The New Orleans Saints' draft class has been a driving force behind their six-game winning streak, with cornerback Marshon Lattimore and running back Alvin Kamara among the top rookies in the entire NFL and a total of five rookies either having started or played major roles.
"Listen, we’re not ready to just send em to the Hall of Fame right yet. But guys are competing and we’re getting a lot of production out of this group, and that’s encouraging," Saints coach Sean Payton said after Sunday's 30-10 win over Tampa Bay.
Early on, it has been reminiscent of the Saints’ dynamic 2006 class that ranks among the best in NFL history. Here's a look at their first-half impact:
Marshon Lattimore, CB, first round: The 21-year-old from Ohio State is in the running for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after winning the league's monthly award for October. He has been playing at nearly a lock-down level, sometimes shadowing the opponents’ top receiver. He returned one of his two interceptions for a TD. The other was a game-clincher in the final minutes. Pro Football Focus said he is their highest-graded rookie ever through the first nine weeks since the service began in 2006 -- behind only Adrian Peterson. Grade: Near perfection
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, first round: Ramczyk felt like a bit of a luxury pick on draft day, but he has become vital while starting every game as an injury replacement -- first for left tackle Terron Armstead, then for right tackle Zach Strief. The Saints’ offense has barely missed a beat with the 6-foot-5, 314-pounder from Wisconsin, who has proven to be solid in both pass protection and run blocking. Grade: Above average
Marcus Williams, S, second round: The free safety, who earned a reputation at Utah as a ball-hawking center fielder, has started every game for the Saints’ revamped secondary. He has one interception, two pass defenses and 33 tackles. Grade: Above average
Alvin Kamara, RB, third round: The Saints traded away their 2018 second-round pick to get Kamara, but he has emerged as one of the best value picks in the draft as a dynamic runner/receiver from Tennessee. He leads the NFL with 6.0 yards per carry among qualified backs. He leads the Saints with five touchdowns. And he has more than 300 rushing yards and 300 receiving yards. According to ESPN Stats and Information, he is just the third rookie RB to do that in the first eight games since 1995, along with fellow rookie Kareem Hunt and Jahvid Best in 2010. Grade: Near perfection
Alex Anzalone, LB, third round: Anzalone is on injured reserve now with a shoulder injury. But before that, he earned a starting job in training camp and started the first four games. The athletic outside linebacker from Florida had 16 tackles, a sack and a pass defense before the injury. Grade: Above average
Trey Hendrickson, DE, third round: The 6-foot-4, 270-pounder from Florida Atlantic has worked his way into the mix as a situational pass rusher with the flexibility to play inside and outside. He has two sacks, a forced fumble and two pass defenses. Grade: Average
Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE, sixth round: Muhammad has been active for only two games this season. But the former Miami (Fla.) edge rusher was impressive enough to secure his spot on the 53-man roster with four sacks in the preseason. Grade: Average