Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis held a pre-draft media availability at the Saints facility on Tuesday. Below is the transcript
“I appreciate all of you being here. I have the misfortune of scheduling this the day after the ruling. I want to start by saying that I’m not going to make any comments about the litigation or offer up any opinions. I know you have questions about it. We’ve been hard at work preparing for the draft. I want to commend all of our staff including our college scouting director Rick Reiprish, our area scouts, our coaches, pro scouts, everybody who’s had a hand in evaluating this draft class. I think we have a real good handle on this class and where we want to be in terms of the drafting on Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday. I’ll try to answer or try to avoid answering any questions that you might have.”
As things stand for you guys right now is it a green light to negotiate with or sign players?
“No, right now we’re still under the rules we’ve been in. I think the league’s waiting for some decisions in the stays and the other litigation issues to get resolved and get some direction. We’re waiting for some direction from the league office. We’re not doing anything different than what we’ve been doing the last month and a half. Nothing’s really changed for us.”
How much do you feel like you are living by the minute not quite knowing the situation?
“I don’t feel that way. We’ve been preparing for the draft for a while. I feel like that’s business as usual. Even at this time of the year if it were a normal year of free agency, it would have been wrapping up with us anyway in terms of that initial rush. I feel like this is pretty normal for us. We’re in the cave down here and kind of oblivious to the rest of the world those last couple of weeks.”
How differently do you approach the draft without free agency?
“It’s a good question. Ultimately our decision is that we’re going to approach it with the guys that we have on our team that are free agents, we’re going to make an assumption that we’re going to get them re-signed. That’s the best thing for us. We’re always trying to get to this point without a glaring need so that we can draft the best player available to us. Even though the different aspects of the draft and free agency are reversed this year, we’re still going to approach it like we’re going to take the best player for a team that’s available to us.”
What transpired in you meeting with
“We didn’t turn him away. He came. He picked up his mail. I visited with him for a few minutes. He wanted to know what he could and couldn’t do. The weight room’s closed right now until we get further direction from the league. He was great. He got his mail and left.”
Did any other players come by?
“No, no other players came by.”
Why can’t players lift weights at the facility. I think some reports have one team allowing it?
“Again, as I mentioned, it’s the direction we’ve had for the last month and a half.”
Is there no handing out of playbooks?
Is there a lack of serious draft trade conversation?
“No, I wouldn’t say that, I think this week, we’re starting to get some calls back and forth in teams moving back and moving up. I think that heats up as we get closer to Thursday night. We’re just starting to get those calls and making those calls in terms of teams that might be interested.”
Do you see a lot of trading happening?
“I’ve been asked that a couple of times and I don’t know the answer. My sense is I think it will pretty much be business as usual. I think the thing that might cause more movement is that there are a lot of quarterbacks in this draft that will get taken early in the first and second rounds. Teams want to get those quarterbacks. I think that may cause more.”
Did Adrian Clayborn’s health issue take him off your draft board?
“I don’t know if it will hurt our draft status. He’s not off our draft board. He’s on our board and he’s a good player. We’ve examined the issue, talked to our doctors about the issue and obviously it’s a concern for everyone, but he’s not off our board.”
Is this the most depth on the defensive line at the top of the draft present since you’ve worked for the Saints?
“Probably. I’ve been involved a lot of years in the NFL. There are an awful lot of good defensive linemen in this draft.”
Do you see more teams looking to trade up in the first round due to the possibility of a rookie wage scale?
“I don’t know the answer to that. I think if we do have a wage scale, that might make higher picks more valuable. Whether that causes more trades or not, I don’t know, because it’s going to make it harder to move up.”
With the Saints, you’ve never traded down with a first round pick. Is that something on purpose or something philosophical?
“No, I think it’s just circumstance. We’ve made attempts to trade down before and it just didn’t materialize. We didn’t like the compensation that was available to us and each year we’ve had a player that we’ve really liked. We have made attempts in the past to trade down, it just hasn’t materialized.”
Without naming names, in the last nine years, how many times have you taken a first round pick with the highest grade?
