No NFL team has had more success with undrafted players than the New Orleans Saints. This has been especially true at the wide receiver and running back positions over the last two decades.
Undrafted backs Chris Ivory, Khiry Robinson, and Travaris Cadet made significant contributions to the team through the early and middle part of last decade. The most famous example is RB Pierre Thomas, who went from undrafted in 2007 to one of the best players in franchise history.
Alvin Kamara is the NFL's most versatile and dynamic running back. His skill set is the focal point of the Saints offensive attack. However, he could be facing league discipline for an offseason arrest in Las Vegas. Behind Kamara there is 11-year veteran Mark Ingram, but little else.
New Orleans will reportedly host free-agent RB Sony Michel in the coming days, but did not draft or sign any backs in free agency. The Saints signed 17 undrafted players at the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft. One of them a running back who hopes to add his name to the list of Saints overlooked gems.
ABRAM SMITH, RB
A two-time all-state selection at Abilene High School in Texas, Smith made little impact his first few seasons at Baylor. He'd redshirt his freshman year in 2017 with a knee injury, then rushed for a combined 46 yards in 2018 and 2019.
Coaches asked him to move to linebacker in 2020 because of several injuries at the position. He’d play five games at linebacker to finish out the year, recording five tackles for loss and a sack among 48 total stops.
Smith was instrumental in Baylor's 2021 Big 12 championship last season. He led the conference with a school-record 1,601 rushing yards, fourth in the FBS, while scoring 12 touchdowns. Despite the fabulous production, Smith was not selected in last weekend's draft.
Not an explosive back, Smith has just average burst through the hole and isn't particularly elusive. His upright running style gives an easier target for tacklers.
Doesn't add much as a receiver, catching just 13 passes for 75 yards, and isn't creative in the open field. Two knee injuries early in his career raises concerns, contributing to only one year of production.
Smith is a one-cut downhill runner with an aggressive mentality. He showed much better comfort level at running back as his senior season progressed. Runs with great vision and has a natural feel for cutback lanes. He attacks defenders and initiates contact with good pad level.
Smith has good balance to fight for extra yardage. He sets up blocks like a seasoned veteran and finishes every run with strength. Smith has some value on passing downs because of his ability to pick up a blitz. He could develop into a solid check-down option as a receiver because of his north-south running style.
Barring the signing of Sony Michel or another veteran, Abram Smith faces a simple path to make the roster. He’ll compete with 2020 undrafted RB Tony Jones Jr. and special teams ace Dwayne Washington. Smith showcased his own special teams value during his first two years at Baylor.
With a pending suspension to Kamara, New Orleans backup running backs must be more than just special teams contributors. Abram Smith has the between the tackles running style to complement Kamara and Ingram. If he can, he'll add his name to the list of undrafted backs to emerge from obscurity to be productive for the Saints.