Saints rankings: No. 18 S Rafael Bush

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. 18, it’s safety Rafael Bush.

Profile: Year 4, Age 27, 5-11, 200 pounds

Analysis: I thought about bumping up Bush even higher on this list because he’s a player on the rise, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a breakout season. The Saints showed how important Bush is to them when they matched the Atlanta Falcons’ two-year, $3.8 million offer to Bush as a restricted free agent this offseason.

Even though Bush is the Saints’ third safety, he played extensively last season in Rob Ryan’s defense, which spent about 75 percent of snaps in nickel or dime defense. He finished with a career-high 42 tackles and five passes defended in the regular season. Bush is versatile enough to help in both run support and pass coverage, and he also might be the Saints’ best asset in special teams coverage.

So far, Bush has made his biggest impact as a hard hitter in the open field. Unfortunately, one of his most memorable plays last season ended with a negative result -- a hard hit that separated Seattle Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin from the ball on third down during the opening drive of their playoff game. Bush was penalized for the hit, but his fine was later rescinded.

Previous rankings:

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

No. 19 WR Kenny Stills