I was really excited to welcome Saints Assistant GM Jeff Ireland to the Best Player Available Podcast this week. He was kind enough to join me post-draft to discuss one of the best draft classes any team has had in the last decade, at least. In fact, he took home an award on behalf of his team’s work in 2017.
Here are a few of the best quotes from my discussion with Jeff.
On his concerns about drafting Ohio State DC Marshon Lattimore: “You know, Marshon really only played the one season there at Ohio State, and that was a little bit of a concern. And look, there’s some old axioms that I learned over the years in the league, a lot of them being from (former NFL head coach Bill) Parcells. He’d say, be careful (with) the one-year player, the one-year starter, and those were all kind of echoing in the back of my mind as I’m taking Marshon. But again, we felt like the talent was too good. We just saw a competitive player with Marshon with tremendous ability, good ball skills, good character. So we weren’t as concerned and I just felt like it was worth the risk.”
On stacking up talent at impact positions: “I’ll say it one hundred times. If I have to say it a thousand (times), I will. I won’t hesitate to build strength at a core position. That’s something I learned a long time ago, and it was echoing in my head in this year’s draft with the (Houston DE) Payton Turner pick. Don’t be afraid to build a strength at a core position. Defensive end, (cornerback), offensive tackle. I’m not afraid to do that. And when you have a strength, you can do a lot of things and you can kind of maintain consistency at difficult positions.”
On whether the Saints would have taken North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky or Clemson’s Deshaun Watson if they had been available later: “We had them both in the first round. You know, I would rather not say who we liked more, but we saw the as first-rounders. . . We felt like they were both capable starters. We loved the athletes, and with (Watson), we loved his makeup, and it’s very, very sad to see what’s going on with him now. And Trubisky had the arm and and the upside and, you know, again, the makeup as well. So we liked them both. I would be lying if I didn’t say we like them both.”
On the selection of Utah’s Marcus Williams and the urgency to find a way to get Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara: “I give credit to Sean (Payton) and really one of my area scouts at the time, Cody Rager. Cody just nailed the makeup and the character of Alvin. And the more we spent time with him . . . we obviously went to Tennessee and worked him out. I think I talk about that in your book foreword, and we just kind of fell in love with him. Certainly, Sean did, and he had a clear vision for him. So after we took Marcus, we were trying to . . . there was a huge sense of urgency. Now, we . . . had two third-round picks in our in our back pocket and really kind of felt like we wanted to use both of those, because we just had some targeted players that we had wanted to kind of go after. So we were really trying to to get another pick either in the bottom of the second or the top of the third. And we were calling everybody at the bottom of the second, everybody at the top of the third. . . I think we traded with the San Francisco 49ers for the top of the third-round pick, not at the very top, but it was close to it. . . But yeah, there was a lot of urgency.”
Next week, Fran Duffy of PhiladelphiaEagles.com will join me for the last episode of the 10-episode series, and we’ll talk about the first nine shows and our observations about the ’17 draft class and how teams draft. I hope you can join us. Fran is outstanding and I can’t wait to talk football with him. I’m sure you already follow him, but if you don’t, I highly recommend it.