Each week, theScore will go division by division, highlighting which three players’ performances will most impact their team’s season in 2017.

Marshon Lattimore

The Saints’ secondary has been in dire need of legitimate talent for years, regularly ranking among the worst pass defenses in the league over the past few seasons. Lattimore is expected to be the face that changes that trend after being touted as the best cornerback in the draft, which happened to be loaded at that position.

It’s a lot to ask of Lattimore to take on a shutdown role as a rookie – and if he isn’t up to the task immediately, it won’t be a big surprise – but if the Ohio State product can replicate the first-year success of players like Jalen Ramsey or Marcus Peters, the Saints’ defense could improve by leaps and bounds.

Adrian Peterson

The biggest question mark on the Saints’ offense is how good can Peterson still be?

The 32-year-old running back is in the best situation of his career despite his age and recent injury history. He won’t be facing a run-focused defense with Drew Brees running the show under center and, even without Terron Armstead, this will be the best offensive line Peterson has had.

If Peterson can find his old fire and equal out a role between himself, Mark Ingram, and rookie Alvin Kamara, the Saints’ offense will have a dangerous amount of balance.

Sheldon Rankins

The Saints’ 2016 first-round pick was very impressive in the final nine games last season after returning from injury as a rookie. He had been set to be half of a solid force in the middle of New Orleans’ defensive line this season, but Nick Fairley‘s heart condition has added to Rankins’ load.

Without Fairley, the Saints’ defensive line will be very dependent on Rankins and Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Jordan to pressure the quarterback and anchor the front. Jordan has had stellar individual performances in the past that have not equated to better team production, so a push from Rankins in the middle is needed to elevate the Saints’ D-line.

Twelve-year veteran Tony McDaniel and 2016 fourth-rounder David Onyemata are expected to play as Rankins’ interior partners, but it will be up to the 305-pounder to make the difference.

Also from this series

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