Saints WR Willie Snead one-ups Michael Thomas with spectacular TD catch

NEW ORLEANS -- Willie Snead stole the spotlight back from Michael Thomas.

Thomas, a rookie receiver for the New Orleans Saints, has created a ton of buzz this summer with a series of terrific catches. But Snead one-upped Thomas on Friday night with the Saints’ play of the preseason -- a spectacular 17-yard touchdown catch while lying on his back in the end zone.

Snead went up high between three defenders to catch the ball, had it popped loose on his way to the ground, then reeled it back in as it fell to his chest.

“I didn’t see the juggle there and the catch in the back of the end zone. I just knew that he came down with it,” said quarterback Drew Brees, who was even more impressed when he saw the replay. “Man, he jumped up, took a big hit and the ball kind of came up and fell right in his lap. Just the level of focus and concentration on his part was pretty phenomenal.”

Snead was a little more humble in his description.

“It was a great catch. I should have caught it the first time. But it was a good catch. It was alright,” Snead said.

Just alright?

“Yeah, it was just alright,” Snead said.

Regardless, the catch served as a reminder that Thomas hasn’t passed up Snead in the Saints’ pecking order behind No. 1 receiver Brandin Cooks just yet -- something that ESPN fantasy analyst Matthew Berry has been stressing all summer.

From my perspective, Thomas might be the more exciting fantasy pick in a shallow league if he’s your fourth or fifth receiver and you’re looking for a home run. But Snead is more of a sure thing if you need someone guaranteed to produce in a deeper league.

Snead gained a lot of trust from Brees and coach Sean Payton last year when he came out of nowhere to emerge as the Saints’ No. 2 receiver, catching 69 passes for 984 yards and three touchdowns.

That trust showed on Friday night when Snead caught four passes for 58 yards in the first half, including the TD on a third-and-14 play and a pivotal 26-yard catch down the middle on third-and-4.

And, oh, by the way, the 23-year-old is still getting better after going undrafted out of Ball State in 2014 and getting cut by both the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers.

“Willie, man, he’s a gritty player. I love the guy because he can do so many different things. He’s just a football player. I’ve got so much trust and confidence in him,” Brees said. “And he’s a guy who we have the ability to do a lot of things with. So having a weapon like that is great for this offense.”

Snead said he hopes to be even more well-rounded this year while having an even better grasp of the offense.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder is often compared to former Saints standout Lance Moore because of his size, versatility and backstory. But Snead made a surprising comparison on Friday night, saying he wants to emulate former tight end Benjamin Watson on those deep catches over the middle.

“I watched Ben Watson do it a whole bunch of times last year,” Snead said. “I just want to take my game to that level and just read defenses a lot better. And today I was able to do that. I saw a couple creases, and me and Drew were on the same page and we were able to connect.

“I’m just feeling a little more comfortable in this offense. I definitely have a lot better timing with Drew.”

As for ceding the spotlight to Thomas this summer, Snead insisted he doesn’t mind one bit.

After all, being underrated worked out pretty well for him last year.

“I’m not worried about it. You know, Mike T was a second-round pick, great player, he’s gonna be a great player for us. And he deserves that kind of attention,” Snead said.

“I don’t like the attention, to be honest. I’d rather just sit back and play football, like I did in college. But with success comes more and more attention, so at the end of the day I’m just trying to worry about myself and try and get better every day to help my team.”