“It’s a good question. I don’t know. I’d have to go back and look at each year. I will say this that we have never taken a player that is significantly lower than the guys above him. There may be cases where the grades weren’t close. We haven’t taken someone who’s graded significantly lower.”
Can you have an undrafted free agent signing period now?
“I don’t know the answer to that. I’m not that concerned with that, because we know how to approach that period after the draft that’s available to us. There’s not a lot of extra preparation to get ready for that. For me, one of my favorite parts of the draft is pursuing undrafted free agents. If the league allows it, we’ll be ready.”
Is there any position you can say you’re not drafting?
“We’re not going to draft a long-snapper. We’re not going to draft a kicker or a punter.’”
Can you talk to or pursue potential undrafted free agents?
“Right now we’re not allowed to do that. Under the rules that are in place or will be in place, we can’t have any contact with them after the draft.”
Unless the league tells you otherwise, is that what it is?
“Yes, until we receive some resolution from the league. I also retract the comment about not possibly picking a long-snapper.”
How would potential court rulings tomorrow affect your plan of attack?
“I don’t think so. You’d have to wait and see what happens. The preparations for the draft and the things that go into making your selection. I don’t view that as having been changed significantly or at all. Undrafted free agents would be different, but everything up to and including the selections, there is not much .”
Is there were free agency starting immediately, wouldn’t you expect a flurry of activity when this opens up right before the draft in order to get that done and have questions answered?
“There’s just more to it than that. I don’t really have an answer.”
Does the recent court ruling basically just allow guys to show up at the facility?
“I don’t know what that means. That’s a question for the league office, not for me.”
Is there any specific directive from the league suggesting not to change anything right now?
“We’re waiting on direction from the league as to what we can do differently from what’s been done the last 45 days.”
Did they send out any advisories?
“We’ve had some conversations. Let’s leave it at that.”
Would you welcome free agency during the draft?
“You keep asking me to make comments about the litigation. I’m not going to do that or offer up any opinion. We’re just going to wait and see what happens.”
A lot of mock drafts have you taking a front seven player with your first pick. What do you think of those assumptions?
“I think that’s an assumption a lot of media guys are making along with their assumptions for mock drafts, who a good player is, who isn’t a good player. We’re not going to really offer up any information as to who we are or aren’t going to take.”
What about your comment on a radio interview saying that was a position of need?
“I said that’s what most people say is our biggest need.”
What’s your view on taking a running back early?
“Again, I think it’s a question of who is your best player at the time. If you have a bunch of players graded equally you decide the best position for us at this time. If a running back is our highest rated player, it might be a tackle, guard or receiver for that matter. A few years back with Deuce McAllister, he was the top-graded player on our board when at the time we had a pretty good running back on our team and the Saints selected Deuce McAllister. It turned out pretty well.”
Would you want to address the quarterback position in the draft?
“I don’t feel like we have a burning need for a quarterback if that’s what you’re asking me. I feel pretty good about
“That’s a good question. We’ve had discussions and some offers with a few other players. I don’t know that they were close. I don’t know if we’re close or not close until the guy says we have a deal or will you do this one thing. I don’t know how to answer if we’re close or not. I can only tell you that we had discussions. We’re not having discussions. We had discussions before the end of the league year. It just didn’t work out”
Did the lack of the CBA have to do with the lack of re-signings?
“Yes, I don’t think that had a lot to do with it. It’s more just players we have on our team, players we wanted to remain New Orleans Saints. We made an effort. It wasn’t quite good enough. That’s fine. It is what it is.”
There's been talk of the Colts looking for an eventual replacement for Peyton Manning. What’s the tipping point of something like that. When you consider something like that, do you talk to the incumbent beforehand?
“We’re not at that point yet. It’s a good question. I don’t know if I can answer all of that. Obviously it has to do with the age of the player, the contract status, how you feel about the guys behind that player, who’s available. Sometimes there’s a player available that you don’t expect. There are a lot of variables that go into that decision. When you have a really good quarterback and we do, you have a window of opportunity for your team. You want to maximize that and your chances during that window of opportunity. Generally a quarterback’s not going to play if you have a franchise quarterback on your roster. We’re looking for players that can contribute a little sooner than probably the quarterback’s going to contribute for the team and so we’ll be in that position eventually. We’re not in that position today.”
