Borrowing the popular idea from the NFL Network, The Times-Picayune’s New Orleans Saintscoverage team came up with our ranking of the top 25 players on the Saints’ roster heading into the 2012 season. The idea is to make these rankings as current as possible – essentially deciding who would be the best players on the field if they lined up for a game today. Therefore, past accomplishments and potential are both factored in.
Obviously, that led to some tough decisions, and that will lead to plenty of second guessing. And we’d love to hear it. Feel free to vote on the rankings and add your comments below as we unveil the list daily leading up to the start of training camp.
NO. 21 OT ZACH STRIEF
Age: 28. Year: 7. Ht., wt: 6-7, 320.
SAINTS COLUMNIST MIKE TRIPLETT’S TAKE
Strief was one of the most underrated players on the Saints’ roster before he took over as the starting right tackle last year. And now, after he helped the Saints break the NFL record for yards in a season, he’s still one of the most underrated players on the roster.
Strief is a standout right tackle, with some deceptive athleticism for his hulking size. That’s essential in a sophisticated Saints offense that requires a lot from its linemen. And Strief knows the offense intimately, having spent six seasons in New Orleans now after being drafted in the seventh round out of Northwestern.
Strief allowed just two sacks in 13 games last season, including the playoffs. He did miss a month with a knee injury. He has also proven quite capable as a fill-in at left tackle when needed. And before he became so busy with his full-time gig at right tackle, he was often used as a blocking tight end in certain packages – which made, “No. 64 is eligible” a beloved catchphrase inside the Superdome.
The rest of the NFL teams blew it last season when they didn’t steal Strief away when he could have been had at a bargain rate as an unrestricted free agent.
SAINTS CENTER BRIAN DE LA PUENTE’s TAKE: “Both on and off the field he’s a great example, an epitome of an NFL player. He’s a vocal leader in the locker room and leads by example. And coaches love him because he puts precise technique on film. He shows that the technique being coached works. He’s a smart player, and he knows when to use certain techniques. He knows what puts him in best position to win.
“And what makes a great o-lineman is having a little bit of a mean streak. He definitely has that.”