After releasing Jonathan Vilma during the offseason, the New Orleans Saints were in need of some added depth at the inside linebacker position. Rob Ryan rotates guys in and out of his hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme, so grabbing Khairi Fortt in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft made sense for the Black and Gold.
A product of the University of California, Fortt transferred to the Pac-12 school from Penn State following the Jerry Sandusky scandal that eventually led to the removal of head coach Joe Paterno. He was eligible to play his first year at Cal in 2012, but redshirted while recovering from a knee surgery he had earlier that April. In 2013, he started the first nine games, but ended his season early due to a bicep injury.
Fortt’s health will certainly be something to monitor, but the Saints obviously feel that he can be a contributor after drafting and signing him to a four-year rookie contract. He has the athleticism and skill set to be a productive football player at the next level.
He brings good size and field speed to Rob Ryan’s defense. He moves like a safety, which gives him excellent sideline to sideline range. An attribute like that could be dangerous to opposing offenses when on the field with Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd. His strong, muscular build helped him bench press his way to 225 pounds 30 times at the NFL Scouting Combine (tied for most among linebackers).
Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne have the starting two inside spots on lock at the moment, but Hawthorne’s job is vulnerable. Fortt will be battling for third in line with Ramon Humber and Kevin Reddick. The Saints only have five inside linebackers listed on their roster; OLB Kyle Knox may be in the mix as well. Regardless, Fortt has the opportunity to see plenty of playing time in 2014, if he can keep his body free of damage.
Fortt has the potential to make an immediate impact on the New Orleans Saints’ defense. Training camp will be the time to make his presence felt; a strong, healthy performance should earn him a big piece of action this season.