The Saints took Smith in the third round out of UCF in 2018 and hoped he could complement Michael Thomas in the Saints’ offense. While Smith has been okay, he’s never been anything more than a WR3 for New Orleans and that’s not what the team had in mind when they took him on Day 2 three years ago.
Patrik Walker of CBS Sports listed Smith as the most likely Saint to breakout in 2021 and this is exactly what fans want to see transpire. Walker wrote:
"You’ll often hear about offensive superstars like Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara in New Orleans, and rightfully so, but it feels like Smith is entering 2021 with a whole lot to prove and the talent to do it. A former third-round pick of the Saints in 2018, there’s no fifth-year option for Smith, and that means he’s walking right into a contract year. That’s more than enough motivation to continue improving has he has been, bounding back from a bout with injury in 2019 to post his second season with more than 400 yards receiving to go along with four TDs (14 total in three seasons). His ability to break out will largely be predicated upon the abilities of Jameis Winston and/or Taysom Hilland/or Ian Book, but with no more interference from veteran free agent signings, the stage is set."
The Saints need to see more out of Tre’Quan Smith.
To this point, Smith hasn’t been the kind of receiver New Orleans was hoping he’d blossom into. He had a career-high in receiving yards in 2020 with 448 off of 34 receptions but couldn’t match his career-high in touchdowns (five), only finding the end zone four times this past year.
Smith had a chance to show what he could do with Thomas missing half the season but he never really stepped into the WR2 role (assuming that Emmanuel Sanders then would have jumped into the WR1 role).
As Walker mentioned in the blurb above, there’s a lot of incentive for Smith to destroy defenses this year, with the main one being that this is a contract year for him. If he wants to land a big contract in the offseason, he needs to put up big stats. He doesn’t necessarily have to be a 1,000-yard receiver (though that’d obviously be wonderful if he did accomplish that feat) but 700+ yards and more than his career-high of five touchdowns would be obtainable goals for the former UCF Knight.
While Thomas is more than capable of carrying the load (as we saw in 2019), the Saints need another receiver to step up this year. Smith is the second-most experienced receiver on the roster so he’s the favorite to be the No. 2 wide receiver and be one of the more targeted weapons on this offense.
It’s now or never for Tre’Quan Smith as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. The Saints hope to see a big year from him.