PHILADELPHIA – With the No. 11 pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, the New Orleans Saints selected Marshon Lattimore, a cornerback from Ohio State.
You could say Lattimore was hamstrung by injuries during his first couple of seasons with the Buckeyes. His hamstrings gave him so much trouble that he eventually had surgery, causing him to miss his freshman year. Though he played in seven games in 2015 (five tackles), he couldn't finish the season due to the chronic issue coming up again. Finally healthy for his redshirt sophomore campaign in 2016, he won a starting job and made the plays on the field that coaches hoped he would. The first-team All-Big Ten pick had four interceptions and nine pass breakups in his first full year with the team.
Uber-athlete. Parks under receiver's chin at line of scrimmage. Uses disruptive inside hand to slow the release and can punch out of his pedal. Patient from his press, utilizing well-timed opening to match the receiver. Plays with explosive hip flip that jump-starts him into top speed when forced to turn and run. Has balance and footwork to remain in phase with target throughout the route. Has electric, flat-footed closing burst. Can shadow a nine route from release to completion. Has twitch to drive hard toward the throw from his lateral shuffle. Plays with plus instincts. Targeted 35 times this season and credited with 14 passes defensed, including four interceptions. Has burst and instincts to make plays from any coverage asked of him. Forceful open-field tackler. Works through blockers to get to both wide receiver screens and running plays. Wrap-up hitter who sees what he hits.
Only one year of starting experience. Wasn't tested by high-end receiving talent very often. Will be much tougher to consistently slow NFL receivers with jam and might have to learn to play some off coverage. Showed slight transition hitch when matched up against in inside release. Will read receiver's eyes to assess ball-timing down the field rather than getting his head around early. Film shows infrequent issues recovering against speed merchants.
Draft projection: Round 1
NFL comparison: Vontae Davis
Average-sized, one-year starter with explosive athleticism and a loaded tool box. He has the feet, hips and agility to be a lockdown cornerback and the ball skills to make teams pay for looking in his direction. His lack of experience could show up early, but he has the confidence and competitive nature that should help him overcome those issues. He has the ability to become a Pro Bowl cornerback early in his career.
-- Lance Zierlein