No. 5: DE Cameron Jordan (N/A, 1st year)
Credit: (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
It became obvious sometime early in the season, let’s say after compiling 23 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery in the first three games, that Cameron Jordan was going to be a difference-maker along the defensive line.
In just his second year, he became one of the team’s top defensive linemen. He finished fourth on the team with 76 total tackle, led the team with eight sacks, recorded three passes defensed, forced three fumbles and recovered two more.
No other defensive linemen and only one other player (linebacker Curtis Lofton) had a stat line as robust as the 6-foot-4, 287-pound end.
Along with Akiem Hicks (an honorable mention on this list), Jordan gives the Saints someone to build around for the future. He started all 16 games at left defensive end in 2012 and started all but two games his rookie year.
Pro Football Focus rated him as the third-best 4-3 end against the run, though they’re not high on his pass-rushing. He has room to grow, certainly, but being that he was only a second-year player, the growth should come.
And more importantly for him is that he’ll be moving back to a 3-4 end, the position he played in college that helped get him drafted in the first round in the first place.