At the beginning of the season, I did an introductory series called Setting the Scene. In which, I wrote about each rookie and provided three scenarios that I felt were best and worst-cases and then also outlined my expectations. So now that the season has come to a complete, let’s look at those scenarios and see which ones were closest (if at all) to each rookie’s performance.
Round 1 Pick #11 – Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore
2017 Stats: 52 Tackles, 5 INTs, 1 TD, 18 PBUs, 486 Yards Allowed, 0 TDs Allowed
Most Accurate Scenario: Best-Case – 60 tackles, 7 INTs, 1 TD, 25 PBUs, 500 yards and 3 TDs allowed.
I figured that Marshon Lattimore falling to us at 11 was a sign that something special was going to happen this year. Not a bit of that was incorrect. The Saints defense was resurgent and it was largely lead by the addition and brilliance of Lattimore. In an earlier article that I wrote about our pair of rookies of the year, I noted that Lattimore being on the field essentially took a touchdown off the board for the opposition. He, as a rookie, didn’t allowed a single TD in his coverage and allowed less than 500 yards. His 52 tackles show that he was active in the run game and often one of the first to break on a screen (see the tackle and strip of Kenny Stills in week 4). Lattimore also added 18 PBUs and allowed only 36 receptions and a passer rating of 45.3, third in the NFL. To top it all off, the former Buckeye was awarded the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honor as well. An award well deserved and much anticipated. Lattimore was also voted into the Pro Bowl and secured four Pepsi Rookie of the Week awards.
Round 1 Pick #32 (From Patriots) – Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk
2017 Stats: 21 Pressures Allowed, 2 Sacks Allowed (none in the last 8 games), 5.3 yards per rush to his side
Most Accurate Scenario: Best-Case – 20 pressures allowed, 2 sacks allowed, > 4.5 yards per rush to the left side
Boy did that Cooks trade turn out being great for us, huh? Ramczyk started the season on the left side in place of the injured Terron Armstead and then quickly transitions over to the Right Tackle spot when Zach Strief went down for the season. Amazingly, the rookie started every single offensive snap this season, which is crazy considering there was concern regarding whether or not he’d be ready to go when the season began. Max Unger was the exact same. Ramczyk helped to keep the pocket for Brees the cleanest of the league allowing him to be pressured only 22.6% of passing snaps. He also lead the way to a 5.3 rush yard average to his edge, which was third in the league. Ramczyk was named the top rookie offensive linemen by PFF. I don’t know what they’re feeding the offensive lineman in New Orleans aside from a hefty serving on Jambalaya, but they best keep it up.
Round 2 Pick #41 – Utah S Marcus Williams
2017 Stats: 75 Tackles, 4 INTs, 0 TDs, 0 Sacks, 7 PBUs
Most Accurate Scenario: My Expectation – Stat Line: 25 Tackles, 0 Sacks, 6 INTs, 0 TDs, and 11 PBUs
Though I was mad wrong about how much Marcus Williams was going to be a part of the run game on defense, I was kind of close on the other stats. Williams had nearly 50% more tackles than starting MLB A.J. Klein. He also brought in 4 INTs plus a post-season INT that turned the divisional round game around in our favor, and proved his ball-hawking ability on several plays throughout the season. It’s also worth noting that Williams forced a 23.1 incompletion rate and only allowed 0.13 yards per pass when in primary coverage per PFF. For now, he may be remembered only for a single play at the end of our season, but his productivity throughout his rookie year was a large part of the organizations turnaround. He’ll be a big part of the continued success of the New Orleans Saints moving forward. Especially if we move on from Kenny Vaccaro, leaving safety responsibilities primarily to Williams and Vonn Bell. Which, for the record, is something I’m very comfortable with. Especially if we add another box safety-LB hybrid in the draft. Williams also finished as the #1 rookie in his position as rated by PFF.
Round 3 Pick # 67 (From 49ers) – Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara
2017 Stats:120 Carries, 728 yards, 8 TDs, 81 receptions, 826 yards, 5 TDs
Most Accurate Scenario: Best-Cast – 55 Rushes for 420 Yards and 3 TDs, 70 Catches for 700 Yards and 7 TDs
I don’t say this often but… Lol. Even in all of my hype and excitement around Alvin Kamara, I still didn’t predict that he’d end up going off for 1,901 all-purpose yards and becoming the first rookie since Gayle Sayers (HOFer) to score 5 or more rushing and receiving TDs in addition to a kick return TD while also combining with veteran RB Mark Ingram to become the first tandem of running backs to each game 1,500 total yards in the same season. Kamara was every bit as electrifying as we here at ASC anticipated and much, much more. I know I personally expected him to be the third guy behind Ingram and once Saint, then Cardinal, soon Free Agent Adrian Peterson. Once the Saints shipped Adrian Peterson to Arizona for a 6th round pick everything went into hyperdrive and we’re a better team because of it. Kamara joined Marshon Lattimore to sweep thhe AP Rookie of the Year awards by taking home the offensive award. He was also voted Pepsi Rookie of the year and brought home 7 Pepsi Rookie of the Week awards, including 5 straight at one point. Looking ahead to next year, expect a lot of chatter about the potential for a sophomore slump for Kamara. Don’t believe any of it though, I’m confident that won’t happen.
Round 3 Pick #76 – Florida LB Alex Anzalone
2017 Stats (Injured Week 4): 16 Tackles (1 for a loss) 1 sack, 1 PBUs, 0 INTs, 0 FFs
Most Accurate Scenario: N/A
This was a heartbreaker. Anzalone’s season came to an end far too early due to a shoulder injury. But if the small sampling we got of his play this year is any indicator, I have high hopes for the full product. I’m so excited for this guy to come back to us next year healthy and ready to play. I specifically made my predictions ruling out injury, though I knew the bug was going to bite eventually. If we want to discuss hypotheticals though, by the stat line above, Anzalone was on pace for 64 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks, and 4 PBUs. That stat line would have put him nearest my expectations: 45 tackles (3 for a loss), 0 sacks, 4 PBUs, 1 INT, 1 FF. The LB group was such a. big part of our progress this season, but it can use some more tinkering in the draft (Rashaad Evans) and perhaps some more key FA add à la Manti Te’o (Navarro Bowman). With Anzalone back next year and some solid offseason adds alongside Manti Te’o, A.J. Klein, and Craig Robertson, we’ll be well-assembled both in talent and depth.
Round 3 Pick #103 – Florida Atlantic EDGE Trey Hendrickson
2017 Stats:13 Tackles, (2 for a loss), 2 sacks, 1 FF
Most Accurate Scenario: My Expectations – 25 tackles (8 for a loss), 5 sacks, 1 blocked FG (PAT), 1 FF
Hendrickson played a very large role in the resurgence of the Saints pass rush. This year’s defense was a terror for QBs not only because they were more adept at getting into the backfield this year, but also because of their ability to bat passes at the line of scrimmage. Trey Hendrickson added to that by batting down two this year while lining up opposite Cam Jordan in a rotation with Alex Okafor and Hau-oli Kikaha. Hendrickson did miss 4 games late in the season following that wild Thursday night game in Atlanta that looked more like a pitch for the midseason finale of Grey’s Anatomy than it did a football game. #91 was a fantastic piece of the puzzle that was the Saints’s defensive line and it will be exciting to see him settle in more next year, especially if we continue to add to our rotational gameplan, keeping everyone fresh when on the field.
Round 6 Pick #196 – Miami DL Al-Quadin Muhammad
2017 Stats:1 Tackle
Most Accurate Scenario: Worst-Case – Practice Squad
Even though Muhammad didn’t actually end up on the practice squad, he only played 21 defensive snaps and 24 special teams snaps all season. He was essentially a part of the reserve team that would come in when the game has already been decided. That’s not to say that he wasn’t developing over the season, of course. He was just stuck behind a rotation that included Trey Hendrickson, Alex Okafor, Hau’oli Kikaha, George Johnson, and at times Sheldon Rankins. It will be interesting to see where his development does lead next year. We all knew he was a raw player that was going to be a type of project, so this is when we begin to see that in action. We’ve already begun seen flashes with his preseason numbers.
I’ll be doing this same review with my Madden 18 simulation soon as well and will continue the Setting the Scene series for next year’s rookies throughout the preseason. ‘Til then, revel and bask in a fantastic 2017 selection. One of the most complete and impactful drafts we could have ever asked for. So many of these rookies contributed every game from the jump. Let’s hope for a repeat come April of 2018.