Saints tab UCF wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith with 3rd round pick

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Saints give Brees another weapon in Smith

Clearly, the Saints saw value and jumped on it.

By choosing wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith of Central Florida with the 91st pick, the Saints went for the best player on their board. He happened to be a wide receiver.

While we can argue the merits of whether that spot was a “need” spot for the Saints, I would suggest that it is.

Cameron Meredith is a good target but he is still healing from a knee injury. Michael Thomas is a star. Ted Ginn still has game but he will be 34. There is really no depth, otherwise, unless you count Brandon Coleman.

At 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds, Smith started all 13 games last season. Smith had 59 catches for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns as a redshirt junior. An amazing 78 percent of those catches a year ago were for first downs. He was productive throughout his career with UCF. In 2015, he had 52 catches for 724 yards and four touchdowns. In 2016, he had 57 catches for 852 yards and five scores.

Smith fits the profile of a player the Saints can use. He has good size, a good catch radius with long arms (34.5 inches), experience in a passing system and is both a willingand good blocker and special teams player, if needed. Looking at tape, Smith high-points the ball quite well, with a vertical jump of 37.5 inches, though he had a few drops in college and some have questioned his upper body strength.

Smith has the ability to play inside, in the slot on either side but he can also play outside as he is an intriguing combination of good (not great) size and good (but perhaps not great) speed.

At the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Smith volunteered to play special teams, something most do not choose to do. DJ Chark was another player who was willing to do so.

Smith was quite impressive at the Senior Bowl and impressed Saints officials in interviews as well. Smith played basketball previously and was a sprinter in track. He has been timed in just under 4.5 in the 40-yard dash.

At the very least, Smith can be expected to take the fourth spot from Coleman, a good blocker but marginal receiver at best. At most, Smith could become a primary target, particularly if Meredith is slow to fully recover.

Either way, Drew Brees now has more weapons in the passing game and another receiver who can help the running game, a clear focus for the franchise last season and moving forward. The pick looks like a solid one, on balance.

In the first round Thursday, the Saints traded up to the 14th overall pick to take UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport.

New Orleans Saints Executive Vice-President/General Manager Mickey Loomis
NFL Draft Day #2 Press Conference
Friday, April 27, 2018

What kind of receiver is Tre’Quan Smith?
“He was a good size, has decent speed. What we like about him is he is a really smart player. He’s really tough and he’s been very productive (averaging nearly) 20 yards per catch just last season. He’s a good run after catch guy and he’s going to fit in with our group.”

Is his blocking something that was a strong suit of his?
“Yes, he’s a good blocker. That’s important for our receivers to be good blockers and he’s definitely that and that’s part of that toughness that he brings.”

Is there a reason why he fell to pick 91?
“I don’t know that. It is all on the eyes of the beholder. Obviously there are some players that were taken today that probably we had graded lower than than what they had. That just happens and I think that too much gets made out of why a guy drops or doesn’t drop. More often than not that gets created by the media. The guys broadcasting the draft because if a guy did not meet their expectations then, Oh, why is he dropping? Well that’s not everybody else’s expectations. That’s their expectation.”

What did you hear about his interactions at a dinner with team personnel in Orlando?
“I wasn’t there, but the reports were really good.”

Does this draft pick have anything to do with concerns about Cameron Meredith’s knee recovery?
“No, This is a case of at that point in the draft where we were at this is the player that was graded the highest in that group where we were and we were not concerned about (Meredith’s recovery) and I would not say there was a glaring hole or anything like that. This was a player that we liked a lot and we’re glad to have him.”

Did you consider moving up at all today or decided to stay put today?
“I think we pretty much shot our gun. We have to retain some things for the future so we weren’t really coming in with the mindset that we were going to target someone and move up. Look, that is always a discussion. We talked a little bit about it a couple times. But then the player we talked about all of a sudden went off, but I think we kind of like having the amount of picks we have later in this draft and so it would have been difficult to give give up any of those and then and then certainly would be difficult to give up any future picks at this point.”

What areas would you like to focus on tomorrow?
“I think again that comes down primarily to the players that are left on the board and I think regardless of position we’re just looking for good players. We’re also looking for guys that can help us some on special teams because that’s going to be the route that a number of these guys in later rounds for all teams (initially contribute). That’s their route to make a team. We’ll pay close attention to that as well.”

How did Smith average nearly 20 yards per catch last season?
“Yeah I think it’s a combination. He got behind the defense and like I said before he’s got a really good knack for getting yards after the catch. It was a combination.”

Is there a concerted effort to add bigger receivers to this offense?
“I think you’re just looking for good players number one, but size (is important) at every position and you’d like to have size at every positon, but I think the main thing is just getting good football players, getting players that are smart, that are tough and that are productive and this player certainly fits that bill.”

