The New Orleans Saints got a player many pundits pegged as the best Cornerback in the 2017 NFL Draft in Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore.
Colton Denning of SB Nation’s page for Ohio State, Land-Grant Holy Land, took some quick time to answer a few questions for Saints to get to know their first of their first round picks.
Most mock drafts projected Marshon Lattimore to go in the top 5 picks of the 2017 NFL Draft. That being said, were you surprised to see Lattimore make it all the way to the New Orleans Saints at #11 overall?
It was a bit of a surprise to see Lattimore last all the way to 11, given the pre-draft hype he was getting, but I think it had more to do with the random craziness we always see in the draft, rather than a ‘free-fall’ situation. The Bears trading up for Mitch Trubisky probably changed the complexion of the draft a bit, but I think it’s going to work out splendidly for both Lattimore and the Saints; without having to trade up, they managed to snag what amounts to a top 5 player in the draft at a position of need.
How do you expect Lattimore's only year as a starter to project as a first-year NFL starter? Will his lack of experience create a steeper learning curve, or were reports in college that he was quick to pick up playbooks, read offensive alignments, etc.?
It’s always dicey counting on a first year starter in college to come in and make an instant impact in the NFL, but Lattimore is such a natural that I think he’ll be able to offset some of the usual struggles you see with rookie corners due to his athleticism and competitiveness. There are certain areas of his game that need work (anticipation being one), but I think more of that is due to limited experience playing a major role at the position, rather than an inability to pick up on things.
Ohio State corners are essentially left on their own, and he wouldn’t have seen the field if he wasn’t quick to read opposing offenses. It’s just a matter of him getting more live reps and picking up on the nuances of the position as he learns an NFL defense this offseason. He’ll have some ups and downs next season, but I’d expect him to make an impact right away.
What do you think will be Lattimore's biggest strength in the NFL?
Definitely his athleticism. It wasn’t often that you saw receivers get much separation on him in college, --including in the air-- which made nearly every throw in his direction an adventure for opposing quarterbacks. Lattimore has ridiculous closing burst, which I’m sure Saints fans have seen in the highlights from the Oklahoma game this past season:
Outside of his overall ability on the football field, Lattimore is an extremely tough kid. He’s battled through a lot of hamstring issues, but he also went through some tough circumstances growing up, and managed to fight through all of it to get to where he is now. It’s great to get an athlete of his caliber on your team, but Lattimore’s determination to never quit -on and off the football field- is what I think will make him stand out for the Saints.
The NFC South has a lot of big-bodied wide receivers in Julio Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans and others. How is Lattimore contesting catches with big, physical wide receivers?
That’s a daunting trio for any corner, but I think Lattimore has the ability to match up with each of those players and contest 50/50 balls. He’s rarely going to get out-jumped, and he shows a knack for making a play on the ball, whether it’s one he can pick off, or just knock down. I’m a bit concerned about Lattimore’s ability to press at the line and play physical with those three in particular – at least early in his career- but as he adds a bit more bulk and can hone his technique, he should be just fine. Lattimore is a true ball hawk, and will be able to turn some of those 50/50 plays against those elite receivers into interceptions.
Overall, what should Saints fans expect from Lattimore's career in New Orleans?
At the risk of setting myself up to eat some crow, Saints fans should expect Lattimore to become one of the best corners in the league, and to lock down opposing number one receivers for the better part of the next decade. By no means does he come without risk – the hamstring issues in particular worry me—but he’s so athletic and has this innate feel for the game that I think it won’t take him long to become a top flight NFL corner.
I’m sure at this point the Saints feel comfortable with the quality of player they’re getting from Ohio State, and I don’t think it’ll take Lattimore to have the same type of impact Michael Thomas and Vonn Bell had last season. So, I would expect about 7-8 really strong seasons from Lattimore as the Saints top cover corner.
Thank-you so much for your time and insight, Colton!
Saints fans, make sure you check out Colton and the rest of the hard-working guys’ work over at Land-Grant Holy Land. You can also follow their work on Twitter @GamedayRockyTop. You can follow them on Twitter @LandGrant33, and you can follow Colton on Twitter @Dubsco. As always, you always follow me on Twitter @dunnellz.
What do you think about the Saints big name from the 2017 NFL Draft? Does this make you feel more comfortable with the Saints not getting Malcolm Butler from the New England Patriots? Are you as confidence as Colton in Lattimore’s bright NFL future? Tell us in the comments.