New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis has been around the NFL Draft since 1984.
Then known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting, Loomis wrote names like Terry Taylor, Daryl Turner and Fredd Young on the draft cards for the Seattle Seahawks.
Now over two decades into his tenure as GM of the Saints, Loomis said many things have changed about the NFL Draft, but one crucial fact remains the same: If you draft well, you give yourself a chance to be successful.
He began his pre-draft press conference Wednesday by naming everyone in the New Orleans scouting department, claiming they are what makes drafting well possible.
"Their passion and ability to evaluate players and relay that to us is second to none," Loomis said.
Since Loomis took over general manager responsibilities in 2002, New Orleans has drafted 17 Pro Bowlers and had seven First-Team All-Pro selections.
The Saints currently hold eight picks in the 2023 draft, including five on Day 3 (Rounds 4-7). Loomis said the team's selections give the Saints the option to trade up if that scenario presents itself.
"Right now we have eight picks," Loomis said with a grin. "I always feel like if you have picks in the later part of the draft it gives the flexibility to bump up… If we decide to bump up a little bit, we'd have enough resources to do that."
New Orleans has a history of moving up the draft board. Just last season, the Saints moved up from the No. 16 pick to the No. 11 pick to select wide receiver Chris Olave, sending picks 16, 98 and 120 to the Washington Commanders.
"I think when you have a conviction, if you love somebody and you go get them, that's the preferred policy that I like," Loomis said. "Find somebody you love and go get them."
The Saints are currently sitting with the No. 29 pick in the first round Thursday, a selection acquired from the trade of former head coach Sean Payton to the Denver Broncos. (The Philadelphia Eagles own New Orleans's original No. 10 pick after last year's trade involving the eventual selection of Trevor Penning).
With a later first round selection, a lot has to happen before New Orleans makes a pick. Contrary to the theatrics shown in the 2014 Kevin Costner film "Draft Day," Loomis said typically most conversations on draft night about the selection itself starts around three picks, or 30 minutes, prior to the team's pick.
New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis speaks with the media prior to the 2023 NFL Draft on April 26, 2023.
"It's not this frenzy of activity," Loomis said. "I wouldn't say there's a lot of conversation, unless someone calls and wants to trade."
Loomis said the Saints feel comfortable where they're at right now with the first and second round (no. 40) selections.
"We have a group of players that we think have a good chance to be available, hopefully we're right," Loomis said. (Assistant General Manager Jeff Ireland's) got a formula… I feel good about the player we might get at 29 and 40 for example, it's a little more random after that."
NFL.com lists defensive line, tight end and offensive line as the team's top three needs, but Loomis doesn't think the Saints have any positions that are "must haves" entering Thursday.
"I think there are some things that we'd like to have, I don't know if I would call any of them musts," he said. "I think we've done a pretty good job this offseason of taking a lot of those musts and turning them into wants."
When it comes to evaluating specific players, Loomis said there are a variety of factors at play — athletic ability is just one piece to the larger puzzle.
"We are looking for the best player we can get, the best football player we can get," Loomis said. "That encompasses a lot of things… It's about the makeup of the player, does he fit our culture, is he gonna be great in our locker, does he have leadership skills, it's all these other things outside of physical ability.
"In terms of who we're drafting, it's, 'man, let's get somebody we love.' That may be at a position we need and hopefully it is, but it may be at a position we already have as a strength."
Loomis did say there are a handful of players the Saints have taken off their boards due to character concerns or medical issues.
New Orleans lost three starters along the defensive line through free agency. Although the team made moves to counteract those losses, mock drafts around the NFL media have pegged the Saints with defensive line prospects. Charles Davis from NFL.com, who has the Saints picking Mazi Smith from Michigan, while Brad Spielberger from Pro Football Focus has the Saints selecting Bryan Bresse from Clemson.
Loomis didn't go into detail on positions the Saints would target, saying they've never taken a position group off their draft board regardless of in-house talent.
"There's nothing wrong with building a strength," Loomis said.
There's also nothing wrong with building depth. The Saints have dealt with a multitude of injuries at many positions over the past few seasons, and Loomis said you never feel comfortable with the amount of help you have behind the starters.
"It's like being in college," Loomis said. "You have an exam the next day and you've been studying for 40 hours, but you feel like 'ah, I need five more hours of studying.' It never feels like enough."
As far as depth in the draft itself, Loomis said he feels like the tight end group is deeper than normal, as are the cornerback and quarterback groups.
Loomis said a big part of his job is not just looking at this season but also seasons to come, stressing it's essential to look at least three years into the future.
"It's going to be three years from now before we can say whether it was a good draft or not a good draft," Loomis said. "If you're getting players that are contributing to your team at a high level then you feel good about it. We would want them to be All-Pros and Pro Bowl players, but it ultimately comes down to "did they help us win?'"
Approaches from organizations and coverage from media of the NFL Draft have changed drastically since Loomis wrote names on cards at the Omni Park Central Hotel in New York City for the Seahawks. His favorite part, though, remains the same nearly 40 years later.
"When it's done… and you're on the phone with the player you're taking," Loomis said. "You feel the excitement, you've made somebody's dream come true, and you're excited about the player you've gotten, that's my favorite part."
The 2023 NFL Draft will take place Thursday, April 27 through Saturday, April 29, with the first round kicking off from Kansas City at 7 p.m. CST.
Kamara update: Loomis said the legal situation regarding running back Alvin Kamara will not affect who they select in the draft, saying it's a temporary, short-term issue.
Fifth-year options: The Saints have made a decision on guard Cesar Ruiz's fifth-year option, but Loomis declined to announce the decision Wednesday.
The book: Loomis said he has a book on his desk containing every trade that has occurred in the NFL over the last 12 years. He goes through it every year and says whether each team would do that trade again or not.