Was there anything in particular that Tre’Quan did really well that caught your attention?
“That starts with the area scouts and our scouting department. They had high grades on this guy and talked really highly of him early on and he was impressive to our coaches and was impressive in the interviews we had with him and did a nice job at the Senior Bowl as well. Just throughout the process I think he did a good job.”

Did you know you would get a wide receiver at pick 91 or did that change throughout the course of the day?
“That was a function of what was available to us as we look at our draft board.”

Is defensive end such a hard position to acquire in free agency or the draft that makes it worth more than other positions?
“I think pressure traits are hard to come by and when you have them you protect them and you generally don’t let them out of the building so I’d say yes.”

Does that make you more comfortable with the draft capital you gave up to acquire the edge rusher you targeted?
“This is the philosophy regardless of position. If there’s somebody we really covet and we have an opportunity to move up, then we’re just going to going to analyze the cost and the risk and if we like it we’re going to make a move and that’s what we did.”

What did you like from everything you saw from Marcus Davenport?
“He’s a pressure player and he has a high motor (and has) all the things that Sean (Payton) said last night (about him) or our our entire room would say. He’s productive. He went to the Senior Bowl and that was a step up in the level of competition for him and (he) did a nice job there (it) wasn’t too big for him and the kid’s smart. He’s tough, he’s all the things that you’re looking for in terms of makeup and all the physical traits he’s got and he needs some development as well. But we like the player.”

How crazy is it that his family is from New Orleans?
“Yeah I’d say that’s a nice coincidence for him isn’t it? He has a family history here and that’s kind of cool.”

Is Tre’Quan Smith more of an outside guy?
“We’re going to find out where we play him. I think one of the important things here is he’s a smart player that can fill a lot of roles for us and when we get him him here we’ll see what he does best and our coaches and offensive staff do a great job of making sure we take advantage of the skill set of our guys. He’s got a pretty large skill set.”

Do you feel like the team is transitioning away from tight end play to the best playmakers you can find?
“I think we’ve always done that.”

How do you think he fits with the receiver weapons this offense already has?
“I think we are going to find that out. That is going to be work in progress through this offseason and training camp and our coaches will do a good job of blending him into the group that we already have and that is true for any new player into our organization is that we have a vision for them and we have to wait until they get here to really see if that fits.”

Do you think he will be able to get playing time with such a talented receiving core in place already?
“I think that’s true for any young player. They’ve got to earn their way. No one’s given anything here. They’ve got to earn it and he’ll be no different. But again that’s part of the things we like about him is that he has the makeup, the intelligence, the toughness and all the traits that we covet. I know he’ll fit in.”

Will his experience in a no huddle offense make his transition harder or easier heading into the NFL?
“I don’t know the answer to that. We’ll find out when he gets here.”

What were the three hours like waiting to make the pick?
“It’s kind of boring. I wouldn’t say it’s boring because we’re interested in seeing how guys come off the board relative to how we’ve got them graded. We’re interested in seeing particularly the teams in our division what they’re doing. We look at all the trades that are done and what was paid to make those moves so we’re just gathering information for either current or future use. So it’s interesting to see how it comes off. Look it would have been nice to have a second round pick. We paid attention to the players that were available when we would have picked, but otherwise it was just a normal draft.”

You have only kept two of your first round picks into second contracts over the last decade or so. Is that something that bothers you or is that a measure of draft success?
“I don’t know the answer to that. That’s a good question. Obviously you’d like to draft the player and have him play for you for 10 or 12 years at a high level and yet every case is a little different. I would have to go back and look at each one of them and analyze the reasons for each one and talk about the reasons for each one. I couldn’t just make a general statement about the ones we didn’t retain or against the ones that we did.”

New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Tre’Quan Smith
Conference Call With New Orleans Media
Friday, April 27, 2018

We know you talked to Ronald Curry a few minutes ago. What did Coach Curry have to say?
“He was very excited. He just told me congratulations, enjoy the moment and come ready to work in two weeks.”

One thing we’re always curious about is how much time the Saints spent on the guys they picked. Had you gotten to know Coach Curry as well as Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis and other members of the coaching staff well during the pre-draft process?
“Yes, when he came by, we went to go eat, him and two other coaches, the GM (Loomis) at UCF. We had good conversation. Talked a lot of football and also at the Senior Bowl—Combine, we had a meeting that went very well I thought, (from) my perspective.”

Can you describe your game for us a little bit?
“I’m a team player first of all. I do what’s best for the teams. I am a hard worker, whatever the team needs me to do, I’m willing to do it. I make sacrifice. And also when you get a player like me, you get a person who is a good ball hog, who goes after the ball when it’s in the air, 50/50 ball they are mine, 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 (have) to be selfless.”

