We’ll get to the rest of the receiving corps shortly, but if there is one player that stands out from the rest, it’s Tre’Quan Smith.
Drafted in the third round in 2018, Smith has been expected to serve as a consistent big-play threat for New Orleans.
However, with that comes volatility, and his overall numbers aren’t eye-popping. The 25-year-old has never eclipsed 500 receiving yards in a season, has never played more than 63 percent of the team’s snaps in a season and has averaged under 35 receiving yards per game.
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Still, it isn’t as though Smith was in the optimal situation to succeed. We’re well aware of Drew Brees’ shortcomings throwing the ball down the field, and after having an 11.8 average depth of target in 2018, that number has dropped to 9.0 for Smith over the past two seasons.
Meanwhile, with Thomas and Sanders each missing time this season, Smith needed to serve more as an intermediate target, and that may not be his best role.
It’s hard to gauge Smith’s contested-catch skills since he has rarely been targeted in those situations, but there isn’t any reason to suggest he can’t perform well there. He has the size (6-foot-2 and 210 pounds) to profile well there, and he has shown the ability to separate- per Player Profiler he has gained 2.14 yards of separation per target.
That ability to create separation should theoretically pair well with Winston, who can hit him on stride and then let Smith also create yardage after the catch.
Do I believe Smith could be in line for a breakout year with Winston? Yes. Should New Orleans bring in more big-play options at receiver to complement him and provide insurance? Absolutely.
Successful receiving corps need a lot of depth, and Smith profiles much better as a third or fourth option in the passing game. Thus, although Smith profiles well with Winston, more work needs to be done.