Sophia Germer/ASC Illustrations
Continuing today with the Setting the Scene Series, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite draft picks from this year, UCF Wide Receiver Tre’Quan Smith. Smith was selected in the third round of the 2018 draft and is becoming one of the standout additions so far in training camp providing highlight after highlight in what’s looking like an even more dynamic offense than what we saw in 2017.
Be sure to read up on what Tre’Quan Smith bring to the table in either of these previous articles of mine:
As always, I’ll highlight each of the Saints incoming draft selections, discuss some pro comparisons and give a best-case scenario, worst-case scenario, and my expected stat lines for their first years. Just like last year, I’ll rule out the injury bug and give each prediction as if they were healthy from game 1 to game 16. I will, however, use the practice squad or possible preseason cut as options. Be forewarned, I didn’t spend as much time with the combine on Tre’Quan’s because there were other parallels I was more interested in.
As a refresher, here are the selections and their draft positions:
Round 3 Pick 27 (91): UCF WR Tre’Quan Smith
Round 5 Pick 27 (164): Wisconsin S Natrell Jamerson
Round 6 Pick 15 (189): Boston College CB Kamrin Moore
Round 6 Pick 27 (201): Louisiana Tech RB Boston Scott
Round 7 Pick 27 (245): LSU OG/C Will Clapp
There’s a lot to be excited about with Smith. He’s a legitimate deep threat being aligned with one of the best deep passers in football (72 completions for over 20 yards last season.) He’s got a hell of a work ethic and attitude. His attitude is what really sticks out to me being a part of the UCF program which famously flipped their team’s fortune from winless to undefeated with only a year in between. Smith played with the Knights all three of those years before declaring for the draft following his best season where he brought in 59 catches, 1,171 yards (19.8 per catch), and 13 touchdowns, adding another touchdown on the ground.
Since 2003, only five college receivers have put together that many yards, touchdowns, and yards per catch on 65 or fewer receptions in a season. However, only one (Fuller) has had any kind of success in the league so far. Which is what bring us to our first section, the worst-case scenario.
In 2010, Wide Receiver Aldrick Robinson out of SMU put together great numbers. He caught 65 passes for 1,301 yards (20 yards per) and 14 touchdowns.However, upon entering the league he was placed on the Washington practice squad. in 2012 he finally saw the NFL field, but in not-so-spectacular fashion. His first-year stat line was 15 games (2 starts), 11 receptions for 237 yards and 3 touchdowns. Don’t get me wrong, 3 touchdowns on 11 receptions is pretty nice. However, two of those touchdowns came in consecutive games. Both of which came on deep passes and were his only catches in each game. Following those two games, however, Robinson didn’t see the field for the final five weeks of the season. He also had a critical drop in an earlier game in the season.
Robinson played an outstanding senior year, but could find a way- even after sitting on the practice squad for a year, to put it together in the pros. Since then, he’s been a home-run journeyman with a very low slugging percentage. He currently plays for the San Francisco 49ers, the fourth team in his six years.
Smith’s circumstances coming into the league are a little like Robinson’s in that he’s in the back of a crowded depth chart. With Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Jr., Cameron Meredith, and potentially even Brandon Coleman ahead of him, he’ll have to keep up his progression steadily in order to get beyond the fourth or fifth option.
Stat Line: 14 Games (1 Start), 15 catches, 280 yards, 3 touchdowns
Y’all remember Marques Colston? Yeah, thought you would. Colston was a seventh-round draft pick that ended up playing his way into the starting lineup his rookie year. He started in training camp, much like Smith has, and then solidified the WR spot opposite Joe Horn that had been all but handed to Devery Henderson after Donte Stallworth’s departure. Colston, coming from Hofstra University in Upstate NY, was a prospect that not many fans or scouts had on the radar. He then quickly became one of the best rookie wide receivers in his class and now sits among an elite group that has eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark in their rookie years. Colston contributed 70 catches for 1,038 yards, and 8 touchdowns on just 12 starts.
Smith would have to do a whole lot in order to enter the conversation as the Saints’ number 2 option opposite Michael Thomas. But with Ted Ginn, Jr’s age and Cameron Meredith’s value in the slot, there’s a shadow of a chance it could happen. The only thing standing in the way is that Ginn ages like fine wine and just put together the best season of his career after signing with us after his escape from Charlotte, NC. If, whether by injury or straight up earning it, Smith managed to snag the starting spot across from CGM, he’d quickly establish himself as a viable deep threat who can also get dirty in the middle. Serving those multiple purposes puts him in position to improve upon Ginn’s numbers from 2017 while following in the footsteps of Saints legend Marques Colston.
Stat Line: 16 Games (13 Starts), 55 catches, 900 yards, 8 touchdowns
When I think of deep threats that immediately contributed to their team from outside the starting lineup, New Orleans native Mike Wallace is the first name that comes to mind. When he was drafted out of Ole Miss in 2009 by Pittsburgh, he was pretty steadily the third wideout on the depth chart behind Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. Regardless, he played in all 16 games of the season with 4 starts in the slot and caught 39 passes for 756 yards and 6 scores. Making him the last player to achieve more than 750 yards on 40 or fewer receptions. The biggest parallel here is that Pittsburgh has been a team that likes to spread the ball around, and no one does that more than the Saints nowadays.
The Saints have a roster that rivals the firepower of the 2011 lineup and might even be more talented. That year, there were seven different players that went for more than 500 receiving yards, four of which were wideouts. I expect that Smith will be the fourth receiver on the roster by the beginning of this season but will also see situational snaps at #2. Not to say that he’ll dethrone Ginn of his position, but we all know Sean Payton loves to take downfield shots on first and 10’s around midfield. If he’s able to cook up schemes that get Smith and Ginn on the field at the same time, Smith’s big play potential will shine. Not to mention that Smith loves to block, which will also get him on the field for additional snaps that can get the ole “kill kill”- especially if Brandon Coleman doesn’t come off of PUP soon enough to earn his spot.
I truly think that Tre’Quan Smith is going to be a factor for this offense and will be in conversation for the best of some of his fellow rookie receivers for best in their 2018 class. He’s a dynamic playmaker that can make big time catches with tight windows and can take the top off the defense. Keep an eye out for this one, he’s going to be the next mid-round steal that the Saints have become so adept at finding.
Stat Line: 16 Games (2 Starts), 40 catches, 780 yards, 6 touchdowns