The Saints 2006 draft class will forever be remembered as one of the best ever selected. That class included Marques Colston, Jahri Evans, Roman Harper, Zach Strief and the recently retired Reggie Bush. Each of those five players was on the roster in 2009 when the Saints won the Super Bowl in Miami. Rob Ninkovich was also drafted that year and went on to be a part of the New England Patriots Super Bowl teams in 2014 and 2016. While that class will always be touted and celebrated, the Saints seem to have done it again here in 2017 bringing in some of the more electrifying draft picks in recent history. While I could go on and on about Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams, Trey Hendrickson, and Alex Anzalone, I’m gonna focus on the two rookies that have the eyes and ears of the entire league right now.
Rookies Marshon Lattimore (Cornerback selected 11th overall in the first round) and Alvin Kamara (Runningback selected 67th overall in the third round) are both leading the conversation in Rookie of the Year talks for their respective sides of the ball. But beyond the pass breakups, interceptions, dazzling runs, and Matrix-mode moves, these gentlemen have been imperative to the success of their team. Not just in the win column, but by increasing the overall capabilities of the team’s gameplan and by affecting the opposing team’s tendencies.
Marshon has been everything we ever dreamed of and more when he unexpectedly fell to #11 during the draft. You’ve seen the numbers. 4 INTs, 1 FF, 15 PBUs and 1 TD. But let’s take a look at how his skillset translates to the success of the defense. The numbers below include adjustments for Special Teams/Defensive scores by the opposing team.
When Lattimore takes 90% or more of defensive snaps – 15.9 points allowed
When Lattimore takes less than 90% of defensive snaps – 22.4 points allowed
That’s a 6.5 point difference. Meaning that Lattimore essentially takes away a touchdown each game. For fun, let’s adjust the score accordingly for the losses we suffered when Marshon played less than 90% of the defensive snaps.
Week 2 (81.6%) – New England 29 (adj. from 36) – New Orleans 20
Week 11 (0%) – New Orleans 20 – Los Angeles Rams 19 (adj. from 26)
Week 14 (83.8%) – New Orleans 17 – Atlanta 13 (adj. from 20)
Taking an opponent’s TD (and subsequent XP) away from those three games would have yielded 2 wins. Additionally, this also protects the 20-point threshold. Each of the Saints 4 losses this year have come to teams that score over 20 points. When holding a team to under 20, the Saints are 7-0 so far this season.
It’s plain to see that this team is better when Marshon Lattimore is on the field. Not many rookie Cornerbacks have that kind of direct line to the heart and soul of a team.
With all the hurdles, the balancing acts, and over-the-shoulder catches, it’s easy to consider Alvin Kamara a big-play machine. But when you look deeper into his stat line, you can see that he’s been vital to the success of the Saints offense. If you have any doubts, take a look at what happened when he was lost due to a concussion against the Falcons in week 14. Kamara has two games left this season and has already topped 1,400 all-purpose yards while having only taken 5 kick returns. He also leads the league in yards per carry (6.6) and yards per touch (8.0) at his position.
But behind all of that, he’s been the key to unlocking the scoring-potential of the Sean Payton/Drew Brees offense. The only stipulation? Give him the ball. The numbers below have been adjusted for touchdowns scored by the Saints defense.
When Kamara gets 11 or less touches – 21.6 points scored
When Kamara gets more than 11 touches – 30 point scored
Here we go again. Kamara supercharges the Saints offense to put up 8.4 more points when he gets the ball more than 11 times in a game, rushing or receiving. Much like Lattimore’s affect, the Saints are 7-0 when they score 30 or more points. Often times, Kamara has been the difference. Let’s adjust the scores of the games the Saints lost when Kamara had 11 or less touches by just a touchdown and XP.
Week 1 (11) – Minnesota 29 – New Orleans 26 (adj. from 19)
Week 2 (4) – New England 36 – New Orleans 27 (adj. from 20)
Week 11 (11) – New Orleans 27 (adj. from 20) – Los Angeles Rams 26
Week 14 (4) – New Orleans 24 (adj. from 17) – Atlanta 20
Again, two more wins and an unprecedented 12 game win streak after losing 2. I’ve said before that Kamara is everything we thought we had with Reggie Bush. A runner-receiver that can be a playmaker both outside and between the tackles.
These guys have meant so much to the Saints organization this year. Both on and off the field. They’re a ton of fun to watch and the brotherhood among this winning Saints team is phenomenal. But the fire started with a couple of sparks from this year’s draft class and their leaving major impressions in their wake. It’s even more convincing if those two winning scores are adjusted for both Lattimore and Kamara’s productivity.
Week 11 – New Orleans 27 – Los Angeles Rams 19
Week 14 – New Orleans 24 – Atlanta 13
It’s hard not to wonder what Lattimore and Kamara are going to do throughout their careers, but the here and now are equally exciting. Next week’s Atlanta rematch in the dome will be a strong test for both of these talented gamechangers. And we’re all excited to see it play out.