Every year in May I revisit the roster to designate the ten players on the team that stand out as most important. This is the fifth time I've done this exercise and every year there seems to be a lot of shifts and changes, but there is always one constant: Drew Brees at the top. Last year I had four defensive players on the list and only two this year. Those guys better step it up!
1. Drew Brees: Back where he belongs, once again, as the most valuable player on the team and in team history as well. No one else on the roster even comes close. In five years of doing this he's been on the top every time. (2012 pick was Drew Brees)
2. Jimmy Graham: Despite a down year I'm leaving Graham at the second spot simply because when he's right the offense goes through him and he's the most reliable and consistently dangerous weapon. The way I view Jimmy Graham is he is too good to be controlled by any defender, only he can stop himself from being successful. (2012 pick was Jimmy Graham)
3. Jahri Evans: I dropped him down to #8 last year but with all the instability along the offensive line the last few years he's been the one constant and he continues to perform at an elite level. If this offensive line is going to be able to manage a change at left tackle and the departure of Aaron Kromer, Evans will play a huge part in that. (2012 pick was Darren Sproles)
4. Marques Colston: Like Graham, he's just the one constant in an equal opportunity offense that asks so many skill position players to contribute. Colston has been #4 on this list now three years in a row, never higher, and he's been on this list all five years I've done this. (2012 pick was Marques Colston)
5. Thomas Morstead: You might think having a punter in your top five is crazy, but he's the best punter in franchise history and cementing himself as the standard in the league as well. The field position he imposes on other teams is a huge momentum shift and the amount of consistency he does it with makes him a crucial weapon to the team. This marks Morstead's first time in the top 10. (2012 pick was Jabari Greer)
6. Curtis Lofton: He's the best player on the defense, although that unit is in a really bad place right now. If they stand any hope of turning it around he'll need to continue being a good leader and performer on the field. Lofton is a tackling machine and the one guy last season that I felt did a good job finding the ball. This is his second time on this list, moving up a spot this year. (2012 pick was Pierre Thomas)
7. Darren Sproles: With Sean Payton absent I don't feel he was utilized as well last season, and his value on special teams dropped off with the emergence of Travaris Cadet. Still, Sproles is a huge part of the Saints' passing game and adds a much needed punch to the edge rushing on occasion. He's still a huge part of the team, but 7th overall is a drop from last year where I rated him as 3rd. (2012 pick was Curtis Lofton)
8. Pierre Thomas: Thomas was 6th last year but I view his worth as very much the same in level of importance. The drop, I think, has more to do with the emergence of Thomas Morstead and the increased role in importance for Lofton and Evans. This is the 5th straight time he's made this list, once going as high as #4. It's too bad he doesn't get more opportunity to showcase his ability because he's the most efficient and high producing back per touch on the team. (2012 pick was Jahri Evans)
9. Lance Moore: Lance Moore wasn't on this list last year but he really re-established himself as a crucial component to the offense last season. Drew Brees trusts him and with the receiving core being more thin than it's been in years, Moore is more heavily relied on. (2012 pick was Roman Harper)
10. Cam Jordan: This is his first time on the list and this might surprise some people, but I feel he improved enough that he deserved this boost. He's only one of two defenders to make the top 10. He improved his pass rushing drastically while maintaining his prowess against the run. I do believe a 3-4 system will fit his skills better, and he's a good developing young player on a defense with far too few. (2012 pick was Malcolm Jenkins)
Honorable mentions: Ben Grubbs, Keenan Lewis, Kenny Vaccaro, Jabari Greer, Brian de la Puente.
Players that dropped out of the top 10 from last year: Jabari Greer, Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins.
Thoughts on this list?