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Saints mailbag, Part 1: Trade up or trade down?

9h

Thanks for submitting your New Orleans Saints questions to me on Twitter. Send them anytime @MikeTriplett. And stay tuned for Part 2 of this week’s mailbag on Sunday.

@MikeTriplett: If anything, I would expect the Saints to trade up instead of down. They’ve already got nine picks to work with, and their history under general manager Mickey Loomis shows they’re willing to trade up if they love a certain guy. The Saints have traded up five times in Round 1 in 12 years under Loomis -- and they’ve never traded down in Round 1 in that span.

Loomis explained his willingness to trade up before last year’s draft, in part because the Saints have had so much success with undrafted free agents.

But anything is possible, especially since the Saints already have taken a different approach this year by stockpiling so many picks. And Loomis has traded down quite a bit in later rounds of the draft over the years too. He’s always willing to consider moving in either direction to maximize the value of each pick.

Either way, it’s not a decision the Saints will make on April 18. It will depend on how the board is shaping up as their choice approaches. If they have one player graded well above the others, they may move up and get him. If they’ve got a “cloud” of six or seven players with similar grades, they may look to move down.

@MikeTriplett: I’ve heard that theory many times, that the draft is a crapshoot, so more picks equal more chances to hit on one. But I don’t have a problem when a team gets aggressive if they have a strong conviction on a specific player, especially a team like New Orleans that has been in Super Bowl contention for most of the past six years.

In theory, going up to get your highest-rated player also should increase your chances of success. And first-rounders have a greater chance of success than second-rounders (look at the Saints’ top two picks last year, Brandin Cooks vs. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, for the ultimate example).

I did a breakdown a couple of years ago of teams that traded up vs. teams that traded down, and I basically reached the same conclusion as Loomis, who told me the team had analyzed every trade over the past 10 years and found there is no "magic formula."

“I think what always works is you identify players that you want, and then you have to determine, 'When can you get them?'” Loomis said at the time. “Whether that means trading up or sliding down and then being able to get more guys, that's just a case-by-case basis."

Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots popularized the notion of trading down to stockpile picks because they hit on some of those mid-round picks, like tight end Rob Gronkowski. But the Cleveland Browns also have traded down quite a bit in recent years with much less to show for it.

Meanwhile, some of the teams that traded up with the Patriots landed the likes of Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas and Clay Matthews, among others. So it can work (or fail) either way.

@MikeTriplett: This is an offshoot of the previous questions since it all plays into the fact that New Orleans has had by far the fewest number of draft picks in the NFL since 2008 (38 -- eight fewer than any other team). They’ve aggressively targeted impact players by spending big in free agency, trading for veteran players and trading up in the draft.

As a result, the cupboard is starting to look a little more bare now as their quarterback, offensive line and wide receiver positions finally are showing signs of age after dominating for so long. But it’s hard to argue with the impact that so many of those free-agent signings and veteran trade acquisitions made for them (Drew Brees, Scott Fujita, Jonathan Vilma, Jeremy Shockey, Darren Sharper, Jabari Greer, Darren Sproles, Curtis Lofton, Ben Grubbs and Keenan Lewis, among others).

Again, there's no magic formula.