Sean Payton calls it the cloud. Some others refer to it as the bubble.
Whatever label you wish to apply, it’s the group of players who are similarly graded at a particular spot in the draft. There are no rigid and steadfast rules to which one of those players are selected when a team comes on the clock. It’s up to the team to determine which player with the highest grade at a position of need to pull out of the cloud.
The only issue is that the cloud, at least the one highest in the sky, is not as robust as it has been in previous seasons. There is elite talent in this draft class at the top, but many talent evaluators believe there are only 10 or 12 players who are truly first-round talents. After the top guys, there is a very deep and talented upper-middle class. This means the teams picking just outside of the top 10 or 15 might end up with a player similarly graded to those selected at the end of the first round.
Of course, it depends on who is doing the grading, but if this opinion is to be believed, it puts the New Orleans Saints, who own the 13th pick, in a somewhat odd position. It’s very possible one of the players the team covets will slip to them. It’s also possible that the top talent goes early and all the players existing inside of New Orleans’ cloud evaporate before it is ever on the clock.
This could create a situation where the best option is to either move up in the draft, which will be easy to do considering the Saints have nine selections, or to drop down in the first round, which would allow New Orleans to achieve better value with its selection and acquire more picks.
At February’s scouting combine, General Manager Mickey Loomis discussed his philosophies on moving up and down in the draft with The Advocate
“Part of the theory of moving back is that you get more opportunities, right?” Loomis said. “Nobody is hitting 100 percent, certainly. In fact, it’s probably closer to 60 percent. The more opportunities you have, probably the hit rate — I get that theory. Sometimes it’s, ‘Man, this guy we just love. He fits us exactly. Let’s go get this guy.”
He continued: “I think there’s good reason to move back and good reasons to move forward. It just depends where you’re at and what your target is.”
The question is who or what the Saints are targeting with the 13th pick. The general consensus is that New Orleans could be in the market for a edge rusher. It’s a solid plan. You can never have too many pass rushers. The problem is that the top players — Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr., Clemson’s Vic Beasley, Kentucky’s Bud Dupree — could be gone well before the Saints pick, and the fourth member of that group, Nebraska’s Randy Gregory, has character concerns that could scare teams away.
Other possible options at this spot could be wide receivers Amari Cooper and Kevin White or offensive linemen Brandon Scherff and LSU’s La’el Collins. Trades up might be required to land some of those players.
If New Orleans has to have one of those pass rushers, it might have to swing a deal to move up into the first eight picks to land one of them. But it’s also possible the need for one has been overstated — at least for this season.
Defensive end Cam Jordan is entering a contract year, and the Saints have expressed interest in retaining him. If a deal can be struck, the team is set at that spot well into the future. The situation surrounding Junior Galette is a bit unclear. He was arrested for a domestic situation this offseason, but charges have since been dropped. It’s possible he could face a suspension, but it would be surprising considering police are not pursuing a case.
If the Saints feel both players will be part of the plan in 2015 and beyond, acquiring another pass rusher is not an overwhelming need. With a revamped secondary, getting better on the interior line could help cure the woes New Orleans faced last season against the run and getting after the quarterback.
By moving down a few spots in the first round, the Saints could potentially land a defensive tackle like Washington’s Danny Shelton or Texas’ Malcom Brown, and then later add a pass rusher with the 31st or 44th pick. The team would also likely acquire an additional pick or two within the first three rounds to make such a move.
But it all comes down to the targets, perceived value and what players still exist in the cloud when New Orleans comes on the clock for the first.
Perhaps someone slips. If they don’t, it’s very possible the Saints will look to move one way or another.