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Head Coach Sean Payton Looks At The Draft

    <span style="">"This next period of time (acquiring undrafted rookie free agents) for us is important. Each of the last couple of years, we've been able to a find a player through free agency. Our message to those guys is no different than to any draft pick once they're on board; it doesn't really matter to us how they got here, they have an opportunity to make the team. That's what we're going to be going through in the next two or three hours. It's interesting when you look at it, there have been a number of free agents that not only have made teams, but have been Pro Bowl players. There's still a fair amount of work to do; we're looking to find a Pierre Thomas, a Steve Weatherford, a Tyler Palko – these are all guys that have made our team. Tony Romo made our team in Dallas when I was there. We've been busy today."  

Q: Carl Nicks has had some issues off of the field, but you talked with him before you made the pick. What did you talk with him about?

"I had a long talk with him, and if it weren't for some of those issues, he's probably a player that would have been drafted earlier. We felt comfortable with what those issues are. That being said, he understands that he's coming here to the environment that we have where we have little tolerance. But it's really just about getting him ready and getting him going. He's a big, athletic player that grades out well when you watch him. He has some inconsistencies that concern you, but he played well at the Senior Bowl. We didn't feel in his case that it was as much of real bad character as it was maybe some maturity issues that we were willing to look at and go with. We'll see, but he does have some real good physical skills. I had a good visit with him – probably about a half-an-hour long a round-and-a-half before we selected him just so he could reference that phone call. I think it's important to him and it's going to have to be because it's a competitive group on our team. We have some flexibility at his position where he could play tackle or possibly go inside and play guard."

Q: He said those issues hurt his draft stock. Do you think he can use that as motivation?

"We'll find out. I think the players understand what we're looking for and they need to understand what we're looking for. In the last five years, for the most part, you've seen teams gravitate in that direction. I'm excited about our locker room right now and excited about our current roster. Any time you can bring in some new players, it's on them to understand what's expected here and what we expect as coaches and what their peers expect of them. Hopefully our environment is conducive to learning and bringing out the best in a player. I think that if it is, this guy has a chance to compete and bring something to the table."

Q: When you're talking to potential free agents, do you tell them about guys like Pierre Thomas?

"I think it's important they can reference that. You can say that a free agent has a chance of making our team, but I think their next question is to give some examples. All you can do is to point to what has happened. We sell that, we sell the opportunity, and we point to examples because we think that it's important to do that."

Q: When you did the background check on Nicks, was his recent problem the only one you found?

"I'm real familiar with this player. I'm real close with his coach (Bill Callahan) and we felt very comfortable with who we were drafting at that point in time. As I said at the onset, if there weren't a few issues with this player, he would have been drafted much higher. That being said, he has to come in and compete and work and be in shape and do all those things, or else it won't work out."

Q: Did you have some luxury with flexibility on your roster?

"We had targeted a kicker, just because we wanted to give a young player a chance to come in here and compete with Martín (Gramatica). It's kind of hard to predict where those guys will get drafted if you look at the history. Last year there were a couple drafted in the second day; one made it with Dallas and the other one didn't. The Giants signed a free agent kicker that wound up hitting the game-winner in the NFC Championship game, so we wanted to pay attention to that. We found a guy that we had worked out and really spent a lot of time on. When Taylor (Mehlhaff) became available, (special teams coordinator) Greg McMahon had worked him out and we had studied the tape and were excited about him. The opportunity that they are given is to come in and compete, as all these guys are. No one is promised a spot, and no one will be. But we felt like that was one area when it came to it, with that additional pick we were going to go with it and he was available in the sixth round. But we were able to select an offensive lineman that we maybe didn't necessarily target in round five and we were able to select another defensive lineman that we think can help us. We were able to work DeMario (Pressley) out at his pro day and he gives us some flexibility because he has played inside over the guard and he's also gone outside. He's been a pretty productive player. We think he has pretty good speed and agility. We felt like it was important for us to move up two spots to get that pick in that we felt like the team ahead of us was going to probably be targeting the same player. I think what's important is that you have to have a vision for how you see the player in your own scheme and I think that right now with a little bit of work to do, we're excited about how today unfolded."

