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New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis speaks during a press conference at the team's Ochsner Sports Performance Center in Metairie on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. The first training camp session open to the public will be on Saturday, July 28 from 8:50 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson finished his college career at Florida with nine interceptions, including three that he returned for touchdowns.

And in a way, that's probably what New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis felt like he was doing the past few days during the NFL draft: stepping in, picking off a pass and taking it to the house.

For the second straight day, Loomis and the Saints arrived at the team's facility in Metairie and made a trade to snatch a player whose names were, in their view, surprisingly still on the board.

One day after trading up in the second round to draft Texas A&M center Erik McCoy on Friday, the Saints made a similar move on Saturday. 

This time, they moved up from the 14th spot in the fourth round to the third spot, nabbing Gardner-Johnson.

Gardner-Johnson was surprised to still be around.

And the Saints were surprised he was still there. Fortunately for the Saints, they had picked up a fourth-round pick Friday in the trade that helped them land McCoy. (They also gave up a second-round pick for next year.)

So Loomis made the move, implementing his draft day philosophy for a second straight day. 

"It's calculated," Loomis said. "When you have the opportunity to go get somebody, to get a player you covet, you go get them. That's been a successful formula for us. I'm not saying it's 100 percent, but it's 100 percent for us. If you like the player, go get him."

So the Saints did that, getting a player the Saints coveted. 

By the time the day ended, Loomis said the team had drafted three of the top 70 players on their draft board — McCoy, Gardner-Johnson and Rutgers safety Saquan Hampton, whom they picked in the sixth round.

Not bad considering when the week started, the Saints only had one pick within the top 70.

"We are excited about that. We are pleased about that,” Loomis said.

Their only pick in the first two rounds was the No. 62 pick overall. Without any trades, their next picks would have been at No. 168, 177, 202, 231 and 244.

So getting three of the top 70 players the team coveted must've felt like quite the bargain for Loomis and the Saints. Especially McCoy and Gardner-Johnson.

Gil Brandt, a former VP of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys who currently works as a draft analyst for NFL.com, went to Twitter immediately after the Saints' drafted Gardner-Johnson.

"For a team that's only had two picks, in Rounds 2 and now here in Round 4, the Saints are making the most of them," Brandt tweeted. "Erik McCoy at 48 overall and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson at 105 are steals."

The Saints didn't have a lot of "must" positions to fill as they headed into the draft.

A team that was one no-call away from playing in the Super Bowl pretty much returns intact. Many of the holes they had, they'd already filled in free agency.

They signed running back Latavius Murray to replace Mark Ingram. They added tight end Jared Cook to replace the retired Ben Watson. They signed Nick Easton to replace the retired Max Unger. And they signed defensive linemen Malcom Brown and Mario Edwards to help fill the void left by Tyeler Davison and Alex Okafor.

Gardner-Johnson knows just how loaded the team is.

"It's the best all-around team, top to bottom, on offense and defense," Gardner-Johnson said. "I'm coming into a system where everything has an identity and standard. I have to come in to live up to that standard and identity so everybody on that team and in the front office upstairs can be proud of me and say this guy is a Saint."

The Saints finished off the draft by selecting Notre Dame tight end Alize Mack and Idaho linebacker Kaden Elliss. Hampton, Mack, and Elliss are much more unheralded than McCoy and Gardner-Johnson. But Loomis says there is a common trait among all five of the players.

"Smart, productive," Loomis said when describing the Saints' 2019 draft class.

Only three of the seven picks the Saints made last year are still on the team. But Loomis likes what the team has added to the roster this year.

"At the end of the day, the quickest route for any of these guys at the position is to contribute on special teams," Loomis said. "We have a vision for these players, and yet how quickly they fill the vision depends a large part on them."

The draft class is highlighted by McCoy.

"He checks all the boxes, Loomis said. "Productive, tough and smart. He fits right into our room."

And as Loomis showed with the first two picks, if he thinks a player fits, he doesn't mind going to get him.

"I think we got some players that can help our team,” he said.


Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.