Saints stick to draft philosophy: If you covet a player, go get them

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Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (#23) during Florida’s game against South Carolina on Saturday, November 10, 2018 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. (UAA Communications photo by Matt Stamey).

METAIRIE – The New Orleans Saints liked Erik McCoy so they traded up in the second round of the NFL Draft to get him Friday.

They liked Florida safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson so they traded up in the fourth round to get him early Saturday.

“If you like a player, go get him,” Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said Saturday afternoon at the conclusion of the three-day draft. “It’s calculated and when you have the opportunity to go get a player you covet, you go get them. That’s our philosophy and it has been a successful formula for us.”

The Saints didn’t make any more trades before adding Rutgers safety Saquan Hampton in the sixth round or both Notre Dame tight end Alize’ Mack and Idaho linebacker Kaden Elliss in the seventh round.

Loomis said the Saints, who entered the draft with just one pick in the first 167 selections, wound up with three players – McCoy, Gardner-Johnson and Hampton – ranked among their top 70.

They dipped into next year’s assets to send their second-round pick to Miami in the deal that brought in McCoy.

But, coach Sean Payton said, they’re hopeful that it’ll wind of being a “later second” because of another deep playoff run next season.

New Orleans has traded up 16 times in the past 13 drafts – including nine deals involving picks in future years.

This was the third consecutive year that the Saints traded a future pick in the top two rounds to move up in the draft. They traded a No. 1 to grab defensive end Marcus Davenport last year and a No. 2 to get running back Alvin Kamara two years ago.

Payton said the Saints had McCoy ranked as a very high second rounder and thought he might even be selected in the first round. When he didn’t go in the first round Thursday night, “He was the target coming in (Friday morning),” Payton said. “We felt strongly that he wouldn’t make it to 62.”

The Dolphins included a fourth-round pick this year in the deal, which was a crucial asset that the Saints sent in the deal that brought in Gardner-Williams.

Gardner-Williams, Hampton and Elliss will all have a chance to show their value on special teams, which they all did quite a bit in college.

“I think at the end of the day the quickest route for any of these guys is to contribute on special teams,” Loomis said. “Until they get here we have a vision for these players and yet how quickly they fulfill the vision depends a large part on them.”

The two safeties can play near the line of scrimmage against the run as well as defend the pass on the back end. Elliss is a pass rushing specialist who will be asked to learn multiple positions.

Mack helps bolster a position that was weakened by the retirement of Benjamin Watson, then strengthened by the signing of veteran free agent Jared Cook.

New Orleans began negotiating with undrafted free agents as soon as the draft ended.

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Les East

Les East

CCS/Times-Picayune

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. His blog on SportsNOLA.com 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 and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. You can follow…

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