In today’s NFL teams that do not think outside the box when it comes to finding talent are destined to fail. While certainly the “cream of the crop” in young talent makes it way to the league through the draft, there are small school and hidden gems out there waiting to be uncovered.
The Saints are one of the better teams to embrace this mentality.
They consistently look at lesser known collegiate programs for talent, but also take the unconventional route of trying out and taking risks with multi-sport players that have little connection to football.
New Orleans roster is loaded with undrafted talent, late round gems, and “cast-offs” that have become major role players, and now the Saints are turning to Rugby to find the next potential steal — working out Hayden Smith from the Saracens of England’s Rugby Football Union.
Smith plays the position of Lock, part of the second row that is tasked with pushing against the “scrum” (pile-up). Locks need to be big, tall, and powerful, but also need to be able to catch very well.
That sounds a lot like an NFL tight end.
Smith stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 240 pounds, but is speedy considering his size as he has been timed in the 4.6’s during the forty-yard dash.
Those measurables stack up nicely with Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who caught 99 balls for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Graham is a prime example of late round talent the Saints found, after most teams passed him over for his perceived lack of football experience.
However just because Smith compares favorably to the tight end positions doesn’t mean that’s what he will become if added to an NFL roster.
Defensive end has been mentioned, as has outside linebacker — all be it in a 3-4 scheme.
Smith not only worked out with the Saints, but also with the New York Jets.
He has yet to get a contract offer from any team although it seems likely New Orleans could add him to the training camp roster if he does not sign elsewhere.