Q: Is it also a sign that you've built a roster in your three years and filled the locker room with your kind of guys that you able to only need six draft picks?

"I would have loved to have had seven or eight. But we're still working and hoping to find some guys to come in and add depth. We didn't draft a linebacker. We acquired some linebackers this offseason, but there are still areas that you can still look at. We didn't draft a running back, and you could argue whether there are needs for those positions. When you can bring in competition and bring in the guys that you think will fit in your system and fit in your locker room, I think you help yourself. The next few weeks, we're going to read all about the grades of everyone's draft and I understand that, but I think in three years we'll have a pretty good feel for how this draft unfolds. How you acquire players, you can easily evaluate, but I think we did a pretty good job to get up and get ourselves in a position to get Sedrick Ellis.

"When I was driving home last night and looking at where we were going into it with the 10th pick in the draft, I know that we got a player that we felt was better than the 10th player, and it was at a need. He was a guy that probably came up daily in our discussions of how we could get into position to get him. I thought we were off to a good start when that happened. I know he has a great motor, he works extremely hard and he's been extremely productive. We've seen him at the Senior Bowl and you guys will have a chance to meet him here in a couple of weeks and I think that you'll be impressed with him as well. I think he's an outstanding player and that gave us a good start and a little bit of momentum.

"With the corner selection (Tracy Porter), you're sitting and waiting for that run and when the first round ended, he became the next corner on most people's boards – clearly he was on ours – and we thought that he might be taken ahead of us at our pick of number 40. When he fell to us, we were pretty excited about it. We had had conversations with him and his coach. He gives us return ability and he has real good ball skills. He would clearly have been a guy that was in our second round circle a week ago. What we try to do is draw these circles with the idea of ranking who we think will be available, and in Porter's case he was a guy because there was a need, but just as importantly, we felt his skill set ranked in that area. So our first day went smooth and we were excited about that and giving up the three to get to where we had to get to to get Sedrick Ellis was perfect and well worth it. After that, today you really start trying to project to how these guys will have a chance to make the team and with each of these selections we made today we tried to do that and to have a vision of how they're going to make the team, and hopefully that vision comes to fruition."

Q: Was Sedrick Ellis' pro day work out the thing that really sold you on him?

"I think the number one thing that sells you on that player is his body of work. I think the workouts are important, the postseason bowls and all of that are important, but if you look at his body of work and what he's done and how disruptive he can be, and then having a guy that has worked with him… Any time you're able to hire a college coach, every once in a while they're able to bring some insight to other players in their conference or players that they've come across in recruiting and when it specifically happens to be a player that he's recruited and coached, that's really an additional bonus that happens. In Ed Orgeron's case, we had a pretty good idea of what we were getting and that's a good thing."

Q: You mentioned linebacker. Do you see that as a position you'll target with rookie free agents?

"We're trying to find the best players now. You're only going to have so many magnets that you put up on that board and we'll be on the phone with a lot of these guys and we'll see what happens. We'll try to get this thing filled out tonight and tomorrow morning and then get them ready for the first opportunity, which is the rookie camp two weekends from now."

Q: Would you have a quarterback in that group?

"We would like to. There is a fourth spot and an opportunity for a guy to come in and compete. I've spoken to a few guys already and we'll see how it unfolds."

Q: Do you have a few guys in mind?

"There are two. We'll see what happens. Often times they get drafted in the last round, but we'll see."

Q: Is Tyler Palko a guy that you feel like you hit on at this stage last year?

