After last season’s draft blunder, when the Green Bay Packers managed to come away without a single wideout from an impressive receiver class, the need for a true WR2 to complement Davante Adams is more evident than ever. General manager Brian Gutenkunst would be justified in selecting a wideout in the first round, but he could address more pressing needs with the 29th-overall pick.
The departure of All-Pro center Corey Linsley to the Los Angeles Chargers, plus the cap casualty of middle linebacker Christian Kirksey, have left the Green and Gold with a void in the middle of both their offensive and defensive lines. And corner is still a need even though they brought back Kevin King on a one-year deal.
I am not trying to downplay the need for a capable second wideout. But Devin Funchess is still under contract, and with the depth of this wideout class, the Packers can find an impact receiver in the middle of the draft.
South Carolina’s Shi Smith could provide tremendous value on Day 3.
With a player like Smith, you have to look beyond the box score. In his four seasons at South Carolina, he never eclipsed 700 yards. The closest he got was in his sophomore season when he reached 673 yards. But he was behind Deebo Samuels and Bryan Edwards on the depth chart for three years, which limited his production. When it was finally his turn to be the No. 1 wideout, he dealt with instability at both quarterback and head coach.
With head coach Will Muschamp relieved of coaching duties halfway through the season and the overall struggles of starting quarterback Collin Hill, Smith was set up for failure. Yet despite all the circumstances that plagued his senior season, he managed to produce some highlight-reel grabs.
There are plenty of things to like from the 22-year-old pass-catcher from Union, S.C.
His ability to accelerate to beat opposing corners, for instance. Smith reportedly ran somewhere between a 4.43 and a 4.47 40-yard dash during his pro day. But watch his tape. Smith seems to play even faster as he accelerates into open space, racking up yards after the catch.
While Smith’s smaller size at 5’10” might be a perceived weakness, he can overcome his diminutive stature by out-jumping opposing defensive backs and making tough, contested grabs.
Despite weighing 190 lbs, Smith is insanely tough and fearless when running over the middle of the field. He absorbs hits and keeps churning forward for more yards. He will need to bulk up to be an impact player in the NFL, but his fearless mindset can separate him from the rest of the mid-round wideouts in this class.
Smith is also a much better route-runner than most people think. While they will need some refinement at the next level, he has already showcased his ability to shake opposing corners in one-on-one matchups during the Senior Bowl, where he put on an absolute clinic.
He’s an option the Packers have to consider in the middle of the draft. Pair him with Funchess, and he has the raw ability to elevate the Green and Gold’s receiving core and take pressure off Adams.