Nov 17, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) lines up against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers defeated the Saints 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
The Development of the 2016 Rookie Class
The 2016 rookie draft class has actually been one of the brightest spots for the Saints this season.
Second round pick Michael Thomas would be a rookie of the year contender if it wasn’t for the freakish debus of Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott for the Cowboys.
After missing the beginning of the year with a broken fibula, first-round pick Sheldon Rankins has started to become the disruptive force on the interior of the defensive line the Saints drafted him to be.
The other second round pick, Vonn Bell from Ohio State, has also been a largely positive force in the Saints secondary, starting since week three with the Saints employing a lot of three safety packages.
However, he has gone through some rookie growing pains, including his role in a busted coverage that allowed Golden Tate to burst free for a backbreaking 66 yard touchdown two weeks ago against the Lions.
Oct 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) fumbles during the fourth quarter as New Orleans Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (32) and free safety Vonn Bell (48) defend at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
However, besides the continued development of the high round picks, also look for the Saints to try and get some of their more “project players” more playing time.
Fourth round pick David Onyemata has shown flashes this season of true starting potential. For example there was a play on the goal line last week against the Buccaneers where he blew up the line of scrimmage, and was in the backfield almost as soon as the play began.
While the elusive Doug Martin would still manage to score on the play, Onyemata’s strength was on full display there. Look for the Saints to work him into the rotation more on the defensive line, to get him more invaluable game reps.
The seventh round pick, Daniel Lasco was also a demon on special teams before missing several weeks with a hamstring injury. In his return last week, Lasco picked up right where he left off, making a beautiful tackle for loss on a punt return.
It will be interesting to see what the Saints do with him moving forward. With Mark Ingram missing practices again this week with a lingering toe injury, look for the Saints to get Lasco more carries, to find out what this rookie can do with the ball in his hands.
While this year’s class has been impressive, there’s a different story when we look at last year’s first round picks…..