NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - It's been a while since a Saints rookie draft class has had as much impact as the 2016 haul did this season. The class wasn't big on quantity, but it was heavy on quality with immediate and sometimes historic contributions.
Here's my rankings and grades for the group:
1.) Michael Thomas
There's simply no way the Saints could have foreseen the type of impact 'Can't Guard Mike' has made in year one. He set franchise rookie records for most receptions (89), most receiving yards (1,137) and most touchdowns (9). He won't win offensive rookie of the year due to the pair in Dallas, though he should absolutely be in the conversation. Thomas looks like a franchise cornerstone. For that, he's officially gets the best grade I've ever given a Saints rookie.
2.) Vonn Bell
Bell's emergence allowed the Saints to morph into a three-safety 'heavy nickel' base defense. Bell was second on the team in tackles (87) and tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (2). His physicality got him in trouble with a few too many penalties. However, his rookie year was a success.
3.) Sheldon Rankins
An unfortunate injury robbed him of nearly the first half of his rookie season. In nine games, Rankins finished tied for third on the team with four sacks and looks to have the exact skillset the Saints hoped for when they took him 12th overall in the draft. A full season would get earn him a higher grade. Nonetheless, Rankins looks like he'll be a disruptive presence along the interior of the Saints defensive line for a long time.
4.) David Onyemata
Onyemata came to New Orleans very raw after only playing organized football for four years in Canada. However, he developed much faster than many expected. While he didn't register an official sack, he flashed his quickness and athleticism by getting into the opposing offense's backfield on many occasions. He still has a long way to go, but it's fair to say he contributed much more than expected.
5.) Daniel Lasco
Lasco appeared to be a nice seventh round grab in training camp and early in the season. He demonstrated a good football IQ and special teams prowess. However, he faded down the stretch with injuries. He'll have to prove he can stay healthy to stay long with the Saints.