In a multi-part piece for the Times-Picayune, Saints beat writer Larry Holder is writing separate pieces listing the players he considers to be the 20 most important on the team’s roster for 2017.
From that article:
The Saints have to be hoping for more in the upcoming season out of this latest rookie class. Let’s take a look at the picks and why or why not they should be on the list ranked by order in which they were drafted.
- Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State - Certainly Lattimore should be on the list, no argument there. But although he could certainly help more than perhaps any other defensive rookie, Delvin Breaux and P.J. Williams, if healthy, could arguably give the Saints what they need in base coverage. “If healthy” obviously being the operative phrase in that last sentence. Lattimore could, though, bring to the Saints defense something they haven’t had perhaps in team history and that’s a legitimate lock-down corner. He definitely should be on the list.
- Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin - It could probably be argued that, with the loss of Terron Armstead, likely for the season, Ramczyk should be highest on a list of rookies and their importance to the team. Drafted with the idea he would challenge incumbent Zach Strief for the right tackle spot, Ramczyk now has the spotlight glaring on him as the possible protector of Drew Brees’ blind side for the upcoming season. It doesn’t get much more important than that. Definitely should be on the list.
- Marcus Williams, FS, Utah - The Saints haven’t had a successful ball-hawking free safety on the roster since Darren Sharper’s 2009 season. It should go without saying how important Sharper’s efforts were in securing the only Lombardi Trophy in Saints history. If Williams is able to produce half the results of that epic year at free safety it could dramatically change the fortunes of the Saints defense. More turnovers and better pass defense will be crucial in determining the fate of the Black and Gold in 2017 and expectations for Williams couldn’t be higher. Should be on the list.
- Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee - Perhaps no other rookie on the Saints roster has the luxury afforded Kamara in 2017. Are expectations high? Sure. But few would imagine the potent Saints offense will struggle if he isn’t the plug and play product most are envisioning. Brees and company have a way of making it work and Kamara is simply another toy though one who could certainly make the already explosive offense even more of a threat. Hopefully will be on the list in 2018.
- Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida - When Dannell Ellerbe is healthy he’s a formidable weak side linebacker. The caveat is that Ellerbe is rarely healthy enough to be on the field. Even with the additions the Saints made to the linebacking corps in free agency (A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o) Dennis Allen’s defense needs a strong and consistent player in the Will spot. Anzalone looks to have the tools to crack the starting line-up and the Will position will be prominent in 2017 with the Saints matching up against the likes of Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard. Hopefully will be on the list in 2018.
- Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic - If free agent acquisition Alex Okafor pans out as the bookend to Cam Jordan on the defensive line, then a lot of pressure is off Hendrickson. Yet still, there is a great need for depth at defensive end and a lot of hope is invested in Hendrickson being able to become a productive edge rusher for the Saints. Should be on the list.
- Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE, Miami - There are really no expectations for this University of Miami product and most project him to be on the Saints practice squad in 2017. But Muhammad also has the luxury of going into training camp and showing he can be a force and make the roster. It’s really an open competition at defensive end opposite Cam Jordan and whoever shows they have the stuff can win the job. Hopefully will be on the list in 2018.
- Arthur Maulet, CB, Memphis - Marshon Lattimore deservedly gets the lion’s share of the attention but this undrafted rookie free agent out of Memphis is expected by many to be have a good shot at contributing in 2017. Projected by most to be a good candidate to play slot corner at the NFL level, Maulet is also capable of playing outside and adding much needed depth to the Saints secondary. Hopefully will be on the list in 2018.
Larry Holder’s Times-Picayune piece is subjective, but it would seem more than Marshon Lattimore will need to crack a top 20 most important player list in order for the Saints to have a successful run in 2017. If just a few of the 2017 draft class meets or exceeds expectations there’s a good possibility it could happen.