Welcome back to “Counting Down the Top 25 Players in the NFC South.” To see the entire list as it unfolded, scroll down to the bottom of this page. To see the rules and ranking criteria, click here.
Coming in at No. 24 is new New Orleans Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton, who is getting ready for his first season with the Saints but is no newbie to NFC South life, having played the first four seasons of his career with the Atlanta Falcons.
Lofton made an impact in Atlanta from day one, notching 94 tackles during his rookie season. He then eclipsed the 100-tackle mark in each of his next three seasons, averaging just under 133 tackles per year while setting a career high with 147 last year.
He brings a history of piling in tackles and contributing from the very beginning, and that’s just what the Saints have asked Lofton to do.
Because Jonathan Vilma is likely going to miss the entire 2012 season, Lofton will step in and play the “Mike” linebacker position. And if indications from OTAs and minicamp hold true through the preseason, Lofton and fellow newcomer David Hawthorne will be the two linebackers on the field when New Orleans jumps into its nickel package.
That means Lofton will stay on the field as a three-down linebacker, something the Falcons were shying away from and a possible determining factor in his departure from Atlanta.
With Lofton on the field for most of the defense's snaps—if that holds true in 2012—he’ll likely rack up another 100-tackle season. And any player that has four of those in a row deserves to be in the top 25 of any division he plays in.
The 2012 Bleacher Report Top 25 Players in the NFC South List
24. Curtis Lofton, LB, New Orleans Saints
Top 25 List (by team)
Atlanta Falcons: N/A
Carolina Panthers: N/A
New Orleans Saints: 1
Top 25 List (by position)