Over the weekend, NFL.com writer Chase Goodbread, in his article Projecting top 100 NFL rookies of 2016: Players 1-20, projects New Orleans Saints first round pick Sheldon Rankins to be the 4th most impactful rookie for the 2016-17 season. Rankins fell behind the Los Angeles Rams first overall pick (and #1 on the list) QB Jared Goff, #2 Jacksonville Jaguars LB Myles Jack, and #3 Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott.
4. DT Sheldon Rankins, New Orleans Saints: The Saints had the second-worst run defense in the NFL last year. The need was clear, and Sean Payton has suggested Rankins can be an every-down player. His quickness as a pass rusher was evident at the Reese's Senior Bowl in January.
While "impactful" is a fuzzy concept like "valuable" and arguably opposed to something more absolute like "outstanding", it's fairly easy to look at the addition of a player like Rankins to a languishing defense like the Saints' and project immediate impact. Unlike many other rookies taken in the first couple days and of course pending health, Rankins will almost certainly start and play the majority of snaps at his position.
Will he rack up 19 sacks, 73 tackles for loss, and kick a 66 yard FG en route to an unanimous DROY?
Other Saints Rookies Ranked
Also in the top 20, at #15, is Saints rookie wideout and former Ohio State standout WR Michael Thomas.
15. WR Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints: Putting Thomas together with Drew Brees can be as dynamic a pairing as any combination of veteran quarterback and drafted receiver.
Pretty noncommittal sentiment there, Mr. Goodbread. I'll take it. It's the offseason.
Saints Safety Vonn Bell came in eight spots later.
23. S Vonn Bell, New Orleans Saints: Bell can play well in coverage as a safety, and not just zone coverage; he can match up. That's why he was a steal for New Orleans at No. 61 overall.
Rest of the NFL South
#8. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
#21. Noah Spence, OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
#32. Keanu Neal, S, Atlanta Falcons
#46. Robert Aguayo, K, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
#55. Vernon Butler, DT, Carolina Panthers
#67. Deion Jones, LB, Atlanta Falcons
#71. Austin Hooper, TE, Atlanta Falcons
#72. James Bradberry, CB, Carolina Panthers