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Rookie class powered Saints to playoffs, could make history – New Orleans Saints Blog

So much for the idea that it takes three years to properly judge a draft class.

The New Orleans Saints‘ class of 2017 — led by cornerback Marshon Lattimore, running back Alvin Kamara, offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk and safety Marcus Williams — was the single biggest reason why this team returned to the playoffs for the first time in four years. And they might just earn their place in NFL history if Lattimore and Kamara become the first duo in 50 years to sweep the NFL’s Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year awards (Kamara will have to win a tight battle against the Kansas City ChiefsKareem Hunt).

The Saints had by far the highest “approximate value” rating of any draft class in the NFL this year — a measurement devised by Pro Football Reference to compare players of all positions. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Saints’ total AV of 43 was 15 points higher than the second-place San Francisco 49ers. And it was the second-highest AV of the past five years, behind only the 2016 Dallas Cowboys‘ 45, led by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

It was also the second-highest AV in Saints history, behind the incredible 1981 class that included Hall of Famer Rickey Jackson, George Rogers, Jim Wilks, Frank Warren and Hoby Brenner, among others. But that class used a total of 12 players to reach 44 points.

The Saints’ remarkable 2006 draft class (Reggie Bush, Roman Harper, Jahri Evans, Marques Colston, Zach Strief, Rob Ninkovich) only totaled an AV of 34 in its rookie year.

“The stage isn’t too big for them,” Saints running back Mark Ingram said of this year’s crop — crediting their preparation and poise as much as their talent.

“It’s impressive to see these players come in and contribute to the level that they are,” Saints center Max Unger said. “You look back at my rookie year, and I wasn’t playing to that level. And to have guys come in and make the Pro Bowl, start 16 games and be true core elements of a good football team is a testament to the guys that we’re bringing into this locker room.”

Here is a wrap-up of what they’ve accomplished (so far) heading into Sunday’s divisional-round playoff game at the Minnesota Vikings:

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