Saints put added emphasis on intelligent draft picks amid pandemic

Saints put added emphasis on intelligent draft picks amid pandemic
Saints Assistant GM and College Scouting Director Jeff Ireland talks with Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin during LSU Pro Day (Source: Edwin Goode, WVUE-FOX 8)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As the sports world drastically changed in the middle of March due to Coronavirus, the Saints not only shifted the logistics of their preparation for the NFL Draft, they shifted their entire mindset.

Head Coach Sean Payton announced before the April 23rd selections began that his team would not have any formal offseason program leading up to training camp meaning rookies and new players will have a much sharper adjustment period.

“Our philosophy kind of going into draft day," Saints Assistant GM Jeff Ireland said on the team’s official podcast. "Part of the conversation that we took when we were meeting is that if we feel like there’s not going to be an OTA process, an offseason program for these young players, the rookies, first time players, then we really have to make sure we get the right type of person that can come into a maybe condensed training camp setting and contribute quickly."

"If we had a question about how the kid learns and maybe he’s a slow processor then we felt like that might be difficult to bring him up to speed as quickly as we want to without the OTAs and the minicamps and all the offseason program stuff that we would do with a player. So we really approached it as quality over quantity and those four players checked all these boxes that we needed to be checked.”

The team ultimately came away with 4 draft picks, in addition to a 13-man undrafted free agent class as well as the veterans brought in through regular free agency. That new core will be the focus of the coaching staff as they work to assimilate to a squad that has won a league-best 37 regular season games the last three seasons. “Not a lot of turnover on our team, and so, look, these players know the routine. And I’ve been here, this will be my 6th season, and I don’t think we’ve ever had a player come into camp out of shape, which is unlike any other team I’ve ever been on."

"I think it’s a tribute to how we’ve built this team and the high character culture that we’ve built. Until you’re in the locker room and understand the culture of the guys that we’ve brought into this football team, it’s unlike really anywhere else. So I’m super proud of what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve built. And I absolutely believe we’ll be able to hit the ground running pretty quickly.”

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