Mickles: Friday’s flurry of deals could define Saints’ draft

Georgia defensive lineman John Jenkins reacts to sacking Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron during the first half of the Southeastern Conference title game Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Georgia defensive lineman John Jenkins reacts to sacking Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron during the first half of the Southeastern Conference title game Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

By Sheldon Mickles

Advocate sportswriter

METAIRIE — After finally getting through a busy second day of the NFL draft late Friday night, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton managed to smile while reminding reporters of something:

“This is the time of year everyone says, ‘We got our guys,’ ” he said.

Of course, Payton said this after the Saints managed to pick up two of the players they targeted going into the second day of the draft, which consisted of the second and third rounds.

Since they didn’t have a second-round pick, the Saints knew the third round was going to be important after they chose safety Kenny Vaccaro in the first round a night earlier.

What happened once the second round became the third, sometime after the dinner hour, turned a potentially slow evening for the Saints into a fast-paced end to the third round, which could eventually define this draft.

In a matter of 20 minutes, the Saints used a third-round pick to take Arkansas-Pine Bluff tackle Terron Armstead and made two trades to select Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins — two players they had targeted earlier in the day.

The middle part of the deal — the trade of running back Chris Ivory — made the whole thing possible. Ivory went to the New York Jets for a fourth-round pick, which the Saints packaged and sent to the Miami Dolphins for the 82nd pick used to take Jenkins.

It was a last-second deal but well worth it for the Saints because they took care of areas of need on their offensive and defensive lines and landed players they coveted.

By the time the Saints turned in the card with Jenkins’ name on it at draft headquarters in New York, they beat the five-minute time limit with just seconds to spare.

“That was pretty close,” General Manager Mickey Loomis said Saturday. “I think there were 20 or 30 seconds left when that thing finally got completed. That put Miami under the gun more than us because they were the ones on the clock at that time. But there was no panic, and all of the parties did a good job. But it does get a little harrowing when you get down to 20 seconds left.”

At the same time, Loomis said, it was exciting because of what the Saints got out of it.

“Yeah, I would call it exciting,” he said. “It was like hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait. And then, boom, we had a lot to do in a short period of time.

“It gets your heart going a little bit.”

Vaccaro is the No. 1 pick who could wind up challenging for a starting spot in training camp, but the third-round deals could turn out to be a second centerpiece to this draft.

When all was said and done Saturday, the Saints picked up a player who could help them right away, two more who could potentially be stalwarts on the offensive and defensive lines, and two players — wide receiver Kenny Stills Jr. and defensive end Rufus Johnson — who could be role players.

On paper, it looks good for the Saints, even though we won’t know just how good for a while.

But as Payton said, “Everyone says, ‘We got our guys.’ ”