The New Orleans Saints made obvious gains in free agency, but not all of the gains they targeted. Still, taking the best available player at their spots in the NFL Draft – beginning with the No. 27 pick of the first round Thursday – remains the most logical and palatable option entering the draft.
"I think we're going to do that (draft the best available player) regardless," Saints executive vice president and general manager Mickey Loomis said Wednesday, during his annual predraft news conference. "But I would say, there are some things that we still have to accomplish that we didn't get accomplished in free agency. That doesn't mean that we have to get that done in the draft, there's time afterwards before training camp gets started. But I think we're still in a good position."
Loomis said the value is in having several players in the draft cloud when the Saints are on the clock.
"It's never just one guy sitting up there (on your draft board) and everybody else is gone," he said. "You have a group of players that are all graded pretty closely together when you pick, more often than not. And certainly, position comes into play when you make that pick when you have a group of guys that are close together. It may be it's a position of need for your team but it also may be that that position is more valuable than another one."
The Saints possess less high picks than last season, when they had five of the first 103 picks, plus a trade into the third round (last year's seventh-rounder and this year's second-rounder) that resulted in the selection of running back Alvin Kamara.
Thus, there's less capital on hand with which to trade up in the draft. But that doesn't rule out the possibility that New Orleans will move up, or down, during the selection process.
New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis addresses the media at his opening press conference at Ochsner Sports Performance Center on April 25, 2018.
"There may be a target on someone that we have going forward that, hey, if we can get this one guy, then that's worth giving up some of our other assets," Loomis said. "I think we're open to either, although historically I think we've done a lot more trading up than trading back. I recognize that.
"We're thinking about trades a month ago, thinking about opportunities, I would say. Whether that's trading up or trading down or player for player, we're always thinking about opportunities to improve our roster, get guys in that fit what we want to do. And that changes, based upon who might be available or who you might have signed in free agency or who you think might become available in the draft where you're picking. It's a lot more difficult when you're at 27 as opposed to being in the top 10 or 11th or some of the places we've been the previous few years."
If the Saints desire to move, they have a good idea of what it would cost to do so in either direction.
"Most everyone uses those (point-value) charts as a guideline," Loomis said. "We pay attention to what's happened historically. At every pick, I've looked at trades that are similar, going from 27 to whatever. Has that happened before? What was the cost? We look at history, we look at the point-value charts and then, it's still a marketplace that two people have to say 'yes' to. So it's a negotiation."
New Orleans isn't above drafting a player at a position that already is strong, Loomis said.
"(Assistant General Manager/College Scouting Director) Jeff (Ireland) says this a lot. He says sometimes, it's not a bad thing to build on a strength. Add to a strength. And we agree with that."