Cameron Jordan moves up in Saints' player ranks despite down year

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.

At No. 2 is defensive end Cameron Jordan:

Last year’s rank: 3rd

Analysis: I’ll admit it’s a little odd to move Jordan up on this list after he had a down year in 2014. But New Orleans had a vacancy in the No. 2 spot after trading away tight end Jimmy Graham. And I still buy into Jordan’s long-term track record as a versatile end/tackle.

So do the Saints, who just awarded Jordan with a five-year, $55 million contract extension last month.

Jordan, 26, was decent last year, but he was supposed to be elite after making his Pro Bowl debut in 2013. Instead, the 6-foot-4, 287-pounder was a non-factor too often as a pass rusher for a lackluster defensive front, dipping from 12.5 sacks in 2013 to 7.5.

Still, as coach Sean Payton said earlier this year, the Saints expect Jordan to be “part of the solution” for their defense.

Jordan has been a big-time asset for the Saints ever since they drafted him in Round 1 out of Cal in 2011 and quickly threw him into the starting lineup. He has never missed a game in his four-year career, while playing both end and tackle in 3-4 and 4-3 alignments under three defensive coordinators.

He’s had some dominant stretches as a pass rusher, especially in 2013, though that’s not necessarily his specialty. He also has been a standout run defender throughout his career, often chasing down plays across the field. And he’s batted down 14 passes in his career.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Jordan is one of only three NFL players with at least 25 sacks and 10 batted passes over the past three years (he has 28 and 10, to be exact).

ESPN scouting analyst Matt Williamson’s take: “The versatility’s great there. In today’s NFL, he can line up all over the defensive line. Many, many techniques, many gaps. Very good pass rusher, not a liability against the run. I think he’s in the right place (at No. 2 on this list). I think he’s a very good, above average, borderline Pro Bowl type player probably, year in and year out.”

Previous entries:

No. 16-20

No. 11-15

No. 10 RB C.J. Spiller

No. 9 G Jahri Evans

No. 8 C Max Unger

No. 7 OLB Junior Galette

No. 6 RB Mark Ingram

No. 5 WR Brandin Cooks

No. 4 S Jairus Byrd

No. 3 CB Keenan Lewis