My annual ranking of the New Orleans Saints' roster. Part two of a five-part series:
Previous rankings: Nos. 17-20
No. 16: WR Ted Ginn Jr.
Last year's rank: N/A
Ginn won't replace Brandin Cooks all by himself. But the 11-year veteran was the ideal type of replacement for the Saints, who wanted to keep that dynamic speed element in their offense after deciding to trade Cooks to the New England Patriots.
Even at 32 years old, Ginn might be the fastest player on the Saints roster. And though his career got off to a disappointing start as a first-round draft pick with the Miami Dolphins, Ginn is coming off the best two seasons of his career with the rival Carolina Panthers (a combined 98 catches, 1,491 yards and 14 touchdowns).
Ginn is more than just a deep threat -- though that will definitely be his main role in New Orleans as the No. 3 receiver alongside standouts Michael Thomas and Willie Snead. He'll also bring some veteran leadership to a young position group. And best of all, the Saints don't have to worry about facing Ginn anymore after he torched them for catches of 55, 45 and 40 yards over the past two years.
No. 15: P Thomas Morstead
Last year's rank: No. 15
I always rank Morstead around this spot -- and I always feel like I might be shortchanging him since he is one of the few Saints players who truly ranks among the NFL's elite at his position. The ninth-year pro, who made the Pro Bowl in 2012, ranks second in NFL history in both career yards per punt (47.0) and net yards per punt (41.2).
After battling injury in 2015, Morstead came back strong last year and ranked in the top five in both categories (48.3, 42.4).
No. 14: OT Zach Strief
Last year's rank: No. 16
Strief showed no signs of decline in his 11th season last year. In fact, it might have been one of the two or three best of his career.
The right tackle allowed either 2.0 or 2.5 sacks, depending on the statistical service. And that was especially impressive considering the caliber of pass-rushers he faced on the right side of New Orleans' line. As Pro Football Focus pointed out, Strief didn't allow a sack against Von Miller, Khalil Mack, Vic Beasley, Jason Pierre-Paul or Cliff Avril, among others.
The Saints drafted Ryan Ramczyk with the 32nd pick in the draft as a future replacement for Strief. But they also gave Strief a raise based on his performance level, so they're not about to shove him out the door if he keeps playing like this.
No. 13: DT Nick Fairley
Last year's rank: No. 17
Obviously, I could have left Fairley off this list since he won't play for the Saints this year and his career is jeopardy because of a heart condition. But I wanted to illustrate what a big loss it was for the Saints, losing a player who ranks just outside of the top 10 on their roster.
Fairley, 29, had the best season of his career in his debut with the Saints last year. He had a career-high 6.5 sacks, played a career-high 16 games, and his 22 quarterback hits tied for 13th in the NFL. Much like Ginn, Fairley had a disappointing start to his career as a first-round pick. But he had steadily improved over the past three years. That's why the Saints re-signed him to a lucrative four-year deal worth between $28-30 million in free agency before the heart issue was red-flagged in his physical.