Indianapolis – Jeff Ireland has the benefit of not needing to build a relationship with New Orleans Saints Coach Dennis Allen from the ground up, which means the process of evaluating players for the NFL Draft didn't require anything approaching an overhaul.
Ireland, the Saints' vice president/assistant general manager and college scouting director, joined the franchise in 2015, the same year that Allen returned after four seasons away.
"I think it's going to be different," Ireland said Wednesday, from the NFL Combine. "We've sat through a small window of meetings with Dennis, but Dennis and I have worked together for the last seven years. The great thing about Dennis is that we share a common vision for players, and so I know that's not going to change. I think he likes the way we come to a collaborative effort on players and the evaluation of that. That won't change too much.
"It's extremely important to have a relationship with the person that's in charge of the team. We have a shared vision for the players. He understands what I'm trying to do, I understand where he's coming from and that relationship is strong, along with (Executive Vice President/General Manager) Mickey (Loomis) and our staff. Just having that familiarity with everybody is really key."
The evaluation process will include 700 players, Ireland said, many of whom are attending the Combine. As prototypes shift accordingly, mainly to fit the first objective of winning the division title – if divisional opponents have big receivers, then big cornerbacks are needed to cover them – Ireland and his staff continually modify in the effort to find the right fits.
As for this year's draft class, there's quality available, including receivers.
"It's a good class, it's a good class," Ireland said. "There's always receivers in every round and every expectation of the draft there's receivers everywhere. This draft is no different."
AWARD: On Wednesday, Ireland was presented with a BART Award, signifying him as one of leagues' top 10 scouts.
"This is the first time we've had the best scout in the NFL Award," he said. "I'm one of many. I was just honored to be one of a few of these scouts. It's almost embarrassing because really, scouting is a collaborative effort. I couldn't do what I do if it wasn't for my staff and the scouts who support me. So it's really a team award.
"You have to make some mistakes along the way. You've got to learn from them, and I think I've done that. I've made some mistakes and I've had some really good picks, and learned just kind of the way to do it. I know what works and what doesn't, I kind of know what's around the corner and so I just have a pretty consistent way of doing things and it's worked for me and so I don't really try to veer too far off that plan.
"It's always ongoing. You've got some young scouts in here that have a little different way of doing things, and I'm always open to doing things a little bit more efficiently. I want to be very intentional about how we do things, but if a scout has a good idea of how to do things, I'm always open to changing. But the main thing is getting the makeup of the kid right, making sure the vision is accurate on how he can come in and play right away, and what his upside is."