"I do. I'm excited about working with him. He was a starter at Pitt and the guy behind him transferred to Delaware and just got taken in the first round. He brings some intangibles that I think are maybe a little bit harder to see unless he's playing. I know he's had a great offseason. He's been here this whole time. He's working hard and he and (Mark) Brunell now outnumber the righty two to one, which is a little different. He's done a great job with our offseason program and I'm anxious to see him get in there because in some of the snaps he had in the preseason last year, you saw him move the team pretty well and he'll get more snaps this upcoming training camp. He's very focused; it's very important to him, and he has some of those intangibles that you look for, and that excites me."

Q: Did he come with you to help on some workouts with cornerbacks?

"He was with us on one trip, but it was 160 throws at three different stops and he did a good job. We took a little group of guys and we went to work out the corner at Tennessee State, Cromartie, the corner at Troy State, McKelvin, and then the corner at South Florida, Jenkins, and he did a real good job. He's doing well."

Q: In Mehlhaff's case, are his kickoffs one way that he might be able to make the roster?

"I think still there has to be the confidence level. Last year, it took place with Gramatica where we felt like he began to hit important kicks for us. I think the job description is to be accurate and to be able to convert drives, be it on long field goals or short field goals, and then also as a kickoff guy. I think you take the combination. We thought at the beginning of the year a year ago, that Olindo (Mare) gave us that and it didn't work out. This is an opportunity for us to look at a young kicker that we've done a lot more research on that maybe some kickers that we would bring in in free agency and we think he can come in and compete."

Q: Does he have to options – to compete to win the main job or also as a kickoff specialist?

"Right now, I look at it as two kickers that are competing for that spot. Whether we create another spot, I think that becomes something down the line. I really look at two guys that will come in here and it's probably not unlike most camps where you have competition. In this case, you have the young player coming in with the veteran already here. I was pleased with the way Gramatica came in here and in a short period of time was consistent and did a good job for us. With any of these picks, it's never an indictment of any of your current guys; we're trying to improve the New Orleans Saints. When the player was available in the sixth round, we felt like it was a good match. We had just worked him out a week ago and really liked his leg strength. But they're going to have to be able to kick field goals."

Q: At the end of last season, five of your draft class were on the roster but Usama Young was really the only who that saw a lot of playing time. Do you almost see yourselves as having two draft classes this year?

"We have some young players. Of course, Robert Meachem is a guy that has had a lot written about him. I'm excited about where he's at from a health standpoint; he's progressed tremendously. You don't see the knee being an issue at all. We're going to find out a lot about him this coming spring and fall. Jermon Bushrod is another guy that we're really excited about. He's a young lineman that went through that first year. He's healthy and he's been doing a great job with the offseason program. The timeframe on when they play is sometimes something that they can't control, but again, I think a couple of years from now we're going to be able to look back and say if these were good selections or they weren't, and I like the guys that we have. I think Usama Young is going to be a guy that competes for playing time this year; just as he played last year, I think he'll compete for more playing time. Again, we're trying to get younger and improve the roster, and that being said, still be mindful of the chemistry that we have in that locker room and what we think gives us the best chance to win and win in this upcoming season."

Q: With Ellis and Porter both filling needs on the team, did each of them have the highest grade of any player on the board?

"No question. There was no discussion at all with Ellis. When you make a trade to go up to get a player, you make the trade knowing that you're getting that player. In other words, you're not going up hoping that that player comes to you. You only go up if that player is there, and then you go up, get it and take that player. Clearly, that was our target when we moved up and that's why the trade took place immediately when Ellis fell to the spot of New England's pick. With Porter, when he became available, there wasn't discussion or debate – and often times there is, sometimes there might be three players – but in his case there wasn't. It isn't always that smooth or that easy, but we were happy about yesterday. There are 31 other head coaches that are sitting before their media today saying that they got just who they wanted and they had a great day and are happy about it, and I understand that, but in the end, the proof will be in the pudding and we'll find out sooner than later. We're excited about these players. They do fill needs for us; they fit what we're looking for and we'll keep going here. Hopefully we can find a few free agents that can come in and compete as well."

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