Saints get Brees another target: receiver Tre’Quan Smith
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — The New Orleans Saints added to star quarterback Drew Brees’ already formidable array of receiving targets, taking Central Florida receiver Tre’Quan Smith in the third round of the NFL draft on Friday night.
The 6-foot-2, 203-pound Smith, who entered the draft with one year of college eligibility left, had 54 catches for 1,082 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He was also part of a Golden Knights team that that finished 2017 unbeaten and capped that campaign with a victory over Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
“When you get a player like me you get a person who’s a good ball hawk, who goes after the ball when it’s in the air — 50-50 balls, they’re mine,” Smith said on a conference call after his selection. “And a hustler. I love to make plays for my other teammates. The game is just bigger than me. If you want to win, it’s a team sport. You’ve got to be selfless.
“I love watching teammates make plays when something I did” contributed, Smith said. “It makes me happy inside and it builds trust.”
General manager Mickey Loomis described Smith as a receiver who has the speed, ability, intelligence and toughness to find a role in New Orleans’ dynamic offense, even if it’s blocking downfield for running backs Mark Ingram or Alvin Kamara.
“He’s a good blocker. That’s important for our receivers to be good blockers and he’s definitely that,” Loomis said. “That’s part of that toughness.”
Smith said the Saints had told him they liked his “physicality” on plays in which he made key blocks downfield to spring teammates for extra yardage, as well as his ability to “go get the ball when it was in the air.”
Smith was the first player drafted by New Orleans on the second day of the draft. New Orleans did not have a pick in the second round this year, having dealt that away during last year’s third round as part of a trade that allowed the Saints to snag Kamara, the 2017 NFL offensive rookie of the year.
In Thursday night’s first round, the Saints picked UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport 14th overall after trading up from 27th in a deal with Green Bay that also sent a fifth-round pick this year and a first-rounder next year to the Packers.
Loomis said there were brief discussions about the possibility of trading up again, but it would not have been easy after the trade made a day earlier.
“We’ve pretty much shot our gun,” Loomis said.
New Orleans didn’t have a pressing need for a receiver.
During free agency, the Saints brought in Cameron Meredith, who led Chicago in receiving in 2016 before missing last season with a knee injury. New Orleans’ receiving corps also includes Pro Bowler Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn and Brandon Coleman. But the club did lose restricted free agent Willie Snead to Baltimore.
“This is a case of — at that point in the draft, where we were at — this is a player we had graded the highest,” Loomis said. “This is a player that we liked a lot.”
Smith said he considers himself a deep threat and a possession receiver. Loomis added that the Saints were impressed with Smith’s knack for gaining yards after the catch, suggesting that likely contributed to Smith’s considerable average of about 20 yards per reception.
“I want to build a great relationship with Drew Brees,” Smith said. “If I could, I’d be up there tomorrow.”
Smith also noted that he hopes UCF’s no-huddle offense — which called for him to play multiple positions, memorize the play book and routinely respond to a quarterback audible at the line of scrimmage — has prepared him to adapt to New Orleans’ multiple offense.
Smith never played youth football, playing more basketball until high school in south Florida. He calls himself a “late bloomer.”
But Loomis noted that the Saints’ scouting department had high regard for Smith “early on” in the evaluation process.
“We’re going to find out where we play him,” Loomis said. “He’s a smart player who can fill a lot of roles for us. ... He’s got a pretty large skill set.”
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