The New Orleans Saints' star-studded rookie class swiped another award Saturday as cornerback Marshon Lattimore took home the Defensive Rookie of the Year trophy at NFL Honors. Lattimore won in a landslide, securing 45 votes; Buffalo Bills CB Tre'Davious White (4) and San Francisco 49ers LB Reuben Foster (1) were also considered.
The first-round pick immediately transformed a previously porous Saints secondary in his rookie campaign. Playing with physicality, toughness and ball skills, Lattimore led all rookies in interceptions (5) and passes defended (18) during the regular season. Along with the efforts of rookie running back Alvin Kamara, who took home top offensive rookie of the year honors Saturday, he played an instrumental role in helping the Saints reach the playoffs.
Lattimore's physical traits jump off the game film. The Ohio State product gives zero inches in press coverage, can glide step-for-step with wideouts, owns quick route recognition, has superior vision, and reacts to the ball with lightning fast reflexes. His natural instincts and understanding of defensive concepts made Lattimore an immediate lockdown corner.
The Saints trusted the rookie so much they deployed him on as a shadow defender down the stretch of the season, including taking on Julio Jones one-on-one in two contests. The early-season comparisons between Lattimore and Darrelle Revis doesn't look far off now.
The Pro Bowl cornerback allowed a passer rating of 45.3 over the course of the season, per Pro Football Focus, third-best in the NFL -- less than six points higher than if QBs had simply thrown the ball away. It marked the second lowest passer rating in coverage by any rookie CB since Casey Hayward.
Lattimore did not allow a touchdown on 415 coverage snaps in 2017, and gave up a first down or touchdown on just 27.9 percent of his targets, per PFF.
Lattimore's ability to beat up the opponent's top receiver completely morphed the Saints defense from sieve to respectable. With the rookie taking on the solo matchup, New Orleans could roll safety coverage to the other side of the field, knowing Lattimore wouldn't get burned if left on an island. The rookie allowed a meager 30.4 passer rating on deep throws this season (fourth best in the NFL). For a secondary that routinely got torched and dealt with consistent coverage busts in recent seasons, Lattimore was a godsend.
Perhaps the rookie's most memorable play came on his "butt pick" of Matt Ryan in a huge victory over the Falcons that helped the Saints on their way to the NFC South title. However, it wasn't even Lattimore's best play of the game. That came on a Julio Jones reception at the goal line where the rookie corner out-physicaled the big receiver to keep him out of the end zone. It was the type of play that showed the rookie's talent, promise, and willingness to battle.
The Saints' season ended in misery in Minneapolis, but with Lattimore well on his way to becoming the next Revis, the future in New Orleans looks as bright as the noonday sun glaring off the Gulf Coast.