Saints have added flexibility in drafting their types of players

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METAIRIE – The mock drafts don’t mean anything.

No one else’s rankings matter.

All that matters for the New Orleans Saints as they begin the three-day NFL Draft on Thursday night are their internal rankings of players and the opportunities that are presented to them to fill needs as the seven-round draft unfolds.

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job this offseason of taking musts and turning them into wants or needs,” Saints executive vice president/general manager Mickey Loomis said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

That means any position on offense or defense is a potential target for any of the Saints’ eight picks – starting with No. 29 in Thursday’s first and only round.

Of course, the Saints’ preference would be for their biggest areas of need – defensive line, tight end, safety and perhaps wide receiver in some eyes – to align with the position of the highest-rated player on their board each time they select.

Loomis said the Saints have “never” removed a position from consideration for a draft pick because of the strength of the position within their roster.

“There’s nothing wrong with building a strength,” Loomis said. “You always feel like you need more help. It never feels like enough.”

The Saints are armed with more picks than they have had in recent seasons. The last time they selected as many as eight players in one draft was in 2015 when they picked nine players. The only other time since 2003 they have selected as many players as they are scheduled to pick over the next three days was 2006.

On Friday they have a No. 2 (No. 40 overall) and a No. 3 (No. 71). On Saturday they have a No. 4 (No. 115), two No. 5s (No. 146 and No. 165) and two No. 7s rounds (No. 227 and No. 257).

“It does give us some flexibility,” Loomis said. “I always feel like if you have picks in the latter part of the draft it gives you the opportunity to bump up.

“If you have a lot of picks in the top half of the draft then it allows you to move way up if you want to. I wouldn’t say we have the ammunition to move way up. But I do think if we decide to bump up a little bit we’d have the resources to do that.”

The Saints have bumped up quite a bit in recent seasons, having made 20 trades to move up in the draft since 2008. They haven’t made a trade to move down since 2007.

Loomis said the Saints have confidence in their board so trading down would mean selecting “a lesser player,” though he added that a trade down remains a possibility for the right deal.

He said his “preferred policy” is to “find somebody you love and go get them.”

“If you think you can get them where you’re at,” Loomis said, “then you stay where you’re at.”

Loomis said he hadn’t talked with “many other GMs” about potential trades, but would be reaching out much more later Wednesday and Thursday morning. He will have parameters worked out with potential trade partners before the draft starts in case a player they covet slips to a position that entices the Saints to try and trade up and grab him.

As for the first-round pick, Loomis said assistant general manager/college scouting director Jeff Ireland has “a formula that has never failed.”

The formula takes into account, based on historical trends, how many players that aren’t rated as high as the position at which the Saints are picking will be selected before their turn comes, meaning they expect someone they have rated higher than No. 29 to be available at that spot.

“We don’t have to have 29 (candidates) in order to get one of our players,” Loomis said. “We have to have less than that.”

He wouldn’t identify the number of players the Saints have identified as potential picks at No. 29.

Loomis identified tight end, cornerback and quarterback as positions that are “deeper than normal” in this year’s draft.

He said “depth on the offensive line is really important.”

Loomis said he “likes” the team’s quarterback room after the signing of free agent Derek Carr.

He added that the Saints have removed “a handful” of players from their rankings because of character or health issues, which is roughly the normal number.

He said the Saints will place a “90 designation” on players that don’t fit the precise skill-set they prefer for the player’s position, though they could still draft such a player lower than their skill-set would dictate if they think they have a “vision” for how the player can still have an impact.

“We’re looking for the best football player that we can get,” Loomis said. “That encompasses a lot of things beyond athletic ability.”

Those things include the character of the player, their “coachability,” the projection of how they will fit into the locker room and the team’s “culture,” leadership qualities, whether they will be a “good teammate” and “good in the community,” their work ethic and they willingness to “recognize their strengths and weakness” and work on the weaknesses.

Loomis said the Saints compile such a profile by talking to “as many people at the (players’) colleges as possible” – position coach, strength coach, academic adviser, trainer, etc, in addition to the head coach and relevant coordinator.

He added that the Saints’ decision on whether to draft a running back will be unaffected by any potential disciplinary action against Alvin Kamara, who is scheduled to appear in a Las Vegas courtroom on battery-related charges shortly after training camp begins – calling any potential absence “a short-term issue.”

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Les East

CCS/SDS/Field Level Media

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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…

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