credit for."
Carmichael also highlighted Toon's versatility.
"He's a real smart guy, so he's going to be able to play more than one position for us," Carmichael said. "We can put him inside, we can put him outside."
Toon liked the Colston comparison and said his offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, Paul Chryst, had said the same thing. He said he takes pride in "having good hands and being consistent in catching the ball."