WELCOME BACK: The playmaking tailback. It has been eight years since Reggie Bush was terrorizing opposing defenses with his running and receiving prowess. ALVIN KAMARA, the 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year, does what Bush did, but at a higher level. Kamara runs with blinding speed and unbelievable balance. His receiving abilities grew exponentially as a rookie, and he was particularly dangerous when he aligned on the weak side in empty-backfield formations. What a great gift for 39-year-old DREW BREES.

Brees is as fundamentally sound as a quarterback can be. This is why, despite his declining arm strength, he's as prolific as ever. Brees moves within the pocket brilliantly. He reads defenses correctly 99% of the time. He's a master at manipulating zone defenders with his eyes and body mechanics. He is accurate enough to throw receivers open against the tightest of man coverages. NFL quarterback coaches know Tom Brady is the best, but when they make tutorial tapes for young QBs, it's Brees's film they show the most.

One could argue that cornerback MARSHON LATTIMORE is more valuable to the Saints than any other NFL defender is to his team. His rare ability to shadow No. 1 receivers (in the NFC South that means Julio Jones and Mike Evans twice a year) enables defensive coordinator DENNIS ALLEN to unleash every dimension of his scheme. Allen uses all forms of zone and man coverage, and he can only do that with a corner locking down one side of the field.

With New Orleans trading next year's first-round pick to move up and draft UT--San Antonio edge rusher MARCUS DAVENPORT at No. 14, you wonder if Allen isn't looking to simplify. A strong pass rush from the front four allows the back seven to play more simply and quickly. Davenport joins an already ascending group. CAM JORDAN improves every year. SHELDON RANKINS selflessly attacks blockers to set up teammates. TREY HENDRICKSON, a '17 third-round pick, is not an elite talent, but he is effective inside and outside.

2017 RECORD 11W 5L

SI'S 2018 PREDICTION 11W 5L

2018 SCHEDULE

SEPT.

9th BUCS

16th BROWNS

23rd @FALCONS

30th @GIANTS

OCT.

8th REDSKINS [Monday]

14th BYE

21st @RAVENS

28th @VIKINGS

NOV.

4th RAMS

11th @BENGALS

18th EAGLES

22nd FALCONS [Thursday]

29th @COWBOYS [Thursday]

DEC.

9th @BUCS

17th @PANTHERS [Monday]

23rd STEELERS

30th PANTHERS

Monday

Thursday

Position Rankings

QB

3

RB

2

WR/TE

17

O-LINE

2

FRONT 7

17

DB

12

Strength

ON THIS loaded line, left tackle TERRON ARMSTEAD is as athletic as they come, left guard ANDRUS PEAT is a monster run-blocking on the move and outstanding second-year right tackle RYAN RAMCZYK can go without help in pass protection.