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John DeShazier: Mickey Loomis, Saints staff working hard on eve of the draft

Loomis: 'You’re constantly gathering information'

As tempting as it may be to cement a decision for the New Orleans Saints in terms of a player or position with any of their nine draft picks in the upcoming NFL Draft, which is set to begin Thursday, it may not be the wisest course of action.

As fun as it is to play armchair general manager for the Saints in the draft – Round 1 will be held on Thursday, Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday and Rounds 4-7 on Saturday, in Chicago – the franchise's actual general manager said that while one among the best players on the team's board usually fits a need, sometimes an outlier can fall into the lap.

"I've said this in the past: What you're hoping for is that when it's time for you to pick you're going to have two or three options, players with like grades," Mickey Loomis said Wednesday in his predraft news conference. "Then, you can say let's take the position that we have the most need for with these players that we view as equal talents. That's generally been the case.

"Every once in a while, though, there's somebody that just jumps out at a position that you don't have a need for, that you feel like you've just got to take. We were talking this morning about Deuce McAllister (in 2001). We had Rickey Williams here when Deuce McAllister was available to us (at No. 23 overall, in the first round) and he just sat so far ahead of everyone else that we had graded when we took him, we felt like, 'Hey, I know we don't need a running back, but let's take him.'

"That worked out pretty well."

McAllister became the franchise's all-time leader in rushing yards (6,096) and rushing touchdowns (49), and is second in total touchdowns (55).

Regardless of whether a McAllister-like talent tumbles to the Saints at Nos. 13 or 31 in the first round, the team has done its due diligence in terms of evaluation and research. The Saints also have one second-round pick (No. 44 overall), two in the third round (75 and 78), two in the fifth (148 and 154), one in the sixth (187) and one in the seventh (230).

"You're constantly gathering information," Loomis said. "There's always, 'Hey, what about this guy back here? Let's get a little more information, let's look at a few more tapes.'

"Obviously, an incident that may happen in the last couple of days, you reference it, we've got to pay attention to that. We go through these mock drafts ourselves, make estimates of who we might be looking at with each one of these picks. I would call it tweaking more than anything else.

"And obviously, we'll make some calls and see what teams are interested in doing in terms of moving up, moving back, that sort of thing. So we've still got a lot to do over the next few hours."

That exact scenario – an incident occurring – has happened to three high-profile, potential first-round picks since the NFL Combine.

Nebraska defensive end/outside linebacker Randy Gregory and Missouri defensive end Shane Ray each has made off-the-field news. Gregory tested positive for marijuana at the Combine and admittedly was a frequent user during his college playing days, and Ray was cited for marijuana possession on Monday morning, after he was stopped for speeding. Baton Rouge police want to interview former LSU tackle La'el Collins as part of their investigation into the shooting death of pregnant woman.

"I think anything that happens closer to the draft, you get a little more alarmed because you're concerned a little bit more about judgment, as much as the incident itself," Loomis said. "The problem is, you don't have enough time to dig into it and get all the information that you would have if something happened a month ago, or two months ago. Anything like that is concerning. But any incident, for any of these players, is concerning."

In last year's draft, the Saints traded up in the first round in order to pick receiver Brandin Cooks at No. 20. New Orleans traded its first-round pick (No. 27) and its third-rounder (No. 91) last year to Arizona in order to move up.

With its multitude of picks, the team could have the wherewithal to move up again. Or, it could slide back.

Said Loomis: "What I will do, and what I've been doing the last few days, I just go back over the last 10 years and I look at every trade that happened on draft day. So I get a pretty good sense of the history of movement in these rounds.

"I have a pretty good idea – I look at every pick, if we move one pick up, two picks up, three picks up, same thing going backward. So I have a real good idea of what has happened, a real good idea of what the perceived value is based on the point charts. And then we've got to make a determination as to, 'Hey, this is what we would do and this is what we would take if we move back.' I'll have a real good feel for that before tomorrow night."

Infusing Jeff Ireland, the team's new assistant general manager, into the process has been a smooth transition, Loomis said. Ireland formerly was a general manager with the Dolphins from 2008-13.

"It's been excellent. Jeff Ireland and Terry Fontenot, our pro (scouting) director, (regional scout) Dwaune Jones and all of our scouting staff, they do a tremendous amount of work over the course of the last eight or nine months," Loomis said. "I can't say enough good things about the work that they do, and have done, our coaches as well.

"They put a lot of time and effort into evaluations and helping us all determine what the right decision is as we get to each one of these picks. It's been a great process. We've gained a lot from Jeff's perspective, his experience. He does have some different things that he does and we've been able to blend that in with the things that we've done. I really like where we're at."

Where the Saints are is a day from the draft, staring at the opportunity to add nine players to the roster who could help the franchise for years to come.

"We want to hit on all nine picks, eventually," Loomis said. "I think it's unrealistic to expect nine guys to come in and start their first year. It's probably unrealistic to expect four or five, as well.

"What we want to do is, we want to select good players that we have a vision for, that can contribute early, hopefully. But that's not the whole story. We're going to have to wait two or three years down the road before we can make a judgment on how well we did."

Photos from Mickey Loomis' 2015 Pre-Draft press conference. Photos by Alex Restrepo. (New Orleans Saints photos)

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