Indianapolis – The expectation to replicate is real, and welcomed, because it matches the New Orleans Saints' own beliefs.
Namely, that the 2018 draft class may not become as decorated as the Class of '17 – which produced Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year, and five starters in a seven-player haul – but that the players drafted will be done so based on the belief that they can fit in and produce.
"We have high expectations for ourselves every year," Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said Friday, from the annual NFL Scouting Combine. "We had some good things happen with the class last year thanks to the players themselves and our coaches, and a good job by our scouting staff. Obviously, we're looking to repeat that.
"It's early, but I think that it's a good class. We'll be able to have an opportunity to get a good player or two in this draft, maybe a few more hopefully. Different than last year, though, we don't have five picks in the first three rounds, so we'll have to be a little more judicious, I think, when it comes right down to it. We do have more later-round picks that, maybe, we can turn into something good. But I'm encouraged."
Coach Sean Payton echoed the sentiment.
"That's what our scouts, that's what our personnel department, our coaching staff – everyone who's involved in this process – is charged with," Payton said. "Regardless of where we're picking and how many picks, it's taking advantage of those assets. The draft is the No. 1 way to fortify your team.
"This is an important part of the process at the Combine, their workouts, all the countless hours that we'll spend on evaluating their tape, the interviews we're doing in the evening – all of it leads to what we hope is going to be another strong draft. Your team gets better. We saw last year how important, the last couple of years, (the drafts) have been to our team."
Loomis said that most important last year was the fact that the Saints' picks met the expectations that were established.
"I don't know that you ever have a great feel for how they're going to perform in-season, but I think early on, every guy was what we expected and met the expectations that we had via the evaluations," he said. "So that was encouraging.
"We had high character, smart guys, tough, productive at their schools and they carried that forward. It was a good job by our coaching staff and by the players themselves – they bought in and embraced coaching and the culture that we have at the Saints, and it worked out. That was Year 1, though. They've got to follow that up in the coming years."
That remains the charge, which is why the Combine is valuable to the evaluation process.
"I think every element is important, and this is one of those," Loomis said. "You have this impression – we have these evaluations that our scouts have done and our scouts have talked about all these players – and we have expectations of how they're going to do here. So I think what we see here is important. It's one of the information-gathering points that we have."
Just as important, free agency serves as a critical element to filling needs and shoring weaknesses. Loomis said adding talent that way aids in the drafting process.
"Every year, we have a plan and things that we want to get accomplished," he said, "and the more that you can get accomplished in the offseason before the draft, (the more it) gives you a little extra freedom in the draft.
"And yet, I think you still in the draft have to resist taking need over best available player. It's a balance and I think that over the years, we've done a good job of being able to take the best available player. But this is another year."