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New Orleans Saints will have quantity to find the quality they seek in this year's NFL Draft

Saints enter draft with eight picks, twice as many as last year

If you're looking for, or expecting, a new approach from the New Orleans Saints entering the 2021 NFL Draft, set to take place in Cleveland from Thursday through Saturday, stop looking or expecting.

New Orleans will use the formula that it has found to be successful; namely, it's always about quality.

But this year, the odds of quality are enhanced by the quantity for the Saints, who have eight draft picks this year, twice as many as in 2020. Currently, New Orleans is scheduled to pick at No. 28 overall (first round), No. 60 (second round), Nos. 98 and 105 (third), No. 133 (fourth), No. 218 (sixth) and Nos. 229 and 255 (seventh).

"I don't think the approach is different," Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis said Wednesday, in his predraft media availability. "The results, in terms of what we add to our team, are different. But we're happy to have the picks that we have this year. When you don't have a lot of picks, sometimes it feels like you've done all this work and don't have much to show for it. It's good to have more picks."

Loomis said if there's a notion that the Saints have a lot of vacancies on the roster – after having quarterback Drew Brees retire and parting ways with veterans such as receiver Emmanuel Sanders, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, linebacker Alex Anzalone and tight ends Josh Hill and Jared Cook – that's an outside perception.

"I don't see a lot of holes in our roster," he said. "Obviously, we've got the ability to sign up to 90 players but in terms of our roster, I think it's hard to make our team.

"I think we have a lot of talent at a lot of positions and when you look at each of these position groups, a lot of times it's hard to envision a rookie coming in and displacing some of our veterans. I wouldn't say that volume is a priority for us. I think quality is a priority for us."

That said, Coach Sean Payton shared last week that cornerback would be a position that the team would need to address this offseason. But that doesn't necessarily mean it will have to be addressed in the first round.

"I think there's going to be good players (at cornerback), I think there's going to be guys that can come in and help our team at that position, as well as others," Loomis said. "And yet, I would say no different than most years, is that when you're down at the back half of the draft, you want to be able to take the best player available. And sometimes that's a glaring card that sits on your board above all others. In fact, most of the time, it's not at the position that you might prefer."

Linebacker also is an area that the Saints might choose to bolster in the draft. Demario Davis is the lone returning starter at the position, with Alex Anzalone (free agency) and Kwon Alexander (released) gone.

The Saints have been inclined to stay with prototype players at the position, but are flexible in their approach.

"I think we're always looking for prototype," Loomis said. "That's kind of been one of our underlying premises the entire time that I've been here. We're looking for prototype.

"We're not looking for exceptions in general, and yet we know exceptions exist. That's still our philosophy, but we also recognize that good football players can come in all shapes and sizes at times. We're pretty calculated when we go outside of that."

Calculated when they go outside the prototype, but aggressive when they see a player that they like.

In past drafts, New Orleans often has been willing to move up if it likes a player enough and is sure that he won't be on the board by the time the Saints are on the clock.

"If aggressive means move up as opposed to move down, I guess that's what our track record is," Loomis said. "One thing that I think we've done in the past is we've found somebody that we love and we've oftentimes made moves to go get that player, or players. So if that's the definition of aggressive, I like it.

"We try to find a group of players that we really like and we really believe will fit on our team, not just our roster in terms of playing but in terms of fitting in the locker room and the culture that exists here. And so, you put targets on those guys. When you have targets on players, we just believe you've got to go them. You've got to go and be aggressive, and not necessarily always let them fall to you. That's the approach that we take."

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