Do you see yourself as being someone that can get deep or are you more of like an intermediate guy? Or how do you see that?
“I’m a deep threat. I can see myself (as) a deep threat. I can go down the field and also I consider myself a possession receiver as well.”

What do you think you learned about the Saints offense, the couple of times you met with them?
“They want to throw the ball. I know Drew Brees is a great quarterback, terrific quarterback. They want to get the ball downfield and score touchdowns. They want to get the ball in playmakers hands. And my job is to come in there and do what is best for the team. I want to come there and build a great relationship with Drew Brees, build a connection, hat receiver-quarterback connection.”

You say you’re a ball hog, do you kind of feel like you can’t be covered? You can outjump people?
“Yes, that’s how I feel. But at the next level I have a lot to work on if I want to consider myself an elite receiver.”

Is this where you expected to go?
“Honestly, I had no clue where I was going to land. I am glad the Saints called me, giving me the opportunity to come and play for them. I am just blessed and happy to be a Saint.”

When you met with the Saints, what did they say they liked about your game?
“They told me they liked my physicality. They put up a lot of blocking plays where my running back was running the ball and I made pretty key blocks to get him extra yardage for him to score touchdowns. And then they liked my ability to go get the ball when it’s in the air. The deep ball and the 50/50 ball.”

So are you excited that you might have a chance to block downfield for Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram?
“Yes, I’m very excited. I love watching my teammates make plays when something I did personally (played a role). It makes me happy inside. It builds trust when they’re running the ball and they see me and say, ‘oh that’s Tre’Quan’, ‘I know he’s going to block for me, I know he has this block.”

When you said you have things that you have to work on as a player, what are some of those things?
“First of all, I think it’s my route running, that’s my main thing really. But I have a great coach, Coach CJ (Curtis Johnson), he already talked to me about it. When I come in on the first day, we’re going to work on that and get things going. Just other things, teaching by the veteran Mike Thomas, he can teach me some things I may not know (that) I need help with. I’m just all ears when I get there. Whatever someone is willing to teach me, I’m willing to learn.”

How do you think playing in Central Florida’s offense helped prepared you for the National Football League?
“It prepared me a lot. I had a great coaching staff, you know guys whose been in the (National Football) league a while, great coaching experience. So also it taught me how to, first of all, playing for UCF taught me it was a no-huddle offense. So it helped my conditioning out. Also in my offense, I played more than one position so it built my memorization up. So going into the NFL I know it’s going to be a huddle and you have audibles, Drew Brees can probably audible to one, he’ll probably call one play then audible to another one. So playing for UCF, the playbook, I had to memorize the whole playbook, not one position. So that’s going to help me tremendously.”

You did not play in high school until your junior year, is that correct? And why was that the case?
“Yes, that’s partially correct. I played a little bit my ninth grade year and then I missed my tenth grade year. And then my first full season was my junior year. Really at the time I wanted to play Pop Warner but my dad never signed me up. And then when I got to middle school I was really playing basketball since the eighth grade. Then in high school, my high school coaches got me into it and then once I played my full season I knew it was a sport I loved to play and I just continued from there on out.”

It was pretty much wide receiver from then on out?
“Yes sir.”

Your statistics got better every year. Why do you think you were able to continue and develop?
“Because I feel like my potential isn’t reached yet. Like I said I haven’t played (as much) football yet, I’m a late bloomer. Later than most guys that have been playing since they were probably seven or younger. I just feel like each opportunity I get to touch the field, to learn something, I’m going to soak it in. And that’s why I feel like I exceeded every year than my previous season because I’m willing to get better and I know I haven’t reached my potential yet.”

You have any ties to the New Orleans area? Or have you been down here much?
“No sir, not at all.”

You’re going to have some Alabama teammates, what do you think that back and forth is going to be like about who was the true national champion?
“That’s going to be interesting because at my heart I love UCF and I feel like we’re national champs and I know they are national champs, so we’re going to argue about it. But at the same time, that’s kind of in the past now. Now that we’re teammates, it’s all about Saints football.”

Just to go back to that dinner you were talking about, was that in Orlando with the Saints coaches?
“Yes sir, that was in Orlando.”

And did you meet with them at the combine too?
“Yes. I met with coach Curry at the combine too.”

Did you have any indication about how much they wanted you?
“No, not really. I just know during the interview process they gave me a couple of things they were going over, formations and stuff. And I just did so well with everything they told me to remember, I just feel like that really impressed them outside of my tape and also them just meeting me and getting to know me.”

How much are you looking forward to playing with Drew Brees?
“If I could, I’d be out there tomorrow. I’m willing to soak in the knowledge from a veteran, a great guy, a hall of fame quarterback. The experience will be unbelievable and I’m just going to be right there next to him, just learning everything he’s willing to teach me because he’s a great guy and a great quarterback. I am glad I will be able to call myself a Saint.”

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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