New Orleans has now gone two seasons without winning a Super Bowl, which is the second-longest drought in franchise history.
This has been far from a normal offseason for the Saints, and the consequences of their February and March spent being the subject of Roger Goodell’s death hammer will continue during the draft. General manager Mickey Loomis traded away New Orleans’ first-round pick last year to New England in a trade to land Mark Ingram, and then the BountyGate penalties stripped the franchise of its second-round pick for the next two years.
That leaves Loomis as one of just two general mangers who won’t make a pick in the first two rounds (the Raiders only have two picks, period). To further explore how much their lack of early picks will impact the Saints, we did something kind of journalistic-y, and had a digital conversation with Andrew Juge at Saints Nation.
1. I know you’ve probably had enough BountyGate talk by now, but it’s impossible to avoid. The Saints’ first pick this year fell back 53 spots and into the third round because of the BountyGate penalties. How much will this change Loomis’ strategy?
It’s pretty significant. There’s no pick in the 1st round (traded) or 2nd round (BountyGate), so I think there’s added pressure to “hit” with the latter picks. The good news is the Saints are pretty set with what they already have and their free agency pickups in terms of starters, so they can draft for depth. I don’t know that this changes their strategy, necessarily, but it does lower their chances of getting players that can help the team immediately. Finding an impact player on defense has been the goal going into the draft the last few years, and I’m not sure they can do that this time around.
2. Last year Loomis was aggressive when he saw an opportunity to secure a player on his draft board, trading up to get Mark Ingram. Will the BountyGate penalties force him to be more conservative in the opening rounds? Or do you see him moving to jump back into the second round?
I think if the Saints see a player they have to have, they’ll make the move to get him. It has to be a special player they like/need, but if they identify one and they can go get him, they will. They’ve adopted that philosophy every single year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Loomis wheeling and dealing again in this draft. It would be true to form and history. The challenge this year, like you mentioned, is they have less pieces to give them leverage and the ability to move.
3. The Saints’ pass defense struggled at times last year, and now Tracy Porter is gone. Is the secondary the highest priority?
Not really. Porter was disappointing other than the 2009 playoffs, and Patrick Robinson and Jabari Greer were already the starters ahead of him. The Saints drafted Johnny Patrick last year, and they’re high on his development through his first year, and they’re expecting bigger things from him. So really, the Saints are looking for #4 and #5 corners. They could get that through free agency or the draft, but I wouldn’t say it’s a priority. I’d say the priority is finding a pass rusher than can get to the quarterback consistently, and depth at tight end behind Jimmy Graham. Maybe some o-line depth, too.
4. Marques Colston was retained, but Robert Meachem left through free agency. Devery Henderson and Lance Moore should be able to step up easily, but will Loomis search for more depth at wide receiver in the later rounds?
Possibly. But they have two young players that they love who have been waiting in the wings for an opportunity in Adrian Arrington and Rod Harper. Both guys will get every shot to become the #4 “guy” behind Colston/Moore/Henderson. Harper especially is a burner with explosive speed that can stretch the field and replace a lot of things Meachem did. I’m sure the Saints will bring in additional competition especially if a talented receiver falls to them in the draft, but I think the #4 and #5 spots at WR at theirs to lose.
5. Any other specific players or areas of need you’re eying?
I think the defensive front four is a must. A raw pass rusher, and youthful promising depth at DT. First and foremost the Saints need to go there. Really good safeties tend to fall in the draft because it’s not a position most teams value that highly, so I’d love for the Saints to pluck a guy in the 5th or 6th rounds that originally came in with a “2nd round grade” at safety.