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John DeShazier: LSU's Pro Day just another piece of evaluation puzzle for Saints

GM Mickey Loomis, Coach Sean Payton and Saints personnel were on hand to see Tigers work out

Baton Rouge – There may yet be more moves made this offseason by the New Orleans Saints, more contract agreements with free agents or contract extensions among players currently on the roster.

But for the most part, the goals of a busy offseason have been met, leaving the Saints closer to being able to select the best player available at their position in the upcoming NFL Draft.

"I think it's kind of business as usual," General Manager Mickey Loomis said Wednesday, from LSU's Pro Day. "We have a short-term plan and a long-term plan. We come into each offseason with 19 or 20 or 25 different things that we want to get accomplished, and you just kind of go down the checklist.

"Obviously, things come out that are unexpected and you have to react to those but for the most part, it's a plan and an execution of a plan. So I would say it's kind of business as usual.

"We hit almost all of them."

Which left the Saints' personnel – including Loomis, Coach Sean Payton and Payton's staff – more able to fully concentrate on the happenings at LSU's indoor practice facility, where draft-eligible Tigers either tried to improve on their NFL Combine showings (receiver Jarvis Landry), worked out for the first time (quarterback Zach Mettenberger) or went through some drills in order to help teammates and perhaps enhance their draft status (receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.).

"The first thing is, it gives you certain measurables that you fill in," Payton said of Pro Day. "There are six, seven different events that you're trying to test everyone who's a draft-eligible player in, whether it's a shuttle, whether it's a 40(-yard dash). So there's a physical element to the testing and at least you're able to draw comparisons in the position they play.

"It's an opportunity for a lot of these players to improve in an area from the Combine. Some players will sit with their Combine results.

"And the second element, which is the most important part, is to watch them in football drills, position drills. You'll see six or seven different position groups training. You'll have some time with the players. It won't be as formal as 15 minutes just for an interview. You can sit down and really try to get to know the player.

"I think it's a piece to the puzzle. I would probably say that players tend to elevate themselves more at their pro days than hurt themselves. But it's one piece of the puzzle, and there are so many pieces. We just try to gather as much information as we can and then begin to try to formulate a profile – how is this player in regards to learning, how is this player in regards to his physical traits, and you keep adding to the equation. And I think the more information you have – hopefully, the better information you have – the better decisions you make."

Landry, who ran a 4.77-second 40-yard dash at the Combine in February, clocked in at 4.58, twice. Mettenberger, who was unable to participate in drills at the Combine while he recovered from surgery to repair his torn ACL, was able to throw to receivers and running backs Wednesday, showing that his knee was "85 to 90 percent" healthy, according to him.

And Beckham, who ran 4.43 at the Combine, didn't need to run the 40 again. He caught passes from Mettenberger and encouraged teammates.

"We're still in that evaluation process (on Beckham and Landry) but obviously, they are really good players," Loomis said. "That's evident by the number of people here to see these guys, and some of the other guys. But we've got evaluations on them. We think a lot of them and the other players here. We're out here in force. We've got most of our staff here.

"I think every team looks at it a little differently. It's just another piece of information. I don't think it's make or break for anyone, unless there's something extreme that happens. It's just another piece of information in the process, and that's what we're here to gather.

'Our goal every year is to get to the draft and be able to select the best player, the best fit for our team, regardless of position. I don't know that I would say that we've got no holes, but I feel like we've got a good team and we're going to draft the best player available to us that fits our club."

One vacancy recently was covered when the Saints agreed to terms on a two-year contract with cornerback Champ Bailey last week. Bailey, a 16-year veteran, has 52 career interceptions.

"There's a presence with him," Payton said. "He has been very consistent. He's a great worker. I think he's got great leadership skills and for us to add a player with not only his ability, but what he's seen and his ability to communicate that to the other players on our team, and most importantly he wants to win … we're excited about having him."

Said Loomis: "We've got a lot of guys in our program and yet, here's an opportunity to add a veteran player that has been to 12 Pro Bowls. So there's a lot of institutional knowledge in this guy as well as, we think, some good play still left."

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