When the New Orleans Saints originally drafted Ryan Ramczyk, the general belief was that it was a simple case of selecting the best player available, and trusting that the selection will pay off in the future. That time came sooner rather than later, as Terron Armstead tore his labrum in his shoulder in the offseason, forcing Ramczyk into the starting lineup when he became healthy in training camp.
During his first start on opening night in Minnesota, veteran right tackle Zach Strief went down with a knee injury, again forcing the Saints rookie lineman to adjust. He would go on to start the next 15 games at right tackle, playing well enough to give Strief peace-of-mind about the future health of Drew Brees and accelerating Strief’s departure.
In fact, Ramczyk was so steady and dependable that he was one of only two Saints offensive lineman to play every single snap in 2017 (along with Max Unger). That would have surprised people during the draft process a year ago, given that Ramczyk hadn’t participated in pre-draft workouts as he rehabilitated a hip injury.
If you somewhat value how Pro Football Focus grades players, it’s worth noting that he ended the season as their 8th highest graded Offensive Tackle in the league. Take note: That’s not 8th best rookie, or 8th best Right Tackle. He’s perhaps the least recognized of the four highly-prolific 2017 Saints rookie class, but he’s no less proficient at his job.
The most encouraging aspect of Ramczyk’s play in 2017, aside from his health, was his marked improved over the course of the season. After being bested by Everson Griffen on opening night, he mostly held his own in the following weeks before playing against Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan. However, after the Redskins game, he went on to play his best football of the season, helping to pave the way for a historic ground game while keeping Brees upright.
Ryan Ramczyk will need to continue to improve for the 2018 season as he transitions from contributor to leading factor in the Saints success. The right tackle position is no longer just a road-grader that teams design a run game around; in today’s NFL, the very best pass rushers often line up on the quarterback’s right, an evolution from the typical “blindside” pass rusher. The Saints will need him to keep their quarterback upright, whether that be Drew Brees or his eventual successor. Lucky for Saints fans, Ramczyk is the type of player that should be a large piece of the foundation for any future successes.