The New Orleans Saints have been synonymous with draft whiffs and free agent misses over the past several years, but 2017 has definitely had a different vibe to it. With many new faces brought in this season for Sean Payton’s squad, it finally feels like a year where both free agents and draft picks are making their mark. With that being said, my personal vote for the best newcomer on the team through the first quarter of the season is all about their 11th overall pick.
Marshon Lattimore, CB (87.6) - 7th-best grade among all cornerbacks
Fortunately for the Saints, Lattimore fell to them at No. 11. The Ohio State pipeline was extremely friendly for Sean Payton and company yet again. Lattimore didn’t automatically enter the field as a starter, but did make some strong plays during training camp and beyond. He did have some minor injuries he dealt with in that timeframe, and had a somewhat rough start to the season in Week 1.
However, Lattimore rebounded in a big way for the Saints in Week 2 against the Patriots, allowing just 4 receptions for 28 yards on 6 total targets. Lattimore shadowed ex-Saint Brandin Cooks on 31 of his 39 routes, and allowed just one reception for three yards. Unfortunately, Lattimore sustained a concussion from friendly fire in the later part of the game, and missed Week 3 against the Panthers.
Lattimore came back in Week 4 to allow just four catches for 41 on four targets, but his big contributions were made forcing a fumble on Kenny Stills and providing some stellar coverage on an intended DeVante Parker screen play in which Cam Jordan strip/sacked Jay Cutler.
According to Pro Football Focus, here’s some signature stats associated with Lattimore.
- Lattimore is PFF's 9th highest graded corner in terms of Coverage Grade
- While he is the primary defender in coverage, he has been targeted ten times, allowing 8 receptions for 76 yards and recording one pass defense
- He is 4th in the league in coverage snaps per target, a metric that determines how often a corner is targeted while he is the primary defender
- His 10.3 coverage snaps per target trails only Mo Claiborne, Stephon Gilmore, and Patrick Peterson in terms of the least targeted corners in the league
For a secondary that has majorly struggled over the past few seasons, and is down Delvin Breaux and working with other virtual ‘unknowns’ in the secondary, Marshon Lattimore has been a huge bright spot for the Saints defense, and should continue being a top performer.
Here’s a look at the other ‘newbies’ with their grades.
- Larry Warford, OG (67.9): Warford’s presence along the offensive line hasn’t gone unnoticed, and it’s easy to say that he’s been a better asset as a pass blocking presence than in the run game, which has mainly struggled for the Saints. Not many talk about him, and that’s probably a good thing. Once things get more set in stone along the right side of the offensive line, perhaps his run blocking will be elevated.
- Alvin Kamara, RB (61.2): Kamara, who the Saints acquired in the third round at 67th overall in exchange for a second round pick in 2018, has been quite a presence since his arrival. He looked every bit of the part for being what the offense had so desperately missed since Darren Sproles throughout training camp and the preseason, and it carried over into the regular season in a big way. Kamara is second on the team in receiving yards (147) and has two touchdowns (one running, one receiving) on the young season. The only knock in his game is that he hasn’t totally been on the same page as Drew Brees, but it’s a scary thought once that happens.
- Ryan Ramczyk, OT (68.3): Many ridiculed the Saints for taking an offensive tackle to close out the first round of the draft, but have since changed their tune. With injuries to Terron Armstead and Zach Strief early on, Ramczyk found himself starting at left tackle to help the offensive line. He also shifted to right tackle as part of the Saints dealing with more injuries. Ramczyk, like Warford, has been a better pass blocker for the team. He’s had some ‘rookie’ moments, but has also flashed some brilliance.
- Ted Ginn Jr., WR (52.7): The team’s third-highest receiving leader (146 yards) has looked pretty strong through several games. His biggest moment with the team came at the hands of his former squad, the Panthers, when Ginn got behind the defense to haul in a 40-yard touchdown pass in Week 3’s victory. With Willie Snead back, Ginn’s reps may dip some, but he’ll still get some return work on special teams.
- A.J. Klein, LB (35.9): The grades aren’t good for the free agent pickup, but perhaps that doesn’t tell the whole story. Klein leads the team with 23 tackles on the season, and has a forced fumble, sack, and pass defense through his first four games. He’s also played in all 252 snaps for Dennis Allen’s defense. Still, if you’re hung up grades, only Kenny Vaccaro (31.1) grades out lower than Klein.
- Alex Anzalone, LB (70.8): The team’s 76th overall pick in the third round was a fresh breath of air for the linebacking corps, as Anzalone quickly inserted himself in more of a starting capacity. Like many of the players on defense, Anzalone had some struggles during the first two weeks of the season, but rebounded in Week 3 against the Panthers. Unfortunately, Anzalone landed on injured reserve on Wednesday after suffering a shoulder injury after just three snaps against the Dolphins.
- Alex Okafor, DE (78.5): Okafor was thought to be more of a pass-rushing presence for the Saints, but has been one of the league’s strongest run defenders. According to PFF, Okafor is the fifth-highest graded run stopper among all defensive ends. He’s the fifth-highest in snaps this season for the Saints at 201, and should hopefully continue playing at a high level.
- Marcus Williams, S (79.0): Fans have quickly forgot about the likes of Jairus Byrd thanks to the team’s second round pick. His safety grade is good for 26th among all safeties, and he’s second-highest on the team in snap counts (249) behind Klein. Williams has 17 total tackles on the season with a pass defense, and one hell of an interception against the Panthers. Again, he’s shown tremendous improvement after the first two games in which the Saints defense was chasing their tail.
- Trey Hendrickson, DE (71.3): The third-rounder hasn’t appeared in much action, 37 snaps to be exact, but he’s definitely made them count. Through three games, Hendrickson has a sack, forced fumble, and five total tackles.
- Manti Te’o, LB (70.8): The free agent pickup from the Chargers also hasn’t seen extensive action at 77 defensive snaps on the season, but has 14 total tackles so far. With Anzalone going on injured reserve, Te’o could be in line for more playing time.
Which of these newcomers do you feel has made the biggest impact for the Saints?
This poll is closed