Spring madness is finally here…. With barely two weeks to the Draft, the big Boards are getting filled, the NFL rumour circus is in full swing and Mock-Mania is reaching fever pitch…

An army of fans are having fun playing armchair GM trying to predict the outcome of the Draft, being fed by the myriad of “informed” opinions and players valuations from the main sports sites. The teams, on the other hand, are busy deceiving each other on their true intentions, kicking the tires on players whom more often than not have no intention whatsoever to sign, and planning one or two curveballs that will wreak havoc to the best laid plan for everyone else on Draft day.

So chaos reigns…

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Looking at it there are just too many variables to deal with in order to be able to effectively forecast the outcome of a first round in a Draft. Therefore, like for the rest of the league, trying to call PayLoo’s picks in advance tends to normally be wasted time. This time around though, after a remarkable start of the 2015 league year for the team – which has seen the duo turning the roster around in few selected “take no prisoners” moves – things could prove to be a little different.

The fact that they been trying to shore up the Defense is well-known by now – what is somehow surprising is the transparency they have shown talking about it. While there is a distinct possibility they have been throwing a curveball of their own… I think this is unlikely. It seems the blueprint they intend to follow for the incoming Draft is, at least on the first day, pretty clear: go all in on Defense.

Not exactly earth shattering, but still worth mentioning. Judging from what we have been reading from Mocks done at various levels the message has not gone through clear enough, to either media and fans alike. In a Madden-fuelled Mock excitement, where people are dreaming of flashy picks and support their reasonable view with great YouTube clips of this and that player… it has probably been lost in translation that the outcome of the Saints two first rounders – barring trades of course – appears not to be that uncertain after all…

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Lets re-view what Payton and Loomis have recently said to the media…  True Lies New Orleans Saints Style

This is from Mickey Loomis on Sirius Radio on 11 March 2015, in the aftermath of Graham’s trade…

“We have finished top four or five in offense eight of the last nine years. We feel like we do well on that side of the ball, but we have to improve ourselves on Defense

“There’s three ways to get players in our league: free agency, the NFL Draft and trades. We believe in using all avenues so we took one of our assets on Offense and turned it into some resources that hopefully we can improve our Defense in

“As we view the NFL Draft today, we think that there are going to be a lot of really good players available to us in that vicinity. You know how these Drafts go. You have an expectation for certain things and they may or may not come to fruition. There may be an opportunity to move up. We did that last year to get Brandin Cooks. We couldn’t move up a long ways last year but it got to the point where we could move up a few spots and get a player that we coveted. If that happens again this year, we are more than willing to do that. I would say going in, obviously based upon what I have already said, we would like to improve our Defense but yet we are not opposed to taking a player that helps our Offense depending upon what our board looks like at the time we take the pick”

And then on 23rd of March at the Owners Meetings…

” …We’ve been able to generate offense throughout that period and yet our defense has been up and down so when you look at your team, you’re trying to assess the assets that you have and how can we help ourselves in areas of weakness. Sometimes that requires you to take a strength of your team and turn it into something else. That trade just evolved that way.”

“We have to look at how do we improve our Defense and certain weaknesses of our team. You never want to lose a player like Jimmy and yet we feel like this gives us an opportunity to do that.”

Coach Payton declared the following during an interview with Pro Football Talk, on the 24th March 2015…

“….you’re also getting a first round pick that hopefully you can help put towards one of your other needs or ‘musts’.”

“Obviously we’ve got to get better on Defense and so there is a give and take there

“I think we’ll have to draft at least one if not two defensive linemen and or outside linebacker pass rushers

It seems the common theme here is the desire to use resources generated from wheeling and dealing pieces of the Offense to improve the Defense. While the best laid plans can be in tatters with the blink of an eye, and draft dynamics can change dramatically a planned course of action, I found particularly remarkable the mention of that pick acquired by Seattle (#31) as a possible mean to achieve this “transfer of riches” between the two groups.

While Loomis tried to cool down speculation of this right after the trade, like in the quote above, the statement has been reiterated few times since then. Are they creating the perfect smoke screen or do we have to take the duo at their words this time? Doesn’t it seem remarkable that they have been so explicit about it, almost refreshingly naïve, when all we usually get (like for any team in the league) is only partial info or half-truths?

In any case, while it is hard to speculate on a position of need in a static scenario, let alone during what is expected to be a dynamic first round, I suspect that the repeated reference to this particular pick from both the Saints top men could imply that it could be used in a trade-up scenario for a defensive player, possibly packaged with one of the two-thirds available, so to make an efficient use of the extra picks available this year without wrecking the draft in an all-out move. I am just going out on a limb here, as there are obviously multiple combinations to achieve this, one of which is simply “stay put” (the trade down seems unlikely unless they get true value for losing that player fifth year option).

If that is indeed the route they will be going, it would be somehow surprising that the #13 pick won’t be along those lines too. Hard to see how that pick won’t be spent for a Defensive player in the current environment of shoring up the unit. Whether they stay put or trade up – well your guess is as good as mine…

As to what position group needs to be addressed – while everyone has a perfectly legit opinion of the team’s defensive needs at this point, I notice for starters that only six linemen are currently signed to the roster (3 DE + 3 NT – as per the team’s site) and that we lost two players (Walker to the Lions, and Deaderick still unsigned) without adding anyone. The recent signed Spencer (whatever label is attached to him in the end) shelves a good 20 lbs for a job in the trenches. That position group is clearly anything but deep. As for what other position could be filled, I notice, too, Payton clearly mentioned they are after one (or two) edge rushers at some point during the draft… But again this could pan out in a number of ways.

As for the common view out there that this team will spend one of those two first round picks for a wide receiver, as a result of trading Graham and Stills, this is what Payton also had to say on the 25th of March at the Owners Meeting….

“Those aren’t holes. We’re not moving a player if we feel like there’s no…we feel like we have a pretty good idea of how everything is lining up. We’ve got a center we know that starts in this NFL, we’ve got a guard, (Tim) Lelito will play left guard Jahri Evans is the right guard. The same way at receiver. So we weren’t looking to make a move that created another ‘must’.

Nick Underhill at the Advocate also noted that day that…

”Payton sees two practice squad receivers being heavily involved. Coleman and Jones, likely”

So while it is likely that a WR will be selected at some point during the draft, that doesn’t seem exactly a priority for the team to begin with. A number of things point to a different direction– we all know Brees make his guys “look good.” Plus, the renewed emphasis on running the ball has been backed up by loud actions so far and, finally, they already traded up last year to grab Cooks. Like it or not, grabbing a WR with one of those two picks just doesn’t fit the current picture. It is not matter of what one thinks the team’s perceived “needs” are, or what the value of that particular player is when they are on the clock–this time it is just a matter to try to see the big picture and what is on record…

As for going after players with character concerns – a couple of names keep showing up for those two picks – it should be clear by after almost a decade that it is just not the team’s MO under Payton, not in normal circumstances and far less so when a high pick is involved.

The true “wild card” that could affect this scenario of drafting two Defensive players in the first round is whether a highly rated offensive lineman ends up slipping out to them at either of those picks, in which case I think they could indeed pull the trigger given the current lack of depth. History has shown that while they tend to find value at lower rounds for this particular position group, they are not afraid to pull the trigger sooner if they see value.

But don’t expect a “flashy” offensive selection in the first round or you will be disappointed. The message is already out there, loud and clear, if one paid attention…