Coming into the 2017 NFL draft many names were on the proverbial wish list for New Orleans Saints fans. With the most popular concerns being the pass rush, names like Derek Barnett, Taco Charlton, and Reuben Foster (who would have served multiple purposes) were the ideal candidates. But then, Day 1 of the Draft came. Next thing you know- after some truly puzzling decisions, seven out of the first ten picks were spent on offensive players. A scenario that no one expected to take place in a heavily defense talented draft. Up comes pick number eleven and the wish list was out the window. Out the window because a man from Ohio State University, who was supposed to be a top five (some believed top three) pick, was still on the board. Thus begins the career of New Orleans Saints CB, Marshon Lattimore.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be highlighting each of the Saints’ 2017 draft picks. Including the often-unmentioned Al-Quadin Muhammad, whom I happen to be very excited to see. Beginning with our number one guy, I’ll talk about what I feel the best-case scenario, worst-case scenario, and my expectations are for this upcoming season. Within reason, of course. For this series I’m going to rule out the possibility of injuries cutting a season short. Otherwise, that would just end up being everyone’s worst-case scenario and this should be fun, not downright depressing. Let’s get it.
This is the scenario Saints fans all hope for. Lattimore bursts onto the field Week 1 opposite Delvin Breaux and takes the league by storm. Let’s look at one of the best seasons ever put together by a rookie cornerback. In 1952, Dick “Night Train” Lane played in only 12 games his rookie year. During those 12 games (a full season in ’52), he racked up a still NFL-record 14 interceptions (one of the unbreakables). Two of which he returned for a touchdown. We didn’t track tackles at that time but we can presume he had many. Now, of course, we must temper this a bit, no rookie defensive back has had more than 10 interceptions since Anthony Henry in 2001 with the Cleveland Browns- Lattimore’s home town. So, I’d say that a more realistic outcome could be reached by looking at one of the more recent standout rookie cornerback seasons. Enter Marcus Peters. Peters and Lattimore are almost identical in measurable. Peters is 6’0″ 197 lbs while Lattimore, also 6’0″ comes in at 192 lbs. However, Lattimore’s 4.36 40-yard dash time improves greatly upon Peters’ 4.53. Peters compiled 60 tackles, 6 INTs, 2 TDs, 26 PBUs, and added a forced fumble. Peters had an outstanding rookie season and, barring injury, Lattimore has the same build, intelligence and amazing closing speed to replicate it.
Stat Line: 60 tackles, 7 INTs, 1 TD, 25 PBUs, 500 yards and 3 TDs allowed.
We won’t have to reach back too far in record books to find a comp for this one. In fact, we won’t even have to leave the division. Chris Houston of the 2007 Atlanta Falcons gave us one of the worst seasons by a cornerback, not just by a rookie. Houston, a second-round pick, had no interceptions and only 9 PBUs on his way to allowing 793 yards and 7 TDs in 16 games. Houston stood 5’10” and weighed 185 lbs. Lattimore is just a bit bigger, more prototypical, and more talented. We can rest easy that this is a longshot. But hey, we’ve got to look at both sides, right? Let’s look at another comparison. A little closer to home- Delvin Breaux. The Breaux Show put together one of the most surprising and impressive seasons in 2015. Consider Breaux’s story, personality, and perseverance and he has become one of the most beloved Saints. A name like that doesn’t hurt either. But while he outperformed all expectations, he managed to give up 10 TDs on only 557 yards allowed. I imagine Marshon’s worst-case scenario to be something of a blend of these two seasons.
Stat Line: 35 Tackles, 2 INTs, 0 TDs, 10 PBUs, 600 yards and 9 TDs allowed
Lattimore’s pro comparison coming into the league was Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant. It seems that Desmond’s entire family has played in the NFL by now. Kendrick would say it’s in his DNA. Trufant started all 16 games his rookie season in 2013 and played very well with 70 tackles, 2 INTs and a forced fumble. Just to keep with the theme, let’s also look at Trufant’s pro comparison, Tramon Williams. Williams didn’t play in his rookie year, so let’s just look at his best. In 2010 he compiled 57 tackles, 6 INTs and a forced fumble. As is tradition, I expect Lattimore will be somewhere between these two. If he can learn Dennis Allen’s system while maintaining his composure at the highest level of the game, I expect that he’ll be more of a factor than Trufant was his rookie year but will still need some more polishing before reaching Williams’ level when he grabbed 23 INTs from 2009 – 2015; the only seasons he played in more than 10 games. There is concern over Lattimore’s desire to play the receiver before the ball. This will be a tough habit to kick and in the much faster NFL, closing speed won’t always be an easy way out. Though, I expect the Saints’ new run game to keep time of possession from being too much of a factor.
Stat Line: 60 Tackles, 4 INTs, 0 TDs, 18 PBUs, 600 yards and 4 TDs allowed
We are all excited to have landed such a blockbuster draft pick. All that’s left now is to watch and see how he progresses. Will the college to pros adjustment be too much? Will Lattimore become one of the best Saints to play the position? It’s impossible to say now, but one thing is for certain. The guy is something special, and he’s going to be a ton of fun to watch.
Next time: First-round pick (32) Ryan Ramczyk