Preseason Player Analysis
What You Need to Know:
- Smith benefited from an injury-riddled year from Michael Thomas. The former scored 4 times, adding career-highs in catches (34) and yards (448).
- In Thomas’ 7 absences, Smith posted per-game averages of 4.7 targets, 3.6 catches, 44.5 yards and .29 TDs. Not exactly breakout numbers.
- In the postseason, he tallied 3-85-2 against Tampa Bay, catching a 56-yard TD from potential Week 1 starter Jameis Winston.
- Smith was used as a short-range target for Drew Brees for the 2nd-straight season. He’s posted a 9.6-yard average depth of target in 2 straight seasons.
- Smith dropped 4 balls, giving him a bloated drop rate of 10.5%. He was sub-7% in 2018 and 2019.
- He missed Weeks 16-17 and the Wild Card Round with an ankle injury. This came after an 11-game 2019 (ankle).
- Emmanuel Sanders departed in free agency. A chunk of the 82 targets he leaves behind will shift to Smith.
- Smith's main competition for the #2 role will come from 2nd-year UDFA Marquez Callaway. He’s an intriguing athlete standing 6’1, 205 pounds, but his college production (92-1,646-13 across 4 years) wasn’t great at Tennessee.
- 2021 is a contract year for Smith. His 4th season looks like a make-or-break one if he wants to stick as a starter.
- Winston will battle Taysom Hill for the Week 1 starting job. Hill started 4 games in place of Drew Brees last year. But Ian Rapoport of NFL Network believes Winston is the favorite to start entering the summer.
- Smith would likely benefit if Winston is indeed the starter, as the former Buc boasts more arm strength (and a more aggressive game) than Hill.
- The Saints figure to remain balanced on offense. Running out a solid defense, New Orleans ranked 28th in pass rate a year ago. In other words: It’s imperative Smith grabs the #2 role.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
Smith heads into the summer as the favorite to start alongside Michael Thomas. The 27-year-old has the size and speed to thrive in a deep role, but he’ll need whoever wins the starting QB job to cooperate.
Even then, Smith looks like a fringe #3 option behind Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Adam Trautman is certainly a breakout candidate in year 2.
For summer drafts, Smith is just a late-round option with the potential to supply several starting weeks.