Mickey Loomis loves the element of surprise on draft day.
With reports swirling about nearly every team’s intentions, and deliberate misinformation leaked to the public in order to muddy the perception of all of those intentions, there’s a lot of projection and prediction to sift through as the Saints head into the 2016 NFL draft with the No. 12 pick in the first round and six picks overall.
Loomis would rather not play any of those games. He’d rather keep the door to his draft room closed.
“We’re not a smoke screen team,” Loomis said. “We’re more of a silent team.”
But the Saints found themselves the subject of a major rumor Tuesday, a rumor that many speculated was meant to entice teams to move ahead of New Orleans in the top-10, presumably pushing some of the draft’s elite talent down to the No. 12 pick.
The NFL Network reported New Orleans had discussions about moving up to the No. 1 pick for a quarterback, the pick the Los Angeles Rams now own, presumably in order to take California’s Jared Goff, and that the Saints are a possibility to trade up for Memphis passer Paxton Lynch now.
Loomis refuted that report Wednesday.
“No, there were absolutely no conversations,” Loomis said. “I didn’t have any conversations with anybody at the top of the draft. It’s another miss by that reporter.”
New Orleans did do extensive homework on the quarterbacks, bringing in Goff, Lynch, Michigan State’s Connor Cook, Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld for visits and working out others.
With Brees at 37 now, heading into the final year of his contract and still working on a potential extension with the Saints, New Orleans has to do its due diligence until the team has a clear succession plan.
“I think we look into the quarterbacks every year,” Loomis said. “We have for the last few years. We need to have an eye towards the future, but we’re happy with our quarterback situation as well, so I think that’s just part of the process every year. We maybe had a few questions that we needed answered that maybe in the past, we haven’t had to have answered. I don’t see it as being dramatically different.”
The Saints often use their visits to the team facility to get a better read on players who may have red flags, including players like Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence and Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.
“We looked into the background; we looked into the incidents,” Loomis said. “I’d rather not say if they are on our board or not.”
Loomis, with a wink and a nod, answered several questions by declining to reveal his plans, including the Saints’ needs, how he sees the top 10 playing out in front of New Orleans.
“You guys know it’s my goal here to not give you any information,” Loomis said. “I say it to you every year and make it clear that’s still the case.”
Loomis did leave the door open for a trade, either way.
With Lynch presumably coveted by some teams in dire need of a quarterback, there’s a chance New Orleans will try to move back, a tactic Loomis has rarely employed in his 15 years as the Saints’ general manager.
New Orleans has made five trades in the first round in Loomis’ time; in all five, the Saints moved up to take a player they coveted.
“It’s not about not believing in trading back,” Loomis said. “There are times we have tried to do that. I do think though that if you look at the history of trades there’s more success trading up than trading back. I’m not opposed to it. We’re not opposed to it. It just hasn’t worked out.”
In other words, Loomis’s pre-draft remarks left all doors for the Saints open when the picks start coming off the board in Chicago tonight.
He likes it better that way. If the Saints’ pick at No. 12 surprises most observers — nearly every draft expert has New Orleans taking Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins — Loomis has done exactly what he wants to do.
“I prefer just being silent and let people think what they want to think,” Loomis said. “Most of the time they’re wrong.”