Ross Jackson

Setting the Scene: Ryan Ramczyk

To truly set the scene here we need to go back to March 10, 2017. The day that the Saints traded Brandin Cooks and a 4th round pick to the New England Patriots for their #32 overall 1st rounder and a 3rd. This move puzzled some, but was well thought out by the front office. The Saints were after a pass rusher and with such a spectacular class of them ahead, 32nd overall was more than enough to snag an effective EDGE player, if not at 11. That 32nd overall pick had a ton of potential, too. Grab an edge rusher, package and trade up, package and trade down, it was also almost traded back to the Patriots for the sign and trade of CB Malcolm Butler. However, there was one outcome that just about no one predicted. Much like Lattimore’s descent into our laps at #11, Ryan Ramczyk, OT from Wisconsin, was an unexpected treasure within grasp.

When Ramczyk’s name was called, most fans were still in shock because of the heist pulled off by the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers traded with the Seattle Seahawks to obtain the 31st overall pick. With that pick, they yanked Reuben Foster, who was on the phone with Saints brass, right out from under us. When the Saints were up they went BPA, and boy, we couldn’t be more thankful now. It’s important to note that Ramczyk was one of the best O-linemen in the draft. The Saints graded him as an early first rounder. So when he was still there at the end, it was a no-brainer. Oh also, he was a complete stud for Wisconsin. The former DIII product was a part of a Badgers rushing attack that accumulated 203.1 rushing yards per game. With the offense’s addition of Adrian Peterson, and the loss of Terron Armstead for 4-6 months, we certainly see now the value the Saints’ front office saw at the draft. We’re back today to look at my thoughts on Ramczyk’s best and worst case scenarios and my expectations for his rookie year.

Best-Case Scenario

Sean Peyton has stated that the Saints see Ramczyk as a right tackle. However, for each scenario, I’m going to operate under the assumption that he will start the year at LT in place of Terron Armstead. Armstead suffered a torn labrum during Minicamp and will be out for most of the season. Terron Armstead is likely the most vital piece to the Saints’ highly-rated offensive line. He protects Brees’s blindside with outstanding proficiency. He allowed only one sack over the course of his seven games in 2016 while committing no penalties. According to Pro Football Focus, Armstead only also only allowed 20 pressures in 559 passing snaps in 2015. At 25, he’s a cornerstone for the future of the Saints. But unfortunately, he’s got an injury bug- and this year it bit early. This leaves the door wide open for Ramczyk. My best-case scenario is simple. He comes in and replicates Armstead’s productivity. He certainly has the propensity to do it. Twice a DIII All-Conference pick, first team All-Big Ten, and an AP All-American. All at LT. With Ramczyk’s prowess in the run game and ability to get to the second level, we could expect to see an improvement from the 4.05 yards rushing to the left side gained in 2016 mostly without Armstead. Some are concerned about his hip injury, but we can rest easy that he played every game at Wisconsin and didn’t suffer it until after their bowl game. Meaning it’s not yet a nagging injury.

State Line: 20 pressures allowed, 2 sacks allowed, > 4.5 yards per rush to the left side

Worst-Case Scenario

Let’s look at another young starter for this one. Donovan Smith of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has had a couple of rough years since his being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft. In his first year, he committed 11 penalties and was responsible for five sacks from his QB’s blindside. A dangerous place to take pressure. Smith did a little bit of improving in 2016 seeing that he allowed no sacks. However, he committed 13 penalties for 105 yards and allowed 57 QB pressures. This is an example of the challenge of adjusting to the speed of the NFL. This, combined with NFL.com’s concerns of Ramczyk’s short arms and subsequent small margin of error could spell trouble for the young LT.

Stat Line: 50 QB pressures, 6 sacks allowed, < 4 yards per rush to the left side

Ross’s Expectations

The Wisconsin process has proved beneficial for NFL offensive lines. They’ve produced successful O-linemen such as Cleveland’s Joe Thomas, Detroit’s Rick Wagner, and Dallas’ Travis Frederick. The Cowboys’ Travis Frederick is an absolute baller on an absolutely ballin’ offensive line that led the way for nearly 2,400 rushing yards. They ranked second in the NFL. Joe Thomas is easily the most consistent player on Cleveland Browns offense that should keep a separate 53-man roster of reserve QBs. Thomas has been in the league for 10 years and has made the Pro Bowl in each of them. The stats back up the popularity contest, though. Thomas has allowed over 5 sacks only once in his career and has started every single game each season. The success of Wisconsin O-linemen is far from coincidence. Simply put, UW is OLU. I’m not just hoping that Ramczyk will follow suit, I am firmly convinced that we should expect it. The fact that he’s also been training with Zach Strief tells us that he’s focused on continuing the Saints’ success on the line. Strief has been a consistent winner on the right side, helping to open it up for 4.86 yards per rush to his side last year- 1st in the NFL. We’ll surely see Ramczyk on the right side in the coming years, considering Strief’s age and Sean Payton’s vision he shared after the draft. He’ll get his start though, on the left. We should expect some growing pains along the way, but there’s a bright future ahead of this guy. I mean, have you seen his Madden 17 gold Draft promo card art? I think he knows it as much as I expect it.

Stat Line: 28 QB pressures, 3 sacks allowed, > 4.3 yards per rush to the left side

Ramczyk is definitely going to be a center of attention on our O-line, for better or worse. But I’m confident that his dedication, work ethic, and natural talent will allow him to grow into reliable staple for our revamped run game and a trustworthy protector for Brees in the pass game. In my opinion, he’s quite worth the Cooks trade, especially considering Cooks’s attitude toward his changing role as well as the pick we made at 103 overall. We’ll talk more about that later.

Next time: Second-round pick (42) Marcus Williams