The New Orleans Saints will leave an empty chair in their war room during this week's NFL draft in honor of late owner Tom Benson, who died in March.
"We'll be thinking about him for sure," Saints general manager Mickey Loomis told reporters at his Wednesday pre-draft news conference. "I've tried not to think about that. We miss him on a daily basis."
Loomis said Benson's "excitement would have been off the charts" at a time when the sports empire now run by his wife, Gayle Benson, is thriving. Not only are the Saints coming off of an 11-5 season, but the Bensons also own the red-hot New Orleans Pelicans and a horse, Lone Sailor, that will be running in the Kentucky Derby.
"All of these good things that have happened in the last few weeks, man, he would have enjoyed all of that so much," Loomis said. "And I think he gets his greatest enjoyment from seeing how the city reacts to those kinds of things. So he'll be missed."
The Saints are also hoping to get a return visit from Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer. The golfers brought some good luck into the war room last year, when the Saints landed one of the greatest draft hauls in NFL history (five starters, including both the Defensive and Offensive Rookies of the year in Marshon Lattimore and Alvin Kamara).
Payton and Palmer have been friends for years, and the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic is in New Orleans during draft week.
"We're sending the designer limo for those two," Payton told reporters at a celebrity golf event on Tuesday, according to the New Orleans Advocate. "I texted their caddy, James (Edmondson). I said, 'No pressure.' Hopefully, they'll come back, (but) they'll have to wait a little longer than they did a year ago."
The Saints aren't picking until No. 27, in large part because of the success of last year's class.
Payton said the Saints still have a few "must" positions to fill before they head into the 2018 season, and he listed their biggest remaining needs as a "pressure player," a sixth offensive lineman, a linebacker and tight end.
However, Loomis stressed that the Saints don't necessarily need to fill all of those needs through the draft. And they both stressed the need to stick to their draft board and draft the highest-graded player, regardless of position needs -- a philosophy that has served them well over the years.
"(Assistant general manager/college scouting director Jeff Ireland) says this a lot: 'Sometimes it's not a bad thing to build on a strength, add to a strength,'" Loomis said. "And we agree with that."
Payton and Loomis also said that quarterback is just as much in play this year as it has been in recent years, even though the Saints have just one pick in the top 90. They won't force a quarterback pick, however, even though Drew Brees is 39 years old. It will depend on their draft grades, just like any other position.
Should you block ads? Adblocker