After gathering 50 experts to rank who will be among the best players going into the season, ESPN released its prediction of the best 100 players of 2018. On this list were five New Orleans Saints players: No. 6 Drew Brees, No. 26, Marshon Lattimore, No. 30 Alvin Kamara, No. 31 Cameron Jordan, and No, 44 Michael Thomas,
No. 6 Drew Brees
It's no secret Saints quarterback Drew Brees has had a Pro Football Hall of Fame worthy career, but everyone's interested in what this next season brings for the 39-year-old. In 2018, Brees is expected to break the NFL's all-time passing record, entering the season only 1,495 yards away from breaking the record and surpassing Peyton Manning. Brees completed 72 percent of his passes in 2017, the highest of his career, setting himself up for a promising 2018.
"We just know we're playing with a living legend," cornerback Ken Crawley told NFL.com.
No. 26 Marshon Lattimore
After seeing what Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore did in his rookie season, the offenses of team's that passed on Lattimore in the 2017 draft have a right to be fearful. "I mean, I still have to pick some of those teams off. I (picked off) the Jets last year and the Bears. They passed on me. I have to get every team that passed on me. I have to get a pick that game," Lattimore told Nick Underhill of The Advocate. In his rookie season, the Ohio State product started in all 13 games games he played in and totaled 53 tackles (44 solo), one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, five interceptions for 85 yards and a team-high 18 passes defensed, leading all rookies in picks and tying for fifth in the league overall. After building a stacked rookie resume, Lattimore was selected as NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and as a member of the 2018 Pro Bowl.
After putting 2017 behind him, Lattimore is confident he'll improve,
"Last year I was just thrown in the fire and I didn't really know too much so I learned on the go," he said. "Now going into it, I'm going to know more. That's really the big step I've had from last year to this year. I told everybody that I was going off instincts. I knew some things while I was going, but it was really just more instincts than anything."
No. 30 Alvin Kamara
When the Saints selected running back Alvin Kamara in the third round of the 2017 Draft, fans expected the team had found a relief player for running back Mark Ingram. Fans quickly discovered that the Tennessee product was the asset they didn't know the offense needed. Kamara played in all 16 games and totaled 120 rushes for 728 yards, (NFL-best 6.1 average), eight touchdowns, 81 receptions for 826 yards (10.2 average) and five touchdowns for a club-best 1,554 total yards from scrimmage. As a dual-threat running back, Kamara added another piece to the stacked Saints offense of Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and Ingram. Kamara was selected as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year as well as a member of the 2018 Pro Bowl team.
"This season, we ready, excited," Kamara said. "We know what to expect from ourselves, we ready.".
No. 31 Cameron Jordan
Defensive end Cameron Jordan again anchored the Saints defensive line in his seventh NFL season. Jordan recorded a career-high 13 sacks, 62 tackles (48 solo), one interception caught in the end zone for a touchdown, a career-high 11 passes defensed and two forced fumbles over 16 regular season starts, earning his third trip to the Pro Bowl , becoming the only defensive lineman in team history selected three times. He finished the 2017 season with 59.5 career sacks, moving into fifth place on the club's all-time sack list, leading the club in takedowns for the third consecutive season.
Going into 2018, Jordan looks to continue his leadership and take the defense to a new level.
"We talk about this upcoming year, I want to be a top five defense," Jordan said. "So whatever that means for me, whatever that means for our defense."
No. 44 Michael Thomas
In 2017, Thomas was selected to the Pro Bowl in his second NFL season in a campaign where he continued to take the NFL by storm as he set a franchise record in receiving with 104 receptions for 1,245 yards and five touchdowns. He set the team's single-season reception record and leads the NFL with the most receptions after his first two seasons with 196. Thomas looks to step into a leadership role and continue to grow his game in 2018.
"Every day, just come out here and compete," Thomas said. "Give my best effort, try to set the standard for the room, try to be a guy who leads by example because I know young guys are watching me and looking for someone to be that example. So I take a lot of pride in that, and I just come out here and try to compete, get better and make every play."