Mickey Loomis has been around long enough to appreciate the fleeting nature of success in the NFL New Orleans Saints T-Shirts
, particularly as it relates to draft bonanzas and busts.Last year, the Saints had one of the best drafts in franchise history and nearly wound up in the NFC title game because of it.Loomis only wishes past success guaranteed future results. But he knows better.“Nothing that we did last year gives us entitlement to anything going forward,” Loomis said. “We have to look at ourselves with a critical eye and be just as diligent and innovative as we were a year ago.”One immediate reason why the 2018 draft isn’t likely to produce 2017-like results is the number of picks.A variety of trades, highlighted by the decision to ship receiver Brandin Cooks to New England, helped New Orleans accumulate five picks in the first three rounds last year.Each one of them would up starting, and two — cornerback Marshon Lattimore and running back Alvin Kamara — wound up being defensive and offensive rookies of the year, marking the first time in half a century that both played for the same team.“The unfortunate thing for us is that we have two picks in the first three rounds and not five like last year,” Loomis said. “So, it’s not going to be the same by nature of volume.”The good news is the Saints head into the draft already looking like one of the NFC’s prime contenders.Seemingly ageless quarterback Drew Brees, who turned 39 in January, is back to lead an offense that ranked second in the NFL last season.And his receiving group appears to have been upgraded with the addition of restricted free agent Cameron Meredith, who led Chicago in receiving two seasons ago, but missed last season with a knee injury. New Orleans also brought back tight end Ben Watson, who had the best year of his career receiving with Brees in 2015.The Saints also used free agency to strengthen their defense with safety Kurt Coleman, cornerback Patrick Robinson and linebacker Demario Davis.Yet one key area that hasn’t been addressed is the pass rush, particularly from the edge. That raises the odds that the Saints will draft a pass rusher if he’s graded among the top of the players remaining on the club’s draft board when it’s their turn to pick.“I don’t think we’ve done everything we’ve set out to do” in free agency, Loomis said.“You’re always striving to be able to select someone that, at the time we’re picking New Orleans Saints Hats
, is hopefully the highest graded guy on your board. Typically what happens is you’ll have three or four in the same vicinity. Then position comes into play.”DEALING OUTBecause the Saints are in position to contend now, and given the narrowing window to win it all with Brees, New Orleans could seize an opportunity to trade draft picks for veterans.The key is whether the Saints can create enough room under the salary cap, through restructuring or otherwise, to add more established veterans.But if there’s a chance to deal for a proven pass-rusher to complement Saints All-Pro defensive end Cam Jordan, that option will have to be considered seriously.BEEFING UPWhile the Saints’ starting offensive line is intact and potentially a strength, there’s not a lot of depth in the event of a key injury. The Saints brought back veteran Jermon Bushrod, who started at left tackle and won a Super Bowl with New Orleans in the 2009 season.But he’s played more at guard in recent seasons as he’s approached the latter stage of his career.As expected, New Orleans lost its best, most versatile backup lineman, Senio Kelemete, during free agency to a team (Houston) that was ready to make Kelemete a starter. So, adding a promising young lineman would make sense.TEMPTING TARGETThe Saints hoped the signing of tight end Coby Fleener two years ago would give the Saints offense a semblance of what it lost when the club traded tight end Jimmy Graham. Fleener has made some big plays, but hasn’t been consistent and missed the end of last season with a concussion. If a top tight end prospect is available when the Saints are on the clock, don’t be shocked to see him in black and gold.HITS, MISSES AND BARGAINSThe Saints have drafted very well the past two years. In addition to Lattimore and Kamara, right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (picked 32nd), safety Marcus Williams (second round) and linebacker Alex Anzelone (third round) all became rookie starters in 2017.Only Anzelone’s season was cut short by injury.In 2016 https://www.thesaintsfanshop.com/hoodie
, the Saints drafted starting tackles Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata, as well as top receiver Michael Thomas and starting strong safety Vonn Bell. Rankins, a star at Louisville, was a good bet in the first round, but Onyemata, a Nigerian national who learned to play American-style football during college in Canada, was a high-value find in the fourth round.Their lowest-value pick in recent years came in 2015, when they selected linebacker Stephone Anthony late in the first round with a pick received as part of the Graham trade. He’s no longer with the club.5View Gallery Gallery:New Orleans Saints 2018 Preseason ScheduleBrad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports | Brad Rempel The last unbeaten team in the NFL this season went down to defeat on Sunday, when the New Orleans Saints outlasted the previously undefeated Los Angeles Rams 45-35 in an entertaining battle. As many expected, offense