Our countdown of the Saints top-20 players continues.
Thus far we've ranked 20-16. Today, we tackle 15-11:
15. Ben Grubbs
Although I've been critical of him at times, I do realize Grubbs' importance to the Saints offensive line. His veteran presence will be counted even more this year if second year pro Tim Lelito is starting at center.
14. Curtis Lofton
Lofton has become a tackling machine since signing with the Saints in 2012. He'll be counted on once again to be that anchor in the middle to make all the calls in Rob Ryan's defense.
13. Zach Strief
He was the one constant in a group of somewhat inconsistent performers in 2013. Strief had his best season as a pro last year and was rewarded with a new contract this offseason.
Not only is Strief one of the team's best offensive linemen, he is also one of the most respected veterans in the locker room.
12. Kenny Stills
As much as I love the addition of Cooks, I think by season's end Kenny Stills may become the best wide receiver on the team.
Stills led the NFL in yards per catch in 2013 as a rookie, but he's someone who figures to play an even bigger role in 2014 as Sean Payton has already pinpointed him as someone who needs the ball more.
11. Akiem Hicks
Hicks is an absolute monster on the Saints defensive line. Whether it's against the run or the pass, Hicks excels equally at both. Last year he took on several double teams but still was a major force in the Saints pass rushing renaissance. He finished the season with 4.5 sacks and was fifth on the team with 56 tackles. Look for big things out of Hicks in 2014.