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New Orleans Saints: Lack of depth at wide receiver may be costly

Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /
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Tre’Quan Smith #10 of the New Orleans Saints (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Tre’Quan Smith #10 of the New Orleans Saints (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Can Tre’Quan Smith establish himself as the Saints No. 2 wide receiver?

A common trend with the Saints is their consistent investment in playmakers at various stages of the draft. They’ve gotten great success from the likes of Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks, and Jimmy Graham, and were able to package all of them into future draft capital.

A similar success story was the hope when they drafted Tre’Quan Smith out of UCF in the third round of the 2018 draft. Initially, with 15.3 yards/reception and 9.7 yards/target in his rookie season, there was a lot to be encouraged about.

However, since then, the development has plateaued. Smith has struggled to stay healthy in all three seasons of his career, and although his 32 yards/game was a career-high, his nine yards/target was a career-low, his production this year was mostly due to an increase in targets due to an injured receiving corps.

Heading into his final season under contract, this is a pivotal time for Smith to produce. Luckily, he has the perfect quarterback to help him in Winston. Whereas Brees would be more hesitant to take chances down the field, Winston won’t be afraid to get Smith involved in the vertical passing game, which should immediately increase his production.

In Smith’s encouraging rookie season, his average depth of target was 2.8 yards (11.8) higher than it has been in the subsequent two seasons, and with his 6’2″ frame and athleticism, he profiles as someone who should be utilized more as a downfield threat. Drops remain a concern with him, but that’s a volatile statistic, and the more chances he gets, the greater the potential pay-off could be.

Consider him a boom-or-bust option for New Orleans. Ideally, he’d be more of a No. 4 receiver that elevates the ceiling of an offense, but the Saints will be relying on him to be more than that.

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