Scouting Report: Could Shi Smith Be a Mid-Round Gem?

The Senior Bowl star, Shi Smith, has played himself right onto the Patriots' radar.
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Measurables:

Height: 5-foot-10 (1.778m)

Weight: 186 lbs (84.37kg)

Age: 22

Strengths:

- An extremely sudden receiver, with great quickness. Have to admire how light on his feet he is. 

- He displays fluid hips and strong explosiveness. An athlete for certain. 

- Strong receiver at the catch point. Strong hands, avoids body catches, extends his arms out, and can grab balls in tight windows near defenders grasping for it. 

- Not very big, yet, just like he can snag those balls in tight windows, he can take the big hits over the middle, and he can win 50-50 balls.

- He was consistently creating separation in Senior Bowl practices, and in-game during the season as well. Whether it be creating separation in tight man coverage using his light feet and moves during his release and top of the route, or his awareness in finding the soft spots in zone coverage. 

- Really, really smooth, refined, and nuanced as a route-runner. 

Weaknesses:

- If we want to nitpick, he still has a tiny bit of wasted movement from his release, and he had some small concentration issues when hauling the ball in at times. However, these two traits shouldn't be very worrysome.

- Not someone who is likely going to excite you in run blocking.

- Going back to his release, he might be a guy who NFL corners get handsy with, which could disrupt some of his potential production.

- Limited size-wise, and while he got away with it at the college level, that is still yet to be seen at the pro level. 

- Back to nitpicking, on his college tape he still left some to be desired in terms of YAC, and in terms of some consistency. 

Summary and Archetype:

Shi Smith might just be a diamond in the rough. Smith is a player from South Carolina who saw number one target volume in college. Despite this, he is sitting below some other receivers in mock drafts, in a densely populated, very talent receiving class. 

Smith found a way in his final season to record the most catches he ever has in a season (57), catching 14 more balls than his previous mark, and doing it in the least amount of games he's played in a season. By watching both his film and glancing at his stats, one can tell that he made steady improvements in each season he played. Although, even with more volume, his yards per catch bottomed out to about 11 over the last two seasons.

Smith should be trending higher on draft boards, and maybe he will after a great week at the Senior Bowl. There, Smith had an opportunity to prove that he was slightly hemmed down by poor quarterback play, along with some playcall/design issues from his team. Smith in another system could have likely made an even bigger name for himself. 

The 5-foot-10 senior receiver can give a pro team everything they would ask for out of a higher tier slot pass catcher. A true possession receiver in the slot that would make things easy on any quarterback to move the ball down the field. 

Fit with the Patriots:

Smith was a guy who I initially left off my article for Senior Bowl players to watch. However, once he started showing off in the practices leading up to the game, I would later realize that he was a guy that needed to be talked about more. 

READ MORE: Who Patriots Might Be Watching in Senior Bowl

His week in the Senior Bowl helped show me that Smith could be a great selection for New England, especially with Julian Edelman's window on his playing career likely coming to a close. While this is not comparing Smith to Edelman, this is saying that he has the tools to be the next great slot receiver for the Patriots. 

With New England receivers struggling to find adequate separation for their quarterbacks over the last two seasons, Smith might just be the right medicine to cure the Patriots' struggles against press man coverage. 

He is certainly a player who fits into their system, and can run all their route concepts. Smith arguably has all the tools New England has been desperately searching for in a receiver. Smith with Jakobi Meyers and Edelman in 2021 would provide some great promise for helping the Patriots move the ball downfield and put together long sustainable drives. 

Now, for clarification, when I say he's everything they've been looking for, that does not mean that this sleeper (likely third/fourth-rounder) is the undeniable fix to the entire receiving corps as a whole. It's still going to require more bodies to get there. However, Smith, along with a newly signed or acquired veteran target that could play an outside, number one receiver role, together would go a long way towards salvation.