dominated the day, as the two teams combined for 54 first downs and 970 total yards. The Saints looked as if they might blow away the Rams midway through the game, hitting on all cylinders offensively and scoring 21 unanswered points at one point for a 35-17 halftime lead. Los Angeles showed why they are one of the NFL's top contenders early in the second half when they roared from behind to tie the game at 35 in the fourth quarter. The Saints would spring back to life late in the fourth, scoring the game's final ten points and picking up two defensive stops to come away with the win. These two talented teams may very well meet again later this year with even more at stake. For now though, the Saints have taken over the top spot in the NFC, and established themselves as one of the unquestioned midseason favorites for a Super Bowl championship. Here are some of the biggest performers from this big shootout victory. DREW BREES Chuck Cook-USA TODAY SportsBrees, the 39-yr. old gunslinger, outdueled his young gun counterpart, 24-yr. old Jared Goff of the Rams. Goff actually threw for more yards than the NFL's all-time passing yardage leader Drew Brees Color Rush Jersey
, 391-346, but Brees threw for more touchdowns (4-3), and was deadly accurate when it counted the most. The quarterback was more aggressive down the field than he had been in weeks, and all but ended the game with a perfectly placed 72 yard scoring strike to Michael Thomas late in the 4th quarter on a vital 3rd down play. The 18-yr. veteran even scrambled for key yardage twice to maintain possession. Brees incredibly has never won a league M.V P. award, but may be in the driver's seat for his first, as he continues to play as well as he ever has in his legendary career. ALVIN KAMARA Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesKamara had been held somewhat in check by opponents in recent weeks, but re-established his dominance on Sunday against a Rams defense determined to contain him. He scored 3 touchdowns in the first half (2 rushing, 1 receiving), and finished as the game's leading rusher with 82 yards on 19 carries. Kamara's 116 yards from scrimmage included 34 in the passing game, but he continues to show that he can handle the responsibilities of a featured back, perhaps the most multi-dimensional threat in the league. BEN WATSON Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesWatson caught 3 passes in the game, finishing with 63 yards and a score, all in the first half. He made an incredible catch on a big second quarter touchdown drive that gave his team momentum, then later caught a Brees touchdown pass that widened their second quarter lead. Watson and rookie wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith have been the most consistent compliments to Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, and Mark Ingram in a Saints offense that will be even more dangerous with their increased contributions. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesWatson's touchdown celebration also revealed that he and wife Kirsten are expecting twins, their 6th and 7th children. Congratulations Kirsten, Ben Willie Roaf Jersey
, and the Watson family!MICHAEL THOMAS Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY SportsThomas dominated his match up with Pro Bowl Ram cornerback Marcus Peters and the rest of the Los Angeles secondary. He caught 12 passes for 211 yards, which broke a franchise record that had stood for 39 years and is the highest receiving total in the NFL so far this season. Thomas frustrated the Los Angeles defense by not only making tough catches in traffic, but by fighting for extra yards and key first downs on several occasions. He even showcased his underrated elusiveness as well, showing why he is one of the premier receivers in the National Football League. Thomas also endeared himself to Saints fans further when he pulled a cell phone out from under the goal post after his long score, imitating the celebration made famous by New Orleans great Joe Horn fifteen years earlier. Thomas' feats on the field have already placed him with Horn and other New Orleans greats in just his third professional season, and very soon he could be in a class all by himself. Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesThe New Orleans defense, who had played well over the last month, had its hands full all evening with a Rams offense that finished 483 total yards. They made some big plays in key situations though. Alex Anzalone had an acrobatic first half interception that led to a score. He and Demario Davis led a defensive effort that limited the Rams Todd Gurley to just 89 total yards. Cam Jordan and Sheldon Rankins had solid outings that didn't show up on the stat sheet, despite being often and blatantly mugged all evening by the Los Angeles offensive line. Cornerback P.J. Williams came up big down the stretch, breaking up key passes to former Saint wideout Brandin Cooks to preserve the win. The victory is the Saints seventh in a row, and positions them as the top seed in the powerful NFC. They still have a tough schedule down the stretch, but now have key tiebreaker wins against fellow conference contenders Los Angeles, Minnesota, Washington, and division rival Atlanta. What may be most frightening for the rest of the NFL is the fact that the Saints showed yet again that they are capable of defeating even a top caliber opponent in a variety of ways.