How Tommy Stevens Will Fit into the Saints Offense
The New Orleans Saints traded a 2021 6th round draft choice to the Houston Texans this spring to move back into the 7th round of this past spring's draft. They used that choice, the 240th overall selection, to draft Mississippi State QB Tommy Stevens. In the process they stole Stevens away from the Carolina Panthers and Stevens’ former offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who were reportedly interested in signing him as an undrafted free agent.
Several people instantly compared Stevens to the Saints do-it-all utility man Taysom Hill, who like Stevens was a college quarterback. Like Hill, Stevens is a big (6’5” 235-Lbs) player with excellent athletic ability and a powerful running style. Stevens also has experience playing other positions, filling in at tight end, wide receiver, and running back while at Penn State before transferring to Mississippi State. Stevens said upon signing with New Orleans that Taysom Hill was a player he admired and “modeled his game after”. The 23-Yr old rookie was initially assigned the Number 1 and listed as the 4th QB on the Saints depth chart. That all changed on Wednesday when the team reported for practice. Stevens was wearing the Number 85, and the team had changed his roster designation to TE.
The best chance for Tommy Stevens to earn a roster spot will be at a position other than quarterback. He completed 24 of 41 passes (58.5%) with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in three seasons as a reserve QB behind Trace McSorley at Penn State. Following McSorley's graduation in 2018, Stevens would transfer to Mississippi State after failing to win the Nittany Lions starting job in spring practice. He started nine games for the Bulldogs in 2019, completing 60% of his throws for 1,155 yards with 11 touchdown passes and 5 interceptions. As a passer, Stevens has a powerful arm but has failed to display consistent accuracy and would need a lot of work with his footwork and mechanics.
To get on the field more often at Penn State, Stevens went to his coaches and volunteered for special team duties and other offensive positions. A powerful runner who has good elusiveness in the open field, he rushed for 506 yards and 8 touchdowns while averaging 6.7 yards per carry during his three years with the Nittany Lions. Stevens was used sparingly as a receiver with Penn State, though he caught 12 passes for 60 yards and 2 touchdowns during the 2017 season. After moving back to QB following his transfer to Mississippi State, Stevens showed the same powerful running style, picking up 381 yards on the ground and scoring 4 touchdowns.
Stevens will now have an opportunity to compete for a roster spot at TE for New Orleans, a position now thinner after the decisions of Cole Wick and Jason Vander Laan to opt-out of the 2020 season. He still has a daunting task in front of him. The Saints have a Pro Bowler in Jared Cook, an established veteran in Josh Hill, and a promising rookie in 3rd round pick Adam Trautman at the TE position already, not to mention the versatile Taysom Hill.
Stevens still has the opportunity to grab the attention of his coaches if he can shine as a pass catcher and blocker to go along with his athleticism and versatility. New Orleans coach Sean Payton has used Taysom Hill wonderfully over the last three years, continuing to increase his role within the offense. Payton has said that the fact that both Hill and Stevens have played quarterback has helped them better understand different offensive positions and gives them a better grasp of an offense as a whole.
Taysom Hill has taken an unlikely path to the NFL but has embraced his versatile responsibilities and worked hard to make himself better in those roles. Tommy Stevens has shown us that same willingness to do whatever it takes to get on the field in college. Stevens now has his NFL opportunity with a coaching staff that uses versatility better than any other, and it appears as if his first chance will be to showcase his athletic talents at tight end.