New Orleans Saints
One of the more surprising developments of the 2017 season was the turnaround of the New Orleans Saints cornerbacks. In 2016 the Saints had one of the worst secondaries in recent memory and were picked apart nearly every week by quarterbacks, but that changed with the selection of cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
The eleventh overall pick out of Ohio State, Lattimore was elite from start to finish in his rookie campaign and according to Pro Football Focus, was the fourth best corner in all of football. His five interceptions and eighteen passes defensed, along with a low burn rating, make Lattimore’s rookie season one of the more impressive ones I’ve ever seen, particularly because of how challenging the corner position is. It’s staggering to dig into Lattimore’s upside and ceiling, probably because they don’t exist; Lattimore can be the very best cornerback in all football before long.
New Orleans had a top flight secondary in 2017, but it wasn’t just because of Lattimore. When you have an elite corner like Lattimore the job of the corner starting opposite him can be difficult as quarterbacks are usually looking to avoid the territory of that elite corner, instead opting to pick on the other side of the field. Ken Crawley experienced this in 2017, but managed to hold his own.
Undrafted out of the University of Colorado, Crawley is entering his third season as a pro and seems to have the trust of the Saints coaching staff. Crawley is an aggressive corner who brings all the highs and lows that his style invites – Buccaneer receiver Chris Godwin capitalized on one of those lows on the last play of the regular season when he outraced Crawley for a game-winning touchdown.
Holding down the nickel cornerback spot for New Orleans is Patrick Robinson, a former first round pick out of Florida State who was recently re-signed by the team to a four year, $20 million dollar deal. When you look at Robinson’s 2017 season, it’s easy to see why the Saints were eager to bring him back. Robinson was Pro Football Focus’s sixth ranked corner in the league and their second best nickel corner. The eight year pro capped his career-best season in the NFC championship, when he took an interception fifty yards into the end zone for six points.