Slot wide receivers who possess short-area quickness tend to find homes in the NFL and South Carolina wide receiver Shi Smith won’t be an exception. He stands 5foot-10, weighs 185 pounds and should find himself drafted to be a team’s backup slot wide receiver with the potential to develop into more. While he isn’t the biggest player on the field, he doesn't shy away from making catches in traffic and often plays bigger than his size.
Smith appeared in 42 games across four seasons for the Gamecocks. He posted a career-high in receptions in 2020 (57) despite playing in only nine games. He finished his college career fourth in receptions at South Carolina, trailing Bryan Edwards, Kenny McKinley and Alshon Jeffery. He averaged over 12 yards per catch over his college career and totaled 13 receiving touchdowns across all four seasons.
Film Review: Strengths and Weaknesses
Despite being on the smaller side for a wide receiver, Smith shows a willingness to make catches in traffic and does exceptionally well on slant routes. He shows off high-level quickness when running routes and often creates separation from defenders with ease. When scouting the box score, it can be easy to come away disappointed with Smith’s production but he was often held back by subpar quarterback play. He has shown the ability to create yards after the catch and can also be used as a runner on jet sweeps and reverses. Smith has a proven track record on kickoff returns, as he has averaged over 21 yards per return throughout his college career.
Adding strength as part of an NFL conditioning program will be paramount for Smith and he has room to grow as a route-runner. If he lands on a team with a proven option ahead of him in the slot and is afforded time to grow, Smith can eventually become a starting-caliber option at slot wide receiver. He is a worthy gamble in the fourth round of rookie drafts for teams looking to add a developmental option at wide receiver.
The Carolina Panthers selected Smith with the 20th pick in the sixth round, the 204th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
There is a path for Smith to find his way on the field for the Panthers but the consistency will not be what fantasy managers are looking for. The offense features DJ Moore, Robby Anderson and also spent a second round selection on Terrace Marshall Jr. The ability Smith has on kick returns can help him stick on the roster for now. If he can develop as a route runner he could find himself more playing time in the future if Robby Anderson does not stick with the Panthers following his current contract. He is a player worth a waive wire add or late round selection in rookie drafts.
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