Monday, 02 May 2011 20:25

Grading The New Orleans Saints Draft With Loomis, Payton

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One year removed from a Super Bowl championship, Saints coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis with the addition of their two first-round draft choices added to their core group, believe they may be in a position to win it again.

Loomis added: "As long as we have number nine, I think we have that opportunity."

Most of the NFL experts are giving the Saints draft an A. I'm just an innocent bystander, but I gave this draft an A, too. But you have to wait three of four years to really evaluate a team's draft.

The Saints were weak at rushing the passer and running back last season, so they drafted defensive end Cam Jordan of Cal and running back Mark Ingram of Alabama in the first round.

Payton said he'd be surprised if Reggie Bush lands elsewhere next season. The selection of Ingram with the 28th selection over-all prompted Bush to tweet "it's been fun in New Orleans," an indication he does not expect to be back to collect the $11.8 million he is scheduled to earn if what would be the final year of his contract. However, Bush must accept the Saints' offer to re-negotiate his contract.

"Like any player, each year in this league, there's competition brought in," said Payton. "We've got a real clear vision for Reggie, and what we expect and how we want to utilize him -- and that's not going to change. So I'd be surprised if he isn't a Saint this season.

"We look forward to having the versatility of a player like Reggie. As you back at Reggie, there's more to that position than just playing running back behind the fullback."

For Ingram, the Saints swapped their first-round pick in the 2012 and first-round pick this year to the Patriots. He's an every-down running back, a Heisman Trophy winner and he led Alabama to the national championship.

On Saturday, Payton and Loomis discussed the draft and the lockout.

Q: Where do you feel like you are roster wise coming out of the draft? Do you feel like you need to address something late like potentially a free agent?

Payton: The biggest uncertainty is just that there are a number of players on board that are potential guys that we don't know if they are restricted or non-restricted. In other words, that would be the one things that is uniquely different today than normal post-drafts. There is that uncertainty as you through the depth chart with a good number of our players, so we don't know. We wait.

Q: The Saints skipped the second and fourth through the sixth rounds because of trades. Have you ever had a draft with this few picks?

Payton: That was the longest wait that I can recall between what was the e third round and then waiting patiently for four, five and six, but we are excited about this group we got and that's pretty common dialog at this time of the day with every coach, GM, scouting department, so I'm always somewhat reserved. But we"ll see how these guys go.

I thought our scouts, Rick Reprish, Ryan Pace, and his group, did a great job this year. Mickey had a lot to do with our ability to all of a sudden jump back up there and get in the picture for Mark Ingram. That's exciting, it's contagious in that room

When something like that happens and we had a chance to call Mr. Benson. Because right after the selection of Cam Jordan, there was the feeling like Day 1 is finished.  Some people are maybe not in the room, and all of a sudden we are back on the board.

Mickey was fantastic. He was great through these three days, but certainly throughout that first round.

Q: You say it's common rhetoric for every GM and front office to say you love your guys, but I assume some years it's truer than others?

Payton: We got our guy.

Q: This was kind of a unique draft for you guys. You did get a lot of guys that fell pretty far, high value picks, but they also met with what might have been your three or four biggest needs.

Payton: To some degree yes. There are three players that we didn't have a good feel for where they might go. There were some thoughts that Mark Ingram might go in the first round, but specifically Cameron Jordan. Martez Wilson and Greg Romeus from Pittsburgh.  It's easier when you are in positions that, as you head into the draft, you might like to address. It becomes more challenging when the third and the fourth rounds, all of a sudden it might be a player that you would consider yourself a deep-add or not necessarily a group you want to address.

With that being said, you're excited about it. I've said this before, it's always this time of year  that you get excited about new players and I think two, three, four years down the road, you really get get a good grade. You see how this class can handle the transition and the ability to play in the NFL. We will be excited to get started with them.

Loomis is up next:

Q: With a court ruling on Friday, are you back to the rules prior to ruling earlier in the week?

Loomis: Yes, we're back at the starting point until we hear differently, which is basically no contract with players, and there's really no exception, but we do have some third-party contact on the rehab players.

Q: Do you have  any thoughts to how busy you will be in this offseason?

Loomis: We're going to be busy. We're ready to go whenever the trigger's pulled. Whenever we get the green light, we're ready to go. Every year, I say we have a plan. That's a plan, 21, 22, 28 bullet points. These are things we want to do. That's ready to go. When we get the opportunity to go, we'll proceed in a normal fashion. Free agency in general is a pretty compact period. Everything happens in the first week two. I anticipate that's going to be similar wherever it happens. We're waiting, patiently waiting. The league and the union will handle their business at some point and we'll be ready to go.

Q: Do you worry about how many pending free agents you have?

Loomis: I heard Sean making a comment about how part of job is to worry and we do that. The numbers sound a lot more. 27, 28, but most years it's in the that 18,19, 20 range. It seems daunting when you think of it that term. You boil it down to the who? Does this guy want Io come back to New Orleans? Do you want him back? When you start thinking about on an individual basis, it doesn't seem nearly as daunting to me. We've been through it before. I'm a realist. I understand that we could lose somebody we don't expect to lose. That's just the nature of this business.

There's no sense in panicking or worrying to much about that. We're going to  have a plan. We're going to understand what we can do and can't do financially. We're going to put our best foot forward when the time comes and we'll adjust if it doesn't go according to our plan.



SOME hither, others yon: Steve Selby, New York Post NFL columnist and ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper give the Saints draft high grades, but Pro Football Talk doesn't. Writes Selby: "Grade A. Sean Payton secured a defensive end bookend (Cam Jordan) opposite Will Smith and a dependable every down running back (Mark Ingram).
Kiper likes that the Saints got defensive end Cameron Jordan and running back Mark Ingram in the first round and thinks linebacker Martez Wilson should have been drafted long before the Saints took him in the third round...

Pro Football Talk give the Saints a grade of C. Writes PFT: "Mickey Loomis' draft has been praised in most circles. It won't get that treatment here. The Saints need pass rush up front. Cameron Jordan was a fine value, but that's not an area where in which he excels. He's a run-stopping end. Trading up for Mark Ingram cost Loomis his 56th pick this year and next year's first-rounder. That's a ton to surrender for any running back, let alone a small one with 4.62 speed. Martez Wilson is a workout freak, but he doesn't play to his athleticism. Johnny Patrick might be a playmaking nickel back. Greg Romeus was worth a shot."...

by Ed Staton

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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