Baton Rouge – Every look is an important look, so there’s something to be gained from every access.
New Orleans Saints assistant general manager/college scouting director Jeff Ireland feels that way and, based on the results of the Saints’ drafts since Ireland joined the organization in 2015, the philosophy has proven to be more than sound.
So pro day at LSU on Friday was another chance for Ireland, General Manager Mickey Loomis, Saints coaches and scouts to get another evaluation on 12 draft-eligible Tigers.
“It’s a different exposure,” Ireland said. “I always tell our scouts, ‘Get around the kid. Get around the player that we’re evaluating as many times as you can. Because it’s like (the media) getting around me: The more times you’re around me, the better you’ll know me."
“It’s the same way with a player: The more times you’re around him, the better exposure you have to the player, the more conviction you’re going to have on the player when it comes to drafting. So this is another exposure, it gives us a live opportunity to evaluate how he moves, what he’s like when you talk to him, get him up in the film room and how well does he understand football. Put him in a position that we challenge him a little bit, and how does he respond to that. So this is a great exposure to us.”
The scarcity of picks, and the lower placement – the Saints own a second-rounder (No. 62 overall), two fifth-rounders (Nos. 168 and 177), two sixth-rounders (Nos. 202 and 231) and a seventh-rounder (No. 244) entering the draft – hasn’t changed Ireland’s approach.
“We’re going to evaluate every player that we can possibly get our eyes on, we’re going to build the board just exactly the same way that we always have,” he said. “I always feel like a strength of mine is kind of that late-round type, get those late-round guys.
“When our board gets picked apart and there’s a couple of guys still on the board, you feel a strong conviction to draft those players. So we’re going to build it the same way and hope for some good players at the back end of the draft.”
That approach helped the Saints land defensive tackle Tyeler Davison (fifth round in 2015, pick No. 154), defensive tackle David Onyemata (fourth round in ’16, No. 120) and offensive lineman Will Clapp (seventh round in ’18, No. 245).
“I think the strength of the draft is the depth of the draft,” Ireland said. “Similar to two years ago, the ’17 draft was so deep.”
The draft approach has been girded by the gains New Orleans made in free agency, including running back Latavius Murray, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, center Nick Easton, linebacker Craig Robertson, safety Chris Banjo, defensive tackle Malcolm Brown, defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. and kicker Wil Lutz.
“That’s the overriding philosophy of free agency versus the draft,” Ireland said. “Free agency is fill some of the needs that you have, the draft is to hopefully don’t reach, draft good players that fit our system, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
GREED IS GOOD: One of the players being evaluated on Friday was cornerback Greedy Williams, a projected first-round pick who attended the NFL Combine and participated in some drills – including the 40-yard dash – but not others due to injury. Williams went through some individual drills.
“He’s a good player,” Ireland said. “He’s been consistent this year, just about any game tape you put on. He can really read the route. He’s long, he’s certainly a good athlete. He’s just a really good football player.”