The New Orleans Saints made their debut on ESPN’s #NFLRank list of the top 100 offensive and defensive players in the league. Receiver Marques Colston came in at No. 73 and guard Ben Grubbs at No. 76.
I’m a little disappointed that some of the Saints’ younger, up-and-coming defensive players weren’t represented on the list (more on that later this week). But I was glad to see Colston and Grubbs got the proper respect from a panel of 90 voters throughout ESPN’s community of analysts -- considering both are pretty under-the-radar guys.
Grubbs, 30, just made his second trip to the Pro Bowl in the past three years, and he did it with two different teams (the Saints and Baltimore Ravens). So his recognition wasn’t a surprise. Like the rest of the Saints’ offensive line, Grubbs was inconsistent early in the season last year. But he finished very strong, especially during the playoffs. And the 6-foot-3, 310-pounder has shown great versatility with the power to run block and the athleticism needed to pass protect and get out in front of screen passes in New Orleans’ pass-heavy offense.
Colston, meanwhile, might have the best overall career of any current NFL player who has never been to a Pro Bowl. The 31-year-old has consistently produced as a top-10 or top-20 caliber receiver for eight straight years, breaking franchise records with 607 receptions, 8,337 yards and 63 touchdowns.
And as I’ve written a couple times this summer, don’t rule out another one of those 1,100-yard, eight-touchdown type of seasons from Colston again now that he’s feeling healthier than he has in a couple years.
Also worth a click:
ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando singled out three Saints among his Top 50 breakout candidates that could wind up on this list next year and beyond (requires Insider access). He ranked offensive tackle Terron Armstead at No. 8, receiver Kenny Stills at No. 23 and running back Mark Ingram at No. 39. I have no complaints with any of the guys on that list, especially Armstead, who has been generating a ton of buzz this summer. I would make an argument for receiver Brandin Cooks and defensive end Akiem Hicks, as well. … I assume from Sando’s explanation that more established veteransKeenan Lewis and Junior Galette weren’t eligible. (And second-year safety Kenny Vaccaro wasn’t eligible for a different reason that will be revealed later in the top 100).
The Saints rank 23rd on Forbes’ list of NFL franchise values. The Saints are worth an estimated $1.1 billion, according to Forbes, thanks in part to their healthy lease agreement with the state of Louisiana. The Dallas Cowboys rank first at $3.2 billion.