- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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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. 13, it’s running back Pierre Thomas.
Profile: Year 8, Age 29, 5-foot-11, 215 pounds
Analysis: It feels as if Thomas has been a “secret weapon” for the Saints throughout his entire career. And sure enough, he was probably their most underrated asset on offense again last season. Thomas caught a career-high 77 passes, which led all running backs in the NFL, and finished with 549 rushing yards, 513 receiving yards and five touchdowns before a chest injury ended his season in Week 17.
Thomas has always been a do-everything back as a runner, receiver and pass protector. And he has always had an uncanny knack for turning screen passes into big gains. Drew Brees described Thomas last year as “one of the most complete backs I’ve ever had the pleasure to play with.” At some point, he’ll probably start to slow down now that he’s approaching age 30. But for now, the Saints will likely lean on him as much as ever in that receiver/pass protector role after they decided to trade fellow running back Darren Sproles in the offseason.
Thomas – a fan favorite who has never gone underappreciated by the Who Dat Nation – has quietly moved into fourth place on the Saints’ all-time rushing list with 3,523 yards. He also has 2,230 receiving yards, making him one of only two players in Saints history with 3,000 rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards (along with Dalton Hilliard).