Saints rankings: No. 17 LB David Hawthorne

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. 17, it's linebacker David Hawthorne

Profile: Year 7, Age 29, 6-foot, 246 pounds

Analysis: Hawthorne had a much better season in 2013 after injuries marred his first year with the Saints in 2012. He played in all 16 games with 91 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble, plus another 15 tackles in two playoff games.

That forced fumble was the best play of Hawthorne's season -- a vicious hit against Buffalo Bills quarterback Thad Lewis on a Wildcat run that pretty much shut down Buffalo's Wildcat package for the rest of the game.

For the most part, though, Hawthorne hasn't been a very "flashy" big-play type of defender for the Saints. He's also not a player on the rise at this stage of his career, which makes it hard to place him on a list like this, compared to the up-and-coming young defenders on the Saints' roster.

However, Hawthorne's solid play as a run defender last season shouldn't be ignored as part of the Saints' spectacular defensive resurgence. And he was particularly good down the stretch, shining in two key late-season battles against the Carolina Panthers among others.

Before coming to New Orleans, Hawthorne had three outstanding seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, with a total of 338 tackles, six sacks and seven interceptions from 2009-11.

Previous rankings:

No. 20 (tie) RBs Mark Ingram/Khiry Robinson

No. 19 WR Kenny Stills

No. 18 S Rafael Bush