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Not much separation between Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson in Saints roster rank

After a slow start to his career, Mark Ingram has become one of the NFL's most underrated running backs. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

My annual ranking of the New Orleans Saints' roster. Part four of a five-part series:

Previous rankings: Nos. 17-20 | 13-16 | 9-12

No. 8: S Kenny Vaccaro

Last year's rank: No. 9

Vaccaro, 26, was arguably having his best season to date last year before it ended early because of a four-game Adderall suspension. He had two interceptions, two forced fumbles, a sack and 68 tackles in just 11 games played.

The former first-round pick still has more breakout potential, though. And now would be a great time for him to make his first Pro Bowl run, since he's heading into the final year of his contract.

The 6-foot, 214-pounder has shown flashes of great potential throughout his four-year career. But he has also battled a series of interruptions (injuries in his first two years; inconsistent play, especially in his sophomore 2014 season; last year's suspension).

Vaccaro's greatest strength might be his versatility. The Saints use him as a traditional safety, in the box as a pseudo-linebacker, and in slot coverage as a pseudo-cornerback.

No. 7: RB Adrian Peterson

Last year's rank: N/A

Who knows where to rank Peterson on this list? He's one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, and he was ranked fifth in the entire league on the NFL Network's top 100 list just one year ago. But then he missed 13 games last season because of a torn meniscus in his knee -- and he turned 32 years old -- which made him settle for a two-year contract with the Saints in free agency that includes only $3.5 million in guarantees.

Age 32 is practically ancient for NFL running backs. But Peterson has proved throughout his career that conventional wisdom doesn't really apply to him. He returned from a torn ACL in 2012 to run for more than 2,000 yards and win the league MVP award. Then he once again led the NFL in 2015 with 1,485 rushing yards at the age of 30.

Peterson's new teammates have been raving about his physical prowess so far this summer, insisting that he doesn't look like a guy who is slowing down.

The Saints don't need Peterson to be an every-down back since they have another alpha dog in Mark Ingram. So A.D.'s touches should decrease significantly from his years with the Minnesota Vikings. But he should also face a lot fewer eight- and nine-man boxes in New Orleans' pass-first offense.

Peterson ranks 16th on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 11,747 yards in his 10-year career. He needs less than 600 yards to move past Jim Brown for 10th place -- something he should be able to do easily, even if his role is limited.

No. 6: OT Terron Armstead

Last year's rank: No. 3

Another guy who, unfortunately, has become harder to rank because of an unrelenting string of injuries. Armstead, who turned 26 on Sunday, had started to establish himself as one of the best young linemen in the NFL in 2015 -- while fighting through a significant knee injury, no less. At the time, Sean Payton said, "There's not a left tackle I would trade him for in the league." And the Saints rewarded him with a long-term contract extension worth $13 million per year.

But then Armstead missed nine games last season because of knee and quad injuries. And now he is expected to be sidelined until at least the middle of the season after suffering a shoulder injury in minicamp.

The 6-foot-5, 304-pounder still has tantalizing potential. The former third-round pick from Arkansas-Pine Bluff is one of the league's most athletic linemen, and his time of 4.71 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine still stands as the fastest ever by an offensive lineman.

But Armstead needs to finally stay healthy to deliver on that potential -- something that has become a bigger question mark each year.

No. 5: RB Mark Ingram

Last year's rank: No. 6

Ingram's NFL career got off to a slow start. But over the past three seasons, the former Heisman trophy winner and first-round draft pick has emerged as one of the NFL's most underrated backs.

Ingram, 27, set career highs last season with 1,043 rushing yards, 1,362 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns, while tying with Ezekiel Elliott for fifth in the NFL with a career-high 5.1 yards per carry. Pro Football Focus also pointed out that Ingram ranked third in the league in yards after contact (3.06).

Peterson has drawn all the headlines this offseason, but Ingram will be hard to supplant as New Orleans' top running back, since he is so versatile as a pass-catcher and pass protector. Ingram has 96 catches over the past two seasons for a total of 724 yards.