Instant Impact

Saints getting value from 2017 draft picks

Just like that, the Saints have been able to turn their season around to a respectable 2-2. After dropping their first two game to the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots, the Black & Gold – featuring a much improved defense – manhandled the division-rival Carolina Panthers on the road and tallied a shutout against the Miami Dolphins in London last Sunday. 

One of the most exciting parts of the Saints season thus far has been the contribution rookies are making toward the team’s success.

The Saints first pick, cornerback Marshon Lattimore (Round 1, Pick 11) has 15 solo tackles, one assisted tackle, a forced fumble and two passes defended in three games. He didn’t play Carolina.

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Because of injuries to players higher up the depth chart, tackle Ryan Ramczyk (1, 32), has been forced into action on the left and right sides of the offensive line, and has played well.

Safety Marcus Williams (2, 10) has 12 solo tackles, six assisted tackles, an interception and a pass defended.

Running Back Alvin Kamara (3, 2) has emerged as an offensive threat from the backfield or split out wide as a receiver.

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Even players at the bottom of the class – Alex Anzalone (3, 12) and Trey Hendrickson (3, 39) – have made an early impact. Before being put on injured reserve with a shoulder this week, Anzalone had 11 solo tackles, five assisted tackles, a sack and a defended pass. In three games Hendrickson has tallied two solo and three assisted tackles with a sack and forced fumble. Only defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (6, 12) has yet to see much playing time to add to the class’ effort.

With Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram on the roster, Kamara joined a stocked backfield, but has been the breakout star of the draft class through the first quarter of the season. It’s hard to believe he’s only touched the ball 35 times in four games because he has become an integral part of the offense’s success. The dual threat has rushed for 83 yards on 15 attempts, an average of 5.5 yards per carry, with a touchdown and four first downs, as well as 20 catches for 147 yards and a touchdown. Against the Dolphins in Week 4, he caught all 10 passes thrown to him for 71 yards and a touchdown.

With production like that, it’s easy to see why head coach Sean Payton says he’s developed a man crush on Kamara.

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Ramczyk has been amazing thus far substituting for injured offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Zach Strief. He played left tackle in Week 1 and 4, and right tackle in Week 2 and 3. The Saints have enjoyed Ramczyk’s ability and versatility, especially considering he is a rookie. In four games, he has allowed a sack and been called twice for holding (only one accepted). He will likely be the Saints starting right tackle going forward after the team put Strief on injured reserve Tuesday.

Over the past decade, the Saints developed a reputation for draft misses, which led to inordinate spending to fill the roster with the best players available. High roster turnover and lack of depth had become the norm. It’s nice to see a draft class – from top to bottom – make an immediate impact. There’s no doubt that their contributions have the Saints in the thick of the division race and poised to compete when they come back from their bye week next Sunday.



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