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A closer look at Steve Smith

Wide receiver Steve Smith, selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Giants, has been receiving a lot of praise since the selection.

Excerpted below is a pre-draft feature on Smith that appeared on Sports Blogs's Nation's San Francisco 49ers blog, Niners Nation. It was actually written by a reader of the site who attends USC and follows the Trojans.

Steve comes from the land of sunshine and smog pollution, the city of angels - a place I confidently called home for the last four years. While he amassed gaudy numbers in his senior season, many people question his heart and his ability to be a playmaker. The entirety of his collegiate career, he was overshadowed: at first, by the Man-Child Mike Williams. Once Mike left USC, Dwayne Jarrett was pