With the 11th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints selected CB Marshon Lattimore out of Ohio State. Lattimore was the best cornerback in the class, and the Saints were probably laughing when he slipped to them, due to many teams above them opting to fill other positions instead.
Lattimore will be a day one starter for the Saints, as they were essentially just rotating undrafted players alongside Delvin Breaux last year. For this reason alone, the selection of Lattimore will be a success, as even if he is a bust, he will not be worse than the players who were lining up in the secondary last season.
The narrative that follows the New Orleans Saints around, is that their defence is atrocious, but this narrative has become tiresome, and outdated. Having watched all 16 Saints games last season, the defence showed a lot of signs of improvement. They tightened up against the run, and Dennis Allen has a clear plan of action. He wants to run a speed defence with a lot of man coverage, and this strategy is the quickest way to turn a bad defence, into a competent one.
The biggest question surrounding Lattimore schematically, is whether Dennis Allen uses him on number one receivers, or gives him one side of the field. Delvin Breaux mostly lined up on the left side of the Saints defence, and the right cornerback position was highly problematic for them last year. It is for this reason, that Dennis Allen might choose to put Lattimore as the permanent right sided cornerback, as opposed to moving him around. Lattimore probably could match up against the likes of Julio Jones, Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans, but it seems odd to put that much pressure on him, when Delvin Breaux is also a perfectly competent cover corner.
The Saints mostly used Ken Crawley as their second cornerback last year, and while he showed a lot of effort, he simply wasn’t good enough for most of the year. He may be a useful rotation piece for the Saints, but Lattimore offers a whole different dimension to Dennis Allen’s defence, and he will not have to earn his starting job, it is his from day one.
While Lattimore was an absolute steal, he is not going to be the saviour for the Saints, unless other players on the front seven step up their game. Lattimore will give them a solid secondary with good coverage on both sides, but he will likely be overworked by a Saints pass rush that was not good enough last year, and is relying on Alex Okafor to stay healthy.
The Saints will likely blitz a lot next year, which means Lattimore is going to have to mature quickly, as he was not used to playing under such pressure in College. There is no doubt that he has the fundamentals to succeed, but he will have to learn quicker than the majority of other first round corners, as he will be left to play one on one as the Saints will send the house at opposing quarterbacks on a regular basis.
The Saints needed defensive help, and Lattimore gives them an elite cover corner who could develop into an all-pro talent. The Saints haven’t had a true lockdown corner for many years, and Lattimore could become a franchise changing pick, if Dennis Allen continues to take this team in the right direction. However, in Year One, Lattimore will not be the saviour, as the Saints need to put more pressure on the quarterback than they did last season.