I’m ranking the top 20 New Orleans Saints players leading up to training camp. It’s based on their current value -- meaning both past accomplishments and potential are taken into account. Think, who would you want on the field most in Week 1 this season?
At No. 14, it’s right tackle Zach Strief
Profile: Year 9, Age 30, 6-foot-7, 320 pounds
Analysis: As I’ve written before, Strief is a rare example of a player who probably gets more love from national analysts than the Saints’ fan base. Part of that is the nature of the right tackle position, in general. And part of that stems from Strief’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency in 2012. But Strief bounced back with another very solid year in 2013, when he was arguably the Saints’ most consistent lineman from start to finish. And the Saints proved how important he is to them by re-signing him to a five-year, $20 million contract in free agency.
ESPN’s John Clayton selected Strief as his first-team All-Pro right tackle last season, and Pro Football Focus rated him as the top right tackle in the NFL. Strief was solid across the board as both a run blocker and pass protector, allowing only three sacks. He committed a costly holding penalty late in the playoff loss at Seattle, but he and the rest of the line were generally playing their best football throughout the postseason.
An original member of the Saints’ first draft class under Sean Payton in 2006, Strief’s value carries over off the field as well. He’s a team captain, a union representative and a go-to guy for the media because of his candid answers in good times and bad.
No. 19 WR Kenny Stills
No. 18 S Rafael Bush
No. 17 LB David Hawthorne
No. 16 CB Champ Bailey
No. 15 P Thomas Morstead