4/ Sedrick Ellis (free agent 2013)
We might catch some flak for this pick. He disappeared in games, but that wasn’t entirely his fault. With little help next to him on the inside, he was free to be double-teamed or taken out of the game not on his own accord. And there’s no real metric to count how much he helped middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma in directing the defense from his perch on the second level.
Still, Ellis led the team with six sacks this season and played all 16 regular season games and the playoff game, the first time in his career he has played an entire season without missing games due to injury. Ellis more than doubled his career high in tackles this season with 44 and also forced two fumbles.
No. 4 might be a little high, but what he means to the defensive front probably isn’t written enough. Teamed with nose guard Remi Ayodele on run downs, the Saints – and this is going to sound strange after watching Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard run in the playoffs – didn’t give up an exorbitant amount of long runs up the middle this past season like they did in 2009. That improvement can partly be attributed to Ellis.