Saints Go For The Best Available
Saints lean on players’ grades over position needs
After several trades and jostling to arrange the pecking order, the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft is in the books. Several teams traded up the draft board to select their next playmakers, while others too advantage of giving up a high selection spot in exchange for extra picks to bolster their rosters’ depth. Many players who were expected to go early slid, especially several from Alabama. That helped the Saints, who got a player they graded as a top five talent with the 11th overall pick. With several defensive stars, it looked like New Orleans would look to shore up its anemic defense. Instead, they selected a player who may become the anchor of the offensive line for the next decade.
The Saints selected Marshon Lattimore, a 6’0”, 193 lb., cornerback out of Ohio State, with their first pick. CBSSports.com graded Lattimore as the top corner in the draft and the fifth best player in the draft.
“We didn’t feel like in a lot of our own mocks and maybe our own projections that we’d have a chance at Marshon,” head coach Sean Payton said after the first round. “We’re excited, real excited about him being there at 11.”
“We value obviously his prototype, his size. We value his speed, he has tremendous ball skills and there were a number of things that when you get a high-graded player at a position of need then it becomes an easier selection and in this case that was that player.”
There were thoughts that the Saints would look for an impact player to bolster the pass rush, as Alabama’s Ruben Foster, the top-rated inside linebacker prospect in the draft, and Jonathan Allen, the top-rated senior defensive end, were both available when the Saints made their first pick.
But Payton said the team relied on their scouting department’s grade when selecting Lattimore. “He was three or four (overall) for us. He was up there.”
While Foster and Allen were gone by the time the Saints got to their second selection in the first round, pick No. 32, obtained via the Brandon Cooks trade to the New England Patriots, many thought the team would fill their pass rushing need.
Instead, the team again relied on their pre-draft grading, and selected Ryan Ramczyk (pronounced Ram-check), Wisconsin’s 6’6”, 310 pound offensive tackle.
“As you get deeper in the draft you’re trying to look at best available player and with Ryan, for us, there was a big gap with our grade with him to the next group of players.”
Payton said the Saints graded Ramczyk as one of the top 15 prospects in the draft, while the best available pass rusher had a second-round grading.
“There was a big gap,” Payton said. “We weren’t going to go away from just a clear gap in grades. He was a player graded in the first round by every one of our scouts. We felt good about that.”
Ramczyk is expected to compete with 11-year veteran Zach Strief at right tackle.
Both of the Saints players have a history with injury. Lattimore has overcome hamstring issues, while Ramczyk is coming off of hip surgery. They cleared any medical concerns the team may have had, and both are expected to be ready to compete in training camp.
As for the pass rush, Payton said there will be opportunities in the remaining rounds.
“I think this is the strength of this draft,” he said. “We’re going to see tomorrow. There are lot of good football players still on the board.
There are a handful of guys with a first round grade that are there, and hopefully, knock on wood, that we’ll have a chance at possibly drafting with our next pick.”
New Orleans Saints 2017 Draft
The New Orleans Saints have seven selections in the 2017 draft. After making two picks in the first round last night, the draft will continue today and tomorrow, April 28-29, in Philadelphia.
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