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Quotes: Sean Payton recaps New Orleans Saints Draft 2021 Day 1

New Orleans Saints head coach recaps Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton
NFL Draft Day press conference
Thursday, April 29, 2021

At what point did you guys kind of feel comfortable staying at 28 and saying we can get a guy who can help us? And also what do you like about the characteristics that Payton (Turner) brings?

"You do your homework, you explore possibilities of moving. And he was someone...You're never certain that a player is going to be available and we weren't with this player. Man, he has a lot of things, a lot of traits that we value. He was a high energy player, his prototype, his size. We really had this player as someone that you couldn't help but notice, the makeup was good. And you don't go into a draft necessarily sometimes saying, hey, this was a position, you're really paying attention to the talent. And what I mean by that is, it might not have appeared to have been a player at a position we would want. But there were too many things that we felt gave this guy a lot of chances to be successful in our league. And so, we're excited about it. We paid attention to all these guys in the defensive front. There are a lot of good players on the board, still and we were fortunate to get one."

Would you say you were more active than normal looking to trade up? Or was this maybe more of a normal first round for you? How active would you say you guys were?

"Look, historically, Mickey (Loomis) and I both I would say (we) historically, move forward quite a bit. We've come into the first round, we've done that before. And so, look, I think, back in '06, '07, '08 and '09, you could really be active which we, I'm sure were at times. There's so many reports that half of it you believe and half of it you don't. But yeah, we were on the call and we spoke with (teams), we feel like it's our job to speak with people in front, just find out their appetite. One of the challenges, there's a lot of new GMs and head coaches and so, sometimes you have a relationship and you know that the appetite or palate someone has for making a deal. And so, we definitely were on the phone with a number of teams in front of us. But, I don't think that was unusually more than a year ago, two years ago. I think that's just how we approach it."

How much goes into this, if any at all, you talked about Ryan Nielsen, this offseason, keeping him and giving him a promotion, knowing that he'll be coaching a player like (Payton) Turner or does that even weigh on your mind when you're selecting a player like this?

"Yeah, look, I think No. 1, Ryan does a fantastic job and I think he and Brian Young, when given (assignments to grade) along with the scouts, when given these players to grade and evaluate and read, those opinions matter. I think most importantly the vision, the vision that everyone has and what we feel like the player can do early on. And it's hard to find those players, guys that we feel like can rush the passer, guys that have that stature. So, it was one of those picks that I know the scouts, as well as the coaches, all of us involved (were impressed). He is someone that has a fantastic makeup. So, he's exciting."


How big of a role does length play in that position, specifically?

"A lot. In our history, we do the bench press test, where they rep to 25 as many times as possible. And every once in a while, you're reminded when you pull up the top 10 scores of all time. Obviously, there's some things you gain from that. But, the top 10 most amount of reps of all time generally are players that lacked that length and had trouble maybe playing. I think in our league, it matters. No different than the offensive tackle, generally speaking, those guys are both in a fight for first contact and you feel his length when you watch the tape."

I know he's kind of new to the position, second year after starting his college career inside, I believe it was, is there still a lot of room for growth with him to, you know, along with what he's already been?

"Absolutely. Look, I just spoke with Dana (Holgerson). And we have talked to their people before. We saw a tremendous, tremendous upside relative to the position. And you can't come away from watching his film and not feel like he played hard. And you see that, if I didn't say anything about who we were looking at on defense, I think at some point, you'd ask who he was."

Last year, when you drafted (Cesar) Ruiz you said, we did not draft him to sit. Is that something you could say about (Payton) Turner, like a guy you could see contribute?

"He'll play and earn those reps his first year. I think we've always done a really good job at developing a rotation and working with typically a good gameday number of eight (defensive linemen) usually. So we'll have a clear vision for his role."

At the same time you guys also picked up the option on Marcus Davenport, obviously there's room for three defensive ends to play in that rotation. Do you feel like he has a lot of room still to grow?

"Look, there will be more than three defensive ends. These guys, if they have the traits that we feel like they have, we have more depth and we feel like it's like, look it's a passing game. And we feel like it's an important position."

I asked Mickey (Loomis) yesterday about the players that maybe grouped up between like 25 and 40 and he said that it's kind of an eye of the beholder thing. Do you think that this player fits into that category? Did you all have a higher grade on him or were surprised even or does he kind of fall into that category of eye of the beholder in that kind of 25 to 40 ranking?

"No, it's a good question. We had this guy graded differently than that group. There are some things when you study that group closely. There are a lot of things these guys do well. We felt this player was in a different category. I think that they're going to be a number of good football players drafted tomorrow, obviously in two rounds. But I understand the question relative to each team might have a stack a little differently. We felt this guy was in a different ballpark though with his traits, his makeup, his skill set, it was different."

You mentioned last week at the Zurich Classic that you hoped to address cornerback or you needed to address cornerback before the start of the season. Was some of the trade up geared towards trying to get a corner and does this now increase maybe the urgency to find somebody tomorrow?

"Yeah, there are a lot of different ways to fill needs on your team. Obviously, the draft is one of them. So we'll see what tomorrow brings. We'll see what the next two days bring. It's obviously a position we're paying close attention to and we feel like we've evaluated a lot of good football players at that position this year. So let's see what happens but yeah, look, when we're calling pre-draft, we're gauging. We're not talking or thinking necessarily specifically one player but we're gauging the team's interest ahead of us. Some teams right from the get go felt like they were going to stay put. And there were a few teams that felt like hey, we'd be interested, but it would have to be something that made sense. So clearly, we're aware of where that position was or where we felt that position was graded. And then we'll pay attention here in the next few days."

It seems like you guys have really consistently ever since you've been here through multiple coordinators and personnel people really valued that size and length in defensive ends, as opposed to maybe the smaller tweener edge pass rusher guys. Can you talk about why you have that philosophy and where that comes from?

"Yeah, look, part of it's your scheme fit and part of it is a little bit of my early days with New York and then with Bill (Parcells) in Dallas, certainly Jeff (Ireland) the same way, Mickey (Loomis). The vision, especially in the early part of the draft, you're hopefully drafting prototype player size, weight, speed. Clearly there are exceptions that become great players, and we've taken exceptions as well. But the length is important and the durability, stamina. There are times where there's a little bit more energy required of a player that's not as big. And so it's not a be all end all. But that's just kind of a fit for we feel like that at that position."

If I can ask you and I understand the answer may not be forthcoming. But a few years ago, when we asked you about (Patrick) Mahomes, you told us that you all were interested in him. Not that I ask specifics on any quarterback, but maybe were you surprised with the way the quarterback board fell when you all were watching it? Or did you expect to fall that way watching these guys come off the board tonight?

"Good question. Look, none of us were surprised with the first two picks, right? I think San Francisco spent a lot of time on two players they were interested in and arrived at their decision. And then shortly thereafter that Mac (Jones) was taken, you had basically five good players. Was Mac the last one at 15? Yeah, so look, (Justin) Fields was taken right there and then Mac. All five of those guys have to be happy. There was none of this, like all the way to pick 28 or 29. And all of them, look, they all have had real good careers be it some of them a little bit briefer than others. And part of that was Covid. Each team, you could go around the league and have 32 teams stack those five players, and you'd have some similarities with some teams. But outside maybe the first pick, I think you would probably get a little different, depending on club, ranking maybe two through five. All those guys, the teams I'm sure are excited, they have a vision for what they're looking for. And the players have all had productive, winning seasons and have been guys that have demonstrated their ability."

When you have a big splash headline, like we saw today, on draft day, coming out of or centered around Green Bay, does it affect your game plan at all? Or is it really just let's stick to what we prepared for?

"Well, yeah, that that was obviously newsworthy, and I don't think it changes the game plan relative to today. Look, you really pay close attention to your own building and as we prepare for rookie camp, and then the different offseason phases, I think it was a little bit of a surprise for a lot of teams and yet I really have no idea of the dynamics. But it didn't it didn't change today's game plan whatsoever."

Back to (Payton) Turner for a moment. It was kind of reported that he was kind of a late riser on people's boards as they got medical reports in. Was he the kind of player you were on all along? Or did you fall into that category that he kind of slowly kept rising up your board?

"No, look, I think as people studied the tape, I think I felt like when we saw it and then watch it again, you turn the lights on in the room and you say what are we missing? He's got great size, great length. Again, I think you see a powerful player, you see him play inside. You see stamina on tape. He was nicked up this year with a calf. Played four or five games of eight. But look, there were there were too many things that we felt real good about."

When you guys were on the phone with other teams, was there ever a serious attempt made to get into the top 10? Or top 15?

"Yeah, look, you're on the phone, you're discussing, hey, any interest? More than half of them really didn't have any interest. Some might have an interest and then very quickly, the price. Look, everyone's fielding a call. And so, if you're picking four, six or eight and someone calls you about possibly trading up, you may be you're interested and then it's going to be a hefty price tag. Sometimes there are times when you're in one of those positions, and maybe you want to move back because you don't have a player or the player you wanted was just taken so no, we never got to the point where you would say it was serious at all."

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