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2018 Saints Rookies

YOU GO BACK, JACK, AND DO IT AGAIN: Saints Nab More Offensive “Weapons” in the Draft for 2nd Straight Year

When the New Orleans Saints made a trade with the San Francisco 49ers last year and gave up a 7th-round pick and a 2nd-round 2018 pick to take University of Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara in the 2017 NFL Draft's 3rd round, they did so because they knew that Kamara's multi-faceted skill set would give them another "weapon" for their high-powered offense. They guessed right, as Kamara went on to become 2017 NFL Rookie of the Year.

However, in this year's recent 2018 NFL Draft a few months ago, adding more offensive weapons likely wasn't as much of a priority as it had been with adding Kamara the year before. But nonetheless, it's become very evident now some 4 months later, that the Saints have actually now added even MORE offensive "weapons" with not one but two more dynamic rookie players: WR and 3rd Round pick Tre'Quan Smith; and RB and 6th Round pick Boston Scott.

The two rookies have both made huge impressions in Training Camp thus far, and it's become obvious that both players will have large roles within the Saints offensive scheme for the next several seasons to come.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

This past Thursday Night in the team's 1st Pre-Season game at Jacksonville against the Jaguars, both Smith and Scott wasted little time with becoming assimilated into their brand new respective roles.

Smith has already become the team's designated #4 WR, and has established himself rather quickly as the team's future deep ball / "homerun threat" in the vertical passing game.

Against the Jaguars, Smith had four catches for 48 yards, both of which were game highs. He also was in on roughly 74 percent of the Saints' total offensive snaps. 

His "highlight play" came on a 26-yard reception where he made a leaping grab and broke a few tackles while keeping his balance and attempting to get inside the 10-yard line.

That play set up a 3-yard Taysom Hill touchdown run which pulled the Saints to within 3 points in the fourth quarter. 

Meanwhile, the diminutive (5-foot-7) Scott is competing for a role as the team's kick returner; and had three opportunities Thursday night. He had a total of 78 yards on those returns, with 35 of those yards coming on a run that ended up getting called back by a holding penalty from cornerback J.T. Gray.

Scott took his only carry at RB for 7 yards, but yet he still managed to set up fellow RB Jonathan Williams for what ended up being the game-winning touchdown run.

While Scott isn't expected to fill a huge role in the team's running game this year, his obvious play-making potential is something that head coach Sean Payton will very likely use in certain situations; particularly in an instance in which he could even have Scott and Kamara on the field together during the same play.

Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Thanks to his size and production back when he attended college at Louisiana Tech, Scott has naturally been compared to former Saints and current Eagles RB / KR Darren Sproles.

“Look, Darren was one of those amazing players,” Payton said.

“But Boston has some traits that we saw and you see them periodically on the field. He’s still learning. He’s further along in the passing game. But I think he’s been improving."

"He’s going to be in that mix as a returner and we’ll see what he can do. He does have some of the skill sets in regards to versatility. But that would be fantastic if he could get even in that neighborhood.”

Despite both players' notable early success however, the coaching staff still has made sure to remind both players that regardless of their respective talents; they still are NFL "rookies".

Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

As NOLA.com / Times-Picayune beat writer Luke Johnson noted yesterday: after Thursday Night's win, Smith thought he was going to have a good morning on Friday while watching film of his four catches against the Jaguars.

But instead, Saints WR coach Curtis "CJ" Johnson kept pointing out all of the mistakes that Smith made, in spite of his impressive performance; and thus showing the rookie WR exactly just how high the bar is at the NFL level.

"Looking more into details in the film, I really saw that, 'Oh, I could've done this better, I could've blocked him much longer,'" Smith said to the media after yesterday's practice.

"It's just a matter of making corrections and looking at the film and knowing what you did wrong."

Payton though, was encouraged by Smith's progress thus far.

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

"There's so much to learn, and to his credit he's working hard at it," Payton said. "He's making plays. It's cleaning up all the details and nuances of playing receiver in this league and learning the system. But he's made real good strides."

Johnson notes that this time of the year is, for Smith and Scott, like it is for many NFL rookies.

It is the time where their knowledge and understanding, is still trying to catch up to the ability that made both players attractive prospects.

Regardless, both players figure to be a big part of the team's future — and as a result: while the 2018 Draft Class is still likely not on par with last year's phenomenal 2017 Saints Draft Class, the fact that the organization was able to upgrade the offensive skill positions for a 2nd straight year, is a remarkable feat.

Your black cards can make you money
So you hide them when you're able
In the land of milk and honey
You must put them on the table, yeah

You go back, Jack
Do it again
Wheel turnin' round and round
You go back, Jack
Do it again

— Steely Dan, 1972

Clearly a lot of credit should go out to to Assistant GM / Director of College Scouting Jeff Ireland and the entire Saints college scouting department.

Whether Smith and Scott can both or individually repeat the same or similar type of success that Kamara experienced last season remains to be seen.

Smith certainly appears to have the proverbial "upper-hand" in that regard, since it appears he'll likely be a starter in the Saints offense's multiple WR sets / alignments, while Scott figures to see more of a "niche" role in his rookie year as a kick returner and as a RB split out of the backfield on gadget-type plays, as well as giving Kamara a "breather" on occasion as the Saints designated 'Joker' RB.

(Photo courtesy of Stephen Lew, Crescent City Sports)

But many of the very same analysts and observers who labeled last year's Saints 2017 NFL Draft Class as one of the League's greatest Draft Classes EVER, have widely criticized this year's 2018 Class — mainly based on the minimal impact thus far of top pick Marcus Davenport.

Davenport missed the Pre-Season opener at Jacksonville with what was labeled by the team as a minor muscle pull, though speculation continues that the talented defensive end / EDGE pass rusher is way in over his head mentally as he tries to convert from a small school university to playing at the sport's highest level.

And the Saints aren't in any great hurry to rush Davenport onto the field as a rookie, given the remarkable recovery and early Training Camp success for 6th year DE Alex Okafor; who has successfully healed from surgery at the end of last year to repair a torn Achilles tendon.

But make no mistake about it:

Both Tre'Quan Smith and Boston Scott are destined to become a huge part of the Saints franchise heading into the future; and for a 2nd straight year, it certainly does appear that New Orleans has managed to nab more additional "weapons" for its high-powered offensive attack in the upcoming 2018 NFL Regular Season.........

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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