Would you say the 2006 draft is the best one you’ve had since you’ve been here and an example of what creates a successful team?
“I don’t know if that was the best draft. It was a good one for us. I don’t know how to answer that. I think that’s left for others to determine if that was our best draft. There have been a lot of drafts I wasn’t here for. We had a number of good players in that draft, guys that are still with us. I will say that since 2006 with this staff, scouts and group of coaches, I’ve felt really good about the process and the success we’ve had in the draft. We have a lot of confidence in our operation in regards to the draft.”
A media outlet did a long range draft study for the last five years and had you and the Packers on top. Have you given yourself good approval ratings?
“Not if we’re second. That’s subjective. I think we’re always self-critical. You don’t think about the successes as much as the failures. It’s like we might have seven picks in a draft, six might be great. The one you didn’t get, that’s the one you dwell on. Those are the ones I dwell on. As far as grading. That’s somebody’s subjective view. I’m proud of our staff and the way we’ve approached the draft and one of the things I brought up is the involvement our coaches have in making an investment in these picks and they’ve done a great job in developing young players. We have a good process here.”
Where are you in regards to having your draft board set now?
“That’s just happened recently at the end of the last couple of weeks. Our area scouts, scouting director and the rest of us are participating. I would say by tonight it will be locked and loaded.”
Following the draft, is there any communication you guys can have with the picks?
“It’s just part of the direction we’re looking for from the league in telling us what we can and can’t do and we’ll adjust accordingly. One thing with our team is we have a veteran team with great leadership. I do kind of feel like we’ll be able to adapt to whatever rules are in place. If it takes us a while before we get them. We’ll adapt to that. If we get them right away, we know how to get our guys acclimated.”
Have you or anyone in your organization been in contact with Drew Brees or
Do you look at your board and say you would like some picks in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds?
“I think just because of the work involved preparing for the draft you’d like to have a pick in every round. If you don’t have a pick in the round you’re sitting there and you’d like to have this guy or that guy. We’ve in the past traded future picks to get back into a round. We’ll see how it plays out, but to answer your question, yes, we’d love to have picks in those rounds, but we’ve used those picks and I think in most cases, it’s turned out to be a good result for us. There are one or two that haven’t turned out to be a good result, but generally, we’ve made good moves in making those trades.”
Do certain characters issues or red flags affect your draft board significantly with a player?
“There can be some things that affect their position on the board. There’s rising and falling on these media boards. You might make an adjustment for a guy. It’s not going to be a dramatic adjustment, which is the way some of these media experts portray it. Some of them are really good at what they do. I’m not trying to be critical of them. I’m just saying that in practice, we don’t have guys that fall from the first round to the seventh round or go from the first round to the fourth round. That’s rare.”
Have you ever been shocked by something another team did?
“We’ve been surprised a few times. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong. There’s been times, where someone’s taken a player early that we had further down the draft. Again that doesn’t mean they’re right or wrong.”
What goes in to character grades?
“Everything that goes into the makeup of that player. Maybe it’s coachability. It may be a positive test or a crime. It can be a lot of different things. I can be how they treat people. How they treat the trainers, the coaches. It can be a lot of things. We’re looking for the right kind of guy for our locker room. If a guy’s a good teammate, that’s positive. If a guy hasn’t proven himself to be a good teammate. That’s a flag that we need to be aware of.”
How hard is it for you to gauge?
“I don’t know if it’s that subjective, because our scouts do a great job of talking to a lot of people at schools. You gather up a lot of information. You do the interviews. You get information from those questions. We get it from a lot of sources. I don’t think it’s as subjective as you think there’s a lot of information.”
Are there thresholds that would take a player completely off your board?
Even if he’s a really good player?
How many players in this draft have first round grades?
“I haven’t counted. 32 at least though.”