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Transcript: Sean Payton video conference call - Saturday, April 25

Saints coach speaks to media following the final day of the 2020 NFL Draft

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Saturday, April 25, 2020

We'll make it real quick on the seventh round pick.
"All good. Listen, Tommy Stevens is a player that we kind of followed throughout the whole draft process. Of course you guys know kind of his story relative to transferring into Mississippi State. We've seen him at quarterback and we've also seen him do a number of different things kind of in that F tight end role. We think he's a real good athlete and we kind of have a vision that'll start with quarterback, but a little bit much like Taysom (Hill)."

What about him made you guys want to trade back into this day three and go ahead and take him?
"We were hoping to sign him as a priority free agent. We had a real good vision for this player. He's athletic enough to play in the kicking game. He's certainly someone we feel catches the ball exceptionally well and he's someone I think is in a developmental role more as a quarterback, but we saw him do a number of things. A lot of his athletic traits, his height, his weight, his speed, all of those things were really good reviews. But I didn't feel like through the process that we were going to be able to get him. I felt like he was leaning toward another team and we were late enough in that draft where we had a real clear vision. We didn't want to lose out on the prospect. So it was easy for us to pick up a seventh round pick and secure that he's coming here."

Is this a vision you would have had for Tommy Stevens throughout the last five, 10 years? Or are the things you've done with Taysom Hill opened your eyes to what players like him can do?
"I'd say this Mike (Triplett), good question. I think because of the tape we got at Mississippi State and not just a quarterback, but we saw him doing a number of other things. I don't know that our vision would have been in the kicking game, but clearly you saw somebody who had athletic traits and a skill set. But (it) was an easier, a clearer vision though certainly having been through this process the last three and a half years."

You had mentioned quarterback as a need, having that third guy, does he check that box or is that maybe still, will you guys stop your eyes open?
"We'll pay attention to our other options, but this is a young developmental talent that we think is a very good athlete and we'll find the right spot for him on the field. We do want to work with him at quarterback and at the same time, he's somebody that I think learns very well. He'll receive work at some other positions."

Did you talk much to some of your Penn State connections on him?
"Absolutely. When we were going through this draft process, we read him as a quarterback, then we read him as kind of an F (tight end). We had a real good feel for the player at both schools."

We asked Mickey (Loomis) after you guys decided to cancel some of the offseason workouts. You mentioned the lockout in 2011. Having gone through that, do you feel more comfortable knowing that you have a veteran team, you have a system and a coaching staff that's in place that you guys are maybe even better positioned than most to not have the full offseason?
"Yeah, Mike (Triplett) that had a lot to do with it. I think it would have been harder to do that in '06. I think it'll be challenging for the new staffs in 2020, but a lot of it had to do with the returning roster, the continuity that we currently have. There's a lot of uncertainty right now of course with not just football, but with everyone's everyday lives and with their jobs, the economy, with this virus. This gave us a chance to calm that a little bit for our team. We'll make sure that certainly the rookie class will have some online learning, but the veterans will go through really like three or four days of some speakers that we typically would have during the offseason, whether it's league security, whether it's PR, we'll kind of get a few of those things done, checked off and then really prepare and wait for the training camp date. But that allowed us to do that, yes."

Kind of a general question here about the Southeastern Conference. Now that you've taken a player from there, is this a case of the rich getting richer in terms of all the NFL talent coming from there? Or was that just kind of something that happened this year where they had even more players and then in the past?
"Look, you're talking about one of the most prestigious conferences and it's also a real good reflection on their recruiting ability. It is not just one school. It is LSU, it is Alabama, it is Georgia. It is nothing new, but certainly the numbers they hit this year were higher. I think that's a great reflection on how those schools are recruiting."

Will you allow Tommy Stevens to play special teams?
"Yeah, absolutely, with each of these players and you guys have heard me say this, we always talk about what's the vision, let's describe the vision. (He) Comes in, he's (a) developmental quarterback. We feel like he's a guy that can play in the kicking game. We feel like he's a guy that can play some F, can help both in the passing game and the running game develop behind a guy, like Taysom Hill who's in that role currently and then once the athlete gets here, once the player gets here, we begin working with those skill sets and try to develop those as quickly as possible. I think even with our prior or the earlier picks, when it comes to (Zack) Baun, he's someone that we feel like can be a four core special teams player. Adam (Trautman) is the player that runs (well) and so it's always, how can we get them on the field, how do we give them their best chance to make a roster? And then the next is how do we give them their best chance to be on the game day roster, which is obviously a little bit different."

You used today to sort all with undrafted guys. How did that process end up going for you?
"Yeah, listen, we're winding down. I know we'll be able to give you a list, hopefully sooner than later. I think it's gone well. Obviously, we had more time, the whole day was really spent, just stacking, prioritizing. What are the positions that we want to add numbers to and then that's one part of it. We never want to lose track of a player who has a good grade though, even though it might not be a position we came into the draft with of a need or a must position. If we felt the grade was good enough, we try to get those players signed. I think it went pretty smooth. It is a challenge when you're all in different locations. It's kind of like partnering, a coach, a couple of coaches with a scout, on their own WebEx, a couple of coaches with another scout on. There's, Mickey (Loomis) working, myself working, all of us and then kind of reporting back as to where we're at, who's agreed. To some degree, there's a little bit still going on."

How does a guy state their case for a player in the virtual way?
"I think a lot of it starts with in the morning, every one of us can see on a screen the board stack. Everyone has access to when players are getting drafted, what magnets are up on your screen. We pay attention to that and then as you get (further along), there's going to be some fifth round magnets after the draft. There's going to be some six round magnets and then it's really communicating in a group meeting and then breaking up and really identifying, alright here they all are and we're in the six round and one by one, some of these names are coming off, some of the names are sliding up, but I did feel like we were all on the same page relative to the priority as to how we had them rank(ed). From that standpoint, the time that we had today, certainly was a benefit. Specifically, with a player like Tommy (Stevens) who we kind of saw as someone that was going to get drafted anywhere in the fifth, sixth, seventh round, as his magnet sat there and the draft continued and then the early dialogue, even with just a reach out to an agent just to talk and just see where the players at, let them know that once the draft's over with we're interested. That's one where we felt, man, this guy, either A, he's going to get drafted or B, if he doesn't get drafted there's a couple of other teams that seem to be high on his list. We got to that point where we said, well, let's not leave that up to debate and we made the selection, but the process I think went pretty smoothly and that involved a lot of back and forth, but it starts with the priority stack and the grade stack and I thought our scouts and Jeff (Ireland) and all those guys did a really good job of keeping this organized and a lot of that work really was done prior to today. It's not like it begins when the draft ends, you already have kind of a pecking list, at each position and you're looking at our own roster and looking at the magnets that we need to fill. All of that we're winding down with right now."

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