war_roomShock and Awe Who Will The Saints Draft

Three days to go… and the uncertainty still reigns supreme on what the Saints will do in the forthcoming draft. The fan base is still pretty much divided, with a slight majority preferring a full restock of the Defensive cupboard, and the rest pointing out that the team also needs to give Drew Brees more Offensive weapons after trading Graham and Stills in the offseason, and the sooner in the draft the better. Mock fatigue, in the meanwhile, has been slowly settling in, after a long and exciting offseason that has been changing the outlook of this draft frequently and left the fans drained in the end.

We stressed recently here at WDW how this offseason has been anything but “normal.”  As such it makes forecasting the draft strategy of the team even more difficult than usual. We are however all aware by now that PayLoo has clearly stated that they want to address some of the defensive deficiencies that have emerged last season – or that, some might say, have re-reared their ugly head after a misleading 2013 season.

The question most of us have been asking is how this dramatic “atypical” Saints off-season will translate during the draft long weekend. Will we see a shock and awe maneuvering even during the Draft, to fit with the wheeling and dealing we have experienced so far over the last couple of months?

We all know that the team has built a nice war chest of nine picks, which is an all time high during Payton and Loomis’ tenure. On what to do with them, however, opinions diverge. To those who would like to trade down and stock up as many extra picks as possible, some retort that it is hard to see PayLoo changing their draft approach which, right or wrong, has often resulted in trading up to grab players they covet (Brandin Cooks one year ago). If any, some think that the ammunition at their disposal could even make them bolder than usual this year.

If the team drafts all the nine players it holds picks for, it would be definitely noteworthy – since 2009 the Saints have not drafted more than six players in any draft, with the average being at slightly above five for the period. This would signify a change in philosophy to the recent past – a team busy mostly in free agency and usually selecting new players “for the future,” and often trading up for them. This strategy has been accused by many to be the main culprit of the team reaching a plateau after winning the Game five years ago.

Our friend Okie in a column posted last week, made some very useful research on what it would cost teams rumoured to be interested in trading up this Draft, with the idea of grabbing Mariota at #2. The prevalent result was a wrench in each team’s draft flexibility after a trade of that magnitude, or having to borrow heavily from next year selections. The Saints, on the other hands, are sitting prettily with that extra first and third rounders. It doesn’t mean they will take part in Mariota’s sweepstakes, but it does give the team some flexibility on Thursday.

Personally, I believe that this trend of packaging up will continue. The fact that the team has repeatedly stressed that they need defensive contributors from the get-go doesn’t bode well for a scenario where the team drafts nine players this year. There are a number of different combinations on how to achieve this – again there is no consensus on what the team would do under a trade-up scenario, but the maths shows that PayLoo could potentially move up even in the top five without completely wrecking the draft – actually far from it.

But will they be this aggressive? If we go back at the Jimmy Graham’s trade, it has been kind of nagging me that both Loomis and Payton have stressed up that they had to sacrifice an offensive piece (JG) to improve the Defense. These are a couple of quotes we already posted in the past:

Loomis…

“we took one of our assets on Offense and turned it into some resources that hopefully we can improve our Defense in”

Payton…

“….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”

So far that trade has yielded a Pro-Bowl Centre and a first round pick. If they are true to their words, that #31 selection will be used for improving the D. And specifically, based on what has transpired this off-season, I think that pick will be the main ammunition for a trade up.

A combination of that #31 and one of the two thirds could take the team up around ten spots. Similarly, packaging #13 and one the two thirds would propel the team in the top ten. But i think they will be far more aggressive: using #13 and #31 would allow a trade up between #4 and #5, based on the value charts (1750 points, right in the middle of the two picks).

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If the prevalent scenario forecast for the start of the round is accurate (two QB’s drafted in the first two picks, regardless of who get them), then a move to #4 in a trade with the Raiders, the former Dennis Allen’s team, would allow the Saints to select one of the two top Defensive Players in the Draft: the best pass-rusher (Dante Fowler JR) or the best D-lineman (Leonard Williams). True or not, the Raiders are already on record to have received “calls” for that pick.

That would be a fitting conclusion of the aggressive approach we have seen so far this year and it would not necessarily wreck the draft – it would probably (but not necessarily) result in the team having to add one of the two fifths to the pie. But how would like this Draft on Thursday if the team gets one truly Defensive stud, and still be able to count on a second round, two thirds, one (or two) fifth, a sixth and a seventh?

Pretty good if you ask me…