We’re here at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. NewOrleansSaints.com here with Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis. Mickey, many people have talked about the depth of this NFL draft. What is your perspective on that?
“Well, look I think it’s early to really make that determination although my impression and I think the impression of our scouts and Ryan Pace and Rick Reiprish is that it is going to be a deep draft.”
When you get to this part of the situation and you get here and some players will work out and some won’t work out, does that affect your evaluation in any way?
“Not really. Listen, historically about 70 percent of the guys here are going to work out and do everything that they’re asked. I don’t think that will be any different this year. I think there will be some guys that we catch later at their pro days and personal workouts but the majority of them will get here and I think Ryan earlier said that you pay attention to what’s going on here and yet you don’t put too much stock in that. Listen, they are in shorts and T-shirts. They aren’t playing football. We’ve got evaluations of these guys playing football and that’s what we’ll rely on the most.”
How much with the NFL draft being pushed back and free agency dictate what you do in the draft in terms of who you need and what the team needs?
“I think, for one thing, our goal in free agency and in the offseason is to fill as many of our needs as possible. We always try to do that before the draft so that when we get to the draft, we can just take the best player available to us at the time that we’re selecting, particularly, when you are selecting 27th. We don’t really have a good idea who is going to be available to us in the first round, much less the second, third and fourth. If we can get to the point where we can just take the highest graded player first and need second, that is what we are angling for. We’ll see how that unfolds. I think for the most part in the past years, we’ve been able to do that but each year is different.”
Talk about this franchise’s ability to find players later in the draft.
“We’ve had great success doing that. I think there’s a couple of things. First of all, it’s our area scouts and our entire college and pro scouting department. They do a great job finding guys who have traits that transfer well into the NFL. The second part of that is our coaching staff, starting with Sean (Payton) and our coaches have always been willing to go by what they see, not by how a player was acquired. Sometimes it’s a little embarrassing when you cut a draft pick in favor of a college free agent and yet we’re just going by what we see and who has earned their position. Our coaches do a great job of developing players, taking young players, spotting a talent and being able to develop that into something they can use. It’s an organization effort, I think.”
Finally, recently you’ve had to make some difficult personnel decisions on some guys who helped this franchise win a Super Bowl. I guess that speaks for this team’s ability to replace valuable players.
“There was nothing easy about that. Those four guys, Will (Smith), Jon (Vilma), Jabari (Greer) and Roman (Harper) have meant so much to not only our team on the field but our organization as a whole and to our community as well. They will always be part of the New Orleans Saints. That’s the way we feel about them. They are always welcome in our building and we’ve got nothing but great things to say about each one of them. I don’t think that those guys are done playing. I think they’ve got some tread left on their tires and we wish them the best and want them to know they are always welcome. That’s difficult to do and yet sometimes you have to do that for the good of the franchise.”