Saints draft needs for 2017

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NEW ORLEANS — It is dizzying these days in anticipation of the NFL draft.

My head is swimming. Actually, I’m drowning in a sea of minutiae, information, disinformation and analysis, daily conjecture, rumors and speculation and enough mock drafts to stretch around the pro football world.

Anyone care to throw me a life preserver?

With that in mind, I’m going to boil all of it down and present Who Dat Nation with a cut-and-paste CliffsNotes look at next week’s seven-round draft.

I’ll file my first and only mock draft next week. Stay tuned. Meantime, read the latest mock draft from SportsNOLA.com draft guru Al Dupuy.

Here’s what you need to know about the NFL draft:

WHERE: Live from Philadelphia.

WHEN: Thursday, April 27 (round 1, 7 p.m.); Friday, April 28 (rounds 2-3, 6 p.m.); Saturday, April 29 (rounds 4-7, 11 a.m.).

TV: ESPN, NFL Network.

SAINTS PICKS: 7 — Nos. 11 (Rnd 1), 32 (Rnd 1), 42 (Rnd 2), 76 (Rnd 3), 103  (Rnd 3), 196 (Rnd 6), 229 (Rnd 7).

AREAS OF GREATEST NEED: Defense, defense, defense, specifically edge pasher and cornerback.

OTHER NEEDS: RB, QB, O-line depth, LB, WR.

TRADE POTENTIAL: High alert. With five picks in the first 103 slots, including two in the first round at Nos. 11 and 32, the Saints have the ammo to cause a sonic boom on Day 1. GM Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Payton already have explored a trade for New England Patriots restricted free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler. One potential hurdle has been removed now that Butler has signed his one-year tender for $3.91 million with the Patriots.

Now here’s the rest of the story.

The Black and Gold are poised to have their best NFL draft in franchise history, 51 bittersweet years and counting.

Loomis and Payton have positioned themselves beautifully to make a big splash in the deep end of the annual college talent pool with five picks in the first three rounds (Nos. 11-32-42-76-103). All are seen as high value picks, whether used individually or boldly bundled in order to make the biggest impact.

The possibilities to address their roster needs are there for the choosing, provided the aforementioned decision makers and entire football operations collectively do their pre-draft homework, make wise and prudent decisions and get a little luck over the three days.

Throw in single picks in the sixth and seventh rounds — Nos. 196 and 229 overall — and the 2017 Saints draft could be a banner year, on par or better than 2006, 1986 and 1981.

Here’s a look back at those three drafts:

— 2006: RB Reggie Bush (No. 1), S Roman Harper (No. 2), OL Jahri Evans (No. 4), OL Zach Strief (No. 7a), WR Marques Colston (No. 7b). All five played key roles in the most successful run in franchise history under Loomis and Payton from ’06 to present. That draft also featured DE Rob Ninkovich (No. 5) who has gone on to play an integral role in two Super Bowl wins with the New England Patriots after twice being cut by Payton (2007-’09).

— 1986: G Jim Dombrowski (No. 1), RB Dalton Hilliard (No. 2), RB Rueben Mayes (No. 3a), LB Pat Swilling (No. 3b). All contributed mightily in the team’s success under GM Jim Finks and Coach Jim Mora in the 1980s and early ’90s.

— 1981: RB George Rogers (No. 1), DB Russell Gary (No. 2), LB Rickey Jackson (No. 2b), DE Frank Warren (No. 3a), TE Hoby Brenner (No. 3b), FB Hokie Gajan (No. 10) and DE Jim Wilks (No. 12). Jackson, Warren, Brenner, Gajan and Wilks all became endearing figures in Saints history after helping the franchise break through with its first winning season and trip to the postseason in 1987.

The trade that sent fourth-year wide receiver Brandon Cooks to New England for first- and third-round picks has generally received high marks from pundits and analysts around the league but the true measure of this transaction can’t be determined until the Saints put faces and names with picks.

That moment can’t come fast enough for me.

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Brian Allee-Walsh

Brian Allee-Walsh

sportsNOLAtv//USA Today//Biloxi Sun-Herald

Allee-Walsh joined sportsnola.com in November 2009 after spending 32-plus years with The Times-Picayune, the last 23 years covering the New Orleans Saints and NFL on a full-time basis. Prior to that, Allee-Walsh worked as the Public Relations Director for the Triple A New Orleans Pelicans (1977). A native of Seattle, Wash., the 64-year-old Allee-Walsh grew up in Indianapolis, Ind. He graduated from Brebeuf Jesuit High SchooI (Indianapolis) in 1970 and Indiana University in 1975 with a B.A. in Journalism. Allee-Walsh is married to Jennie, a native New Orleanian, and graduate of Isadore Newman School and Indiana University. They have three…

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