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Payton made stealth visit to Fort Collins for Grayson

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton believes former CSU quarterback Garrett Grayson, shown here throwing a pass last season in a game at Air Force, can be his team‘s quarterback of the future when 36-year-old Drew Brees is ready to retire. The Saints selected Grayson on Friday in the third round of the NFL draft.

"If you look at the news outlets, which we do, you can keep track ..." Payton said. "Here is Garrett Grayson. We know he's worked out for Cleveland. We know he's worked out for St. Louis. We know his private workouts, and all of that information literally sits in the room as you are looking at the picks ahead of you."

"When you go out in the morning, there's a picture with the Starbucks lady, and then we are having lunch at the Subway place," Payton said. "And it's not only out there, but people have timelines if they really look at it with those people tweeting those pictures."

Few had the Saints going for a quarterback, although general manager Mickey Loomis did drop a hint the day before the draft started that the Saints might select one. Few had the Saints going for one like a Grayson as early as the third round, though. Yet, one day not too far from now, history may say that on April 27, 2015, the Saints worked out the next Drew Brees.

"We worked him out last week and kind of went under the radar," Payton said. "We were kind of hoping it would."

Payton obviously thought Grayson did very well in that workout. When told Friday night that Grayson said in a teleconference interview that he thought he did not do well, Payton said, "That's good news, too."

Grayson, the first quarterback taken in the draft after Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota in the first two picks of the first round, became the earliest Saints quarterback pick in the regular draft since they took Archie Manning of Mississippi with the second pick of the first round on Jan. 28, 1971, right after the Patriots took Jim Plunkett of Stanford. (The Saints took Dave Wilson of Illinois with a first-round selection in the 1981 Supplemental Draft.)

And to Payton, one of the best quarterback gurus in the NFL, Grayson was not just any quarterback.

"For us, there wasn't more than one (after the first two)," Payton said. "This was the player — if he was available. And if not, we probably would have went without drafting a quarterback."

A very accurate passer, Grayson finished fifth in the nation in passing efficiency at 166.2 as a senior in 2014 for Colorado State University with 270 completions in 420 attempts for 4,006 yards and 32 touchdowns with seven interceptions. And that was despite two joint injuries in his throwing shoulder in the fourth week of the season. He also has broken his collarbone three times, but he has not missed a game since 2012.

"He's clean," Payton said. "We were conscious of his injury, and I've seen him play in games where he's been hit hard and actually looked like he might come out. But his durability has been pretty good."

Grayson throws anticipatory passes to receivers about to be open and has a very quick release, although he had to use a longer one last season because of the shoulder issues. He is hoping to return to the quicker launch soon.

"That is something that I am trying to tighten up because I know those defenses in the NFL are coming off the edge quick," Grayson said.

"We like his fit, his makeup," Payton said. "He is extremely athletic. He's got a good stature, and from guys who I have worked out over the years, he has a real good, quick release. He is a good decision maker, so that is exciting for us."

Brees is 36.

"I think it would be different if all of a sudden we are taking a quarterback in the first round, and we had a different vision," Payton said. "But in our case, it is pretty clear. We love our starter."

Clearly, though, Brees is 36.

"It gives the young players behind him a chance to mature and develop," Payton said. "I understand the story, certainly, with where Drew is in his career."

Grayson, too, understands the story. Brett Favre was 35 when Green Bay drafted Aaron Rodgers out of California with the 24th pick of the first round in 2005. In 2008, Rodgers became the starter, and the rest is history.

"I'm coming to compete like a starter, like anybody should," Grayson said. "But I have no problem sitting behind a Hall of Famer like Drew Brees and learning, just like Aaron Rodgers did with Brett Favre. I'm not just saying this, this really is a dream come true for me."



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