Saints to honor Tom Benson during NFL draft

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has plenty on his plate for final preparations ahead of Thursday night's draft.

The Saints, however, enter the league's annual three-day selection process with a heavy heart given the absence of owner Tom Benson, who passed away on March 15 at the age of 90.

"I've tried not to think about that, but we miss him on a daily basis," Loomis told reporters during a Wednesday morning pre-draft news conference. "The success of the Pelicans, his excitement level would've been off the charts, and having a horse in the Kentucky Derby and all these good things that have happened in the last few weeks. Man, he would have enjoyed all of that so much and I think he gets his greatest enjoyment by seeing how the city reacts to those kinds of things, and so he'll be missed."

While Benson won't be present, the Saints will honor the longtime owner in the draft room.

"We'll have an empty chair for him and we'll be thinking about him, for sure," Loomis said.

The Saints and Pelicans ownership passed to Gayle Benson, who emphasized her commitment to both teams in an email sent to fellow NFL and NBA team owners.

Meanwhile, the Saints will look to build on the success of last year's draft, which produced cornerback Marshon Lattimore, running back Alvin Kamara, free safety Marcus Williams and offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, among others.

But Loomis understands this time around has unique challenges, especially when considering the Saints currently have just a first-round pick (27th overall) and a third-round pick (91st overall) within the top 100.

"We had five picks in the first three rounds last year," Loomis said. "So, we don't have that opportunity this year -- we've got two -- and we're picking later.

"The opportunity is different. I certainly appreciate how big an impact that class had a year ago, and yet I also would say this -- that's one year. Let's not anoint that class as a big group of Hall of Famers or anything like that. They've had one good season and it's a good season that we can build on, and we're excited about them."

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