New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis
Pre-Draft Press Conference
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Opening Statement: "I first want to start off by making sure I acknowledge Jeff Ireland, Terry Fontenot and Khai Harley and my pro and college scouting staffs. It takes a lot of man hours, a lot of work preparing for this weekend. These guys do a great job and don't receive enough credit for doing it. I also want to make sure that I thank Tom and Gayle Benson first of all for providing all of the resources they have, everything we need to prepare for a weekend like this, but also Tom's always engaged. He loves this time of year. He likes hearing about the players. He likes hearing about the possibilities of the guys that we're going to take. I appreciate the ownership that we have here. We have five picks in the first three rounds. I'm really excited about that. I'm excited about having these picks in what we think is a deep draft and look forward to adding them to our roster. With that, I'll open it up to questions."
How do you see Adrian Peterson's role and how does his addition change your draft board for running backs?
I think Sean (Payton) mentioned this yesterday. We've always had multiple backs. You need multiple backs and we've always used all the backs on our roster every year. So, I think he and Mark (Ingram) will complement each other. They'll carry the load and we'll see how that evolves in a course of a season. We're excited to have him. In terms of this draft, I don't know if it will impact it or not. We'll see where how the draft falls. There's a lot of good running backs in this draft. Obviously, all things being equal we would probably be less inclined to take a running back, but I can't say that until we get into the draft and see who's available and how our draft board looks when it's our turn to pick."
When you talk about Draft boards, some teams have maybe 150 to 180 on their draft boards. In a typical year for you, how many do you like to have on your draft board?
"It's less than that for us. It's probably into the 100 to 130 range depending upon the year. It's been harder to do this year, because we know it's a deep draft."
There are obviously 32 picks in the first round, but maybe not 32 impact players. On your draft board with two picks, how many would you say are immediate impact players?
"I don't know if I'd say that. I think there are lots of guys that are going to have an opportunity to have an immediate impact, but you don't go into it expecting a lot of first-year impact, because there is a period of acclimation and I think every guy's different in terms of how quickly they adapt to the NFL. A year ago Mike Thomas had a pretty significant impact for us, but we didn't expect that in year one and yet we're happy to have had it."
How much is a trade for Malcolm Butler still in play?
"I don't know. We haven't really had any discussions for quite some time. He's their player. We'll see how that evolves."
How do you do the calculus on character and injuries to prospects and where you might take them and how far they might fall due to those facts? I guess it varies on every one. How do you do that calculus?
"We don't have a formula for it because everything's a case by case basis. Part of it is how high we have the player graded. What's the vision for the player in year two and year three when he's healthy? How severe is the injury? What's the risk of recurrence? There's a lot of variables when you are looking at these injury situations. Some injuries, they have the same risk after rehab of anyone else. It just depends on the injury and the specific player"
As far as character's concerned, do you just take players completely off the board if it merits that?
This year will you have players you will not draft because of character?
"Yes, but I think character, it's a pretty broad trait. It's not just off-field character, maybe on-field character. We take a lot of things into consideration into what we call character and we do take guys, I wouldn't say off the board but there are guys that we won't draft. We can phrase it that way because of character. It encompasses a lot of different things."
Do you think this year, there's a lot more high picks that have red flags? I was trying to make a list and there were like 10 or 12 high picks with something, either an injury, like the stuff that happened at the combine (for some players), some high picks. It just seems like this year some of the high picks/projections have a lot of red flags.
"I think every year there are red flags on guys. I don't get the sense that there's more, significantly more than the past. I think we talk about it a lot more than in the past and you guys talk a lot more about it. In fact I feel character wise, there are a lot of really, high character players in this draft. We go through the combine and we go through those interviews, it's just remarkable how many really smart, high-character players are out there. I think the other side is the exception, not the rule."
How much was that brought up in bringing in an Adrian Peterson, given what happened with him a few years ago?
"Obviously we talked about it a little bit. We talked about it with him and we're comfortable with it."
What might be a specific offense that might lead you to take someone off your board?
"I don't want to get into that. Everything's a case-by-case basis. We do as much due diligence as we can. We do a lot of due diligence if it's warranted. You look at history, how long ago was it, what was the offense, if it's an off-field offense. There are just a lot of things to go into it and it's just hard to say that you have a hard and fast rule about any one thing. You really have to take a look at each guy on a case-by-case basis."
Do you guys use the same grading system on the pro and college side and how involved are the pro scouts in the draft?
"The grading system's different. There's a lot of similar qualities obviously. We use the pro guys a lot, especially as we get closer to the draft. Our pro guys are looking at what's playing in the league every day and so we take advantage of every evaluator in our building."
There are reports of teams at the top looking to trade back. Do you feel there are more calls than the past about movement? Do you think it's because of a lack of elite talent or because the evaluated two through 20 are so close?
"Two parts to that question. The first part is there hasn't been anything out of the ordinary in terms of we've talked to a few teams. A lot of that is going to happen today and tomorrow morning. The feelers will be out there about moving back and moving up. I've had a couple specific conversations with teams about moving from behind us up to our spot, but I think a lot of that will happen later today and tomorrow. That's typically when it does for us."
With the addition of Jeff Ireland in 2015, what are some of the tweaks that he's brought to the process or what has he brought to the table?
"He's got a lot of great experience. (He's had an influence in) how we go about evaluating players, the schedule that our scouts are on, the number of looks that we get. The grading system itself we've tweaked with his input. There's a lot of things. We get more information than we've ever gotten. There's a lot of analytical pieces available to us that we haven't had available to us in the past. So, there's a lot of things we're factoring in. He does a great job of that. Steve Malin, who we hired from the Giants in the past year (is an example where) we take input from every guy. If we can steal something from another team and it improves us, than I'm all for it."
It seems like with Sheldon Rankins, a lot of people pegged that pick. It was right there. How wide is your net at 11 this year given your emphasis on improving the defense? Is it wider than maybe last year with the first round pick?
"I think it's pretty wide and I think part of that is that we do have five picks in the first three rounds and we see it as a real deep draft and we think we are going to get some really good players, not just at 32 and 42, but in the third round, those picks as well, so I think it's pretty wide."
What do you think of the defensive back depth? First off do you agree and second of all is that helpful rather than reaching on someone if there is a need there?
"I do think we do see it that way. We do see the draft in the secondary. I would say yes."
What are some of the new analytical ways you mentioned where you can look at picks?
"I think we just have more information about college stats for example. There's just a wealth of information, more than we can use. It's readily available to us. We could get it in the past, but we had to do it ourselves in a lot of cases and that's a little unwieldy when you talk about the number of players we have to evaluate."
Are you talking about traditional stats, or do you have ways to compare different conferences with some kind of formula for example?
"We can split out conferences. We can take a team like LSU, their players and we can look at their stats based just upon the SEC and eliminate some of the non-conference games if we want to. We can look at common opponents. There are all kinds of tools that we have now that we didn't have available in the past."
How do you balance using the stats to trusting what you see on the tape?
"That's a good question. I think you always have to trust what your eyes tell you, but you can confirm it with the other information that's available or you can say my eyes are telling me this, but analytics tell us something else so we have to look deeper. It's just another tool in the toolbox."
Are there any other positions that step out at you in terms of depth?
"I think I mentioned running backs. It seems like there's a lot of running backs this year as opposed to years past. I think primarily defensive players in our view."
It is tougher to project defensive ends than some other positions?
"I think they're all tough to be honest with you. I think one difficulty might be the scheme you're playing. How does that fit.in your defense? But I think all these positions are tough to evaluate."
How important is it to get impact players in the first round given that maybe Drew Brees' window continues to close the older he gets?
"I don't think it's any different for us than anyone else. You're looking for impact players, particularly with your first round pick and you have to realize that there's an acclimation period and you may not get it as soon as you want it. I think there's lots and lots of examples of guys who were taken in the first round and didn't have an impact until one year, two years, three years later."
So it's the same for a second or third-year starting quarterback as a guy in his teens?
How do you see the quarterback pool, the prospects?
"I'd rather not get into how we see that. I don't want to give away anything. I wouldn't do that at any position really."
How much is this process luck when it's all over with and how much do you think good fortune plays into whether you have a good draft or not, for any team?
"I think there's certainly an element to that, especially when it comes to the injury factor. But I think teams, not just us, I think all teams are pretty good evaluating the ability. I think where you don't know is how does the guy react to playing in the NFL? Is it too big for him? Is he going to be diligent enough to put the time and effort in? Does he realize this is a big step and you can't just rest on what you've done? There are so many factors, the injury factor. There's so many variables in terms of success or failure independent of ability. If you want to call that luck in how you evaluate that, I guess that's one way to phrase it but there's a lot of variables here, yes."
What positions do you feel good about heading into this on your current roster? For example at the defensive line, you have four guys who have played significantly. Which positions do you feel good about that maybe you don't have to address in the draft?
"I feel good about a lot of positions on our team and yet that second part, you're always looking to draft. I feel comfortable about our starting quarterback, that doesn't mean we wouldn't draft one. I feel great about our starting end. There are lots of positions on our team that I feel great about, it doesn't mean we wouldn't draft at that position. I think my second year in New Orleans, we had Ricky Williams and we drafted Deuce McAllister and we felt pretty good about that. The same time was when we drafted Will Smith. At the time, that wasn't a position of need and yet that was a good draft pick for us. I think those are independent questions, at least I hope so as we get into the draft."
Do you feel that teams are kind of gun shy about guys like Johnny Manziel, guys who have kind of fizzled out a little bit? Are they more careful than in the past?
"I think teams have always been cautious and careful about that. Obviously today different than 20 years ago there's more scrutiny when those things don't work out and you take a chance and you hope that a guy matures and learns his lesson and you give a guy some support they need to overcome some of their issues. Yes, I think that's probably true just because of the scrutiny. We've always been concerned about character and how a guy will be in the NFL and if he will make the same mistakes as he did as a younger man."
You guys have been reloading for the past couple years. Do you think you are to the end of that road and where you want to be?
"I hope so."
Is it unfair for guys that are drafted to be looked at as the missing pieces?
"Again, I hope you get into this hoping to get impact players and hoping that they impact your team immediately, but I think the vision is where are these guys going to be at in year one, year two, year three. Some guys you're going to draft knowing they're not going to have an immediate impact, but having a vision that they're going to have a big impact in years two or three. It's a mixed bag."
Do you think from the outside looking in that the process has changed and that more people expect the first round pick to come in and play right away?
"I think there's always been that expectation. I think the reality is different. I think we always expect that, because there are lots of examples of that happening. We want to hit the home run. All of us want to hit the home run and so we kind of expect to hit the home run."
If a deal for Malcolm Butler doesn't work out, would it be fair to say that it's because you and your staff are betting on yourselves given the success you had last year with high value picks and do you feel that maybe you keep high value pick and bet on yourself rather than trade high-valued compensation for a known commodity?
"There's some truth to that. It's like anything. Sometimes you make a deal, you feel good about the cost of what you're getting and sometimes it doesn't work out. We'll see what happens."
How much is the trade of Brandin Cooks faith in Drew Brees that no matter who you put around him receiver wise, that he's going to be good?
"Certainly there's an element of that. I think the confidence extends beyond Drew. It extends to our coaching staff and the other players that we have offensively, in history here we've had a lot of good players around the quarterback and we've still been able to generate a lot of offense. That's a credit to Sean (Payton) and Pete Carmichael and our offensive coaches as well as the players we've had. The whole basis for that had to do with improving our defense and our team overall, because Brandin's a real good player and was a valuable part of our offense the last few years. It's all about trying to get better as a team, not just offense."
Not specific to a player, but when something happens late that might cause you to take a guy off the board is it something as simple as removing that magnet or do you have to reshuffle a lot of different things?
""No, if you take somebody off it's pretty simple. You just all of a sudden that's a player you're not going to draft, there's a guy right below him."
Do Tom and Gayle Benson ever weigh in and say a specific player is one they don't want in their organization? Has that ever happened? Does it happen?
""I wouldn't say it happens like that. We discuss players that may have issues, what their issues are and where we stand and we get their input."
What do you want at the end of the day on Saturday?
"We want seven starters (laughter), seven starting caliber players. I think we're going to go into this draft looking for some guys that can impact our team both this year and in the future and some of those guys may be developmental that need more time, some might have the opportunity to impact us right away and hopefully we can get some help right away, but that's not the most critical thing. The most critical thing is getting the right guys on our roster for both now and for the future."
Guys always fall through the cracks. At what point do you start looking ahead in the draft, the top kids that won't be drafted that you would like to get in here quick?
"We'll start that process Friday night after Friday night. We'll discuss the next day, then we'll start, discussing what our backboard looks like. We'll start prioritizing and then we'll get heavily into it in the course of Saturday."
For good teams, how important is it to hit on not only the first round picks, but the ones after that?
"I think it's critical that you do a good job in the middle and the end of the draft. One thing I think our scouts have done a great job of is with getting the right college free agents. They have gotten a number of guys that have made our team and contributed. I think that's an important element on your roster."
Do you think Manti T'eo can line up at multiple positions on your roster or do you consider him a middle linebacker?
"We think he has some versatility as does A.J. Klein. It's part of why we brought them in here and those guys, both those players are excited to be here number one and willing to do whatever is necessary to help our defense. I think there is some versatility there."
Does Hau'oli Kikaha's recovery from knee surgery affect your draft plans at linebacker?
"I don't think it will impact our draft plans, but it's exciting to see him back in the building, moving around pretty well. We've received some pretty good reports on where he's at healthwise for us. He was doing some good things for us two years ago. It's a shame that he got hurt last offseason."
Looking back two, three, four years, how long does it take to do the evaluation of a specific draft class to see if they are where you want them to be?
"I think we look at it. We look at it every year. I think three years into it, you have a pretty good idea of where you're at."
Where do you guys stand with Willie Snead IV contractually?
"He's an exclusive rights player that's been tendered. He's here working. I don't anticipate any issues with Willie going forward. I'm excited that he's here. He's been a good player and good contributor to our team. I expect him to be on our team for a long time."
Do you expect to have a long-term deal with him done soon?
"I don't know that that's going to happen yet, but I don't foresee any issues."