Can hard-to-please Saints find edge rusher that's their type?

Harold Landry is not the prototypical edge rusher the Saints seek out but could have solid value at No. 27. Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire

General manager Mickey Loomis laughed last year when I asked him if the New Orleans Saints are too hard to please at the edge rusher position.

"We've talked about it, and there are guys [we like], and that's just the way it fell," Loomis said after last year's draft, when the Saints didn't draft an edge rusher until their sixth pick (DE Trey Hendrickson at the end of Round 3) even though they had labeled the position as a "must."

They also labeled edge rusher as a "must" in 2016, when they didn't draft a single one. And coach Sean Payton labeled the position as a "must" again last month, even after the Saints re-signed veteran Alex Okafor in free agency.

"It's not that we're not looking," Loomis continued. "And there's been a lot of good ones. It just hasn't fallen to the point that we feel really good about taking a particular player at a particular spot.

"You can't force those things. ... We only have seven picks in a given draft, and you kind of have to take it the way it comes sometimes. Look, we've tried to make trades before. We've tried to trade up at times, but it just hasn't worked out."

First of all, it must be stressed that Loomis and the Saints' front office were proven right in a huge way for not forcing things last year.

They very wisely selected the "best available player" with those first five draft picks, and they wound up with a draft class for the ages. Those first five picks (CB Marshon Lattimore, OT Ryan Ramczyk, S Marcus Williams, RB Alvin Kamara and LB Alex Anzalone) all became starters -- with Lattimore and Kamara sweeping the NFL Rookie of the Year awards.

So you'd better believe that the Saints will once again draft the best available player with the No. 27 pick in Round 1 this year, regardless of position.

But it does remain a curiosity, at least, whether the Saints' need for an edge rusher can finally match up with their draft board again.

New Orleans has drafted some great defensive ends in Round 1 during Loomis' tenure in the front office (Charles Grant in 2002, Will Smith in 2004 and Cameron Jordan in 2011). But those picks have been few and far between. Over the past 13 drafts, the only edge rushers the Saints have drafted in the first four rounds were Jordan, Hau'oli Kikaha in Round 2 in 2015 and Hendrickson last year.

Part of that is prototype. The Saints have almost always preferred bigger defensive ends who can hold up against the run and be every-down players. They have rarely been attracted to the smaller "tweener" edge rushers that fit better as outside linebackers in 3-4 schemes (Kikaha was an exception, but he also hasn't panned out, in part due to injury).

So the Saints would have to buck that trend this year if they decide to draft Boston College's Harold Landry (6-foot-2, 252 pounds), Georgia's Lorenzo Carter (6-5, 250) or LSU's Arden Key (6-5, 238) in Round 1 -- three dynamic edge rushers who could be available with pick No. 27.

If the Saints stick with bigger defensive ends, then Texas-San Antonio's Marcus Davenport (6-6, 264) or Ohio State's Sam Hubbard (6-5, 270) are possibilities -- though most draft analysts seem to project Davenport to go higher than 27th and Hubbard to go lower.

Personally, I'd like to see the Saints draft someone like Landry and find creative ways to mix him into the rotation. As for Hubbard, I'd happily pounce on any player from Ohio State if I was the Saints after their recent run of success with Buckeyes Michael Thomas, Vonn Bell and Lattimore. But as Loomis pointed out last year, the draft process is a little more sophisticated than that.

As for other needs on defense, I'd label weakside linebacker, defensive tackle and cornerback among the highest after that elusive edge rusher position.

Here is a look at New Orleans' defensive depth chart one week before the draft:

DE: Cameron Jordan, George Johnson, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Alex Jenkins

DE: Alex Okafor, Trey Hendrickson, Hau'oli Kikaha

DT: Sheldon Rankins, Mitchell Loewen, Devaroe Lawrence

DT: Tyeler Davison, David Onyemata, Woodrow Hamilton

SLB: A.J. Klein, Nathan Stupar, Michael Mauti, Jayrone Elliott

MLB: Demario Davis, Manti Te'o, Adam Bighill, Shayne Skov

WLB: Alex Anzalone, Craig Robertson, Sae Tautu

CB: Marshon Lattimore, P.J. Williams, Justin Hardee, De'Vante Harris, Bradley Sylve

CB: Ken Crawley, Patrick Robinson, Arthur Maulet, Mykkele Thompson

SS: Kurt Coleman, Chris Banjo

FS: Marcus Williams, Vonn Bell, Rickey Jefferson

P: Thomas Morstead

LS: Zach Wood