With eyes pointing ahead to the 2017 regular season, we’re going to go over the Top 10 Most Important Saints for the upcoming season. Without further adieu, here are 6-10:
10. CB Marshon Lattimore
Yes, a 2017 rookie is one of the Top 10 most important players for the Saints team this year. After the Saints and Patriots failed to finalize a trade sending CB Malcolm Butler to New Orleans, the microscope will be on Lattimore, the player the Saints opted to fill in the secondary in his place.
A lot will be asked of Lattimore in his rookie season, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him lined up against the top WRs in the NFC South by season’s end. If Lattimore were to go down with injury, we can expect Julio Jones, Mike Evans and the rest of the NFC South’s Wide Receivers to continue to wreak havoc on the Saints secondary.
9. DT Sheldon Rankins
From a 2017 NFL Draft pick to a 2016 Pick. Rankins missed the early part of last season after suffering an injury in camp, but still came on strong last season, finishing with 15 tackles and 4 sacks in only 9 games.
With Nick Fairley’s NFL future in question, more will be expected out of a full and healthy season from Rankins. If he were to go down, what looked like a nice position of depth just a month ago, could be eerily thin.
8. LB AJ Klein
Sticking with defense here, Klein was brought in to help provide stability to the Saints linebacking corps that hasn’t had a steady force in the middle since Curtis Lofton. While the Saints have plenty of warm bodies at Linebacker (including Klein, Craig Robertson, Nathan Stupar, Stephone Anthony, Dannell Ellerbe, Manti Te’o and others), if Klein isn’t able to show the Saints why they signed him to a starter’s contract, the Saints could be in a world of hurt.
7. C Max Unger
Now to an offensive player. We’ve already seen how volatile an offensive line can be, with word coming out of Terron Armstead’s injury just a week ago. This is on top of Unger’s injury that was reported last month, but all fingers are crossed for Unger to be ready for Week 1.
If Armstead misses time, the Saints spent their second 1st Round Pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on a possible replacement in Ryan Ramczyk. Andrus Peat’s versatility also provides flexibility around the Saints offensive line. The Center position is not that simple, and if Unger indeed misses time, the Saints offense could struggle.
6. S Kenny Vaccaro
Back to defense. Comparing Safety to Cornerback for the Saints, and the Saints have plenty of options at Cornerback to find the best players in rotation in the event of injury. Heaven forbid something were to happen to Delvin Breaux, the Saints could plug Sterling Moore into Breaux’s shoes and the drop-off would not be humungous. However, if Kenny Vaccaro (arguably the Saints Defensive MVP last year) misses time due to injury - or suspension - the Saints would be losing one of their best all-around defensive weapons.
So, check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this series, revealing the Top 5 Most Important Saints in 2017. Disagree so far? Who do you think will be in the Top 5, and in what order? Let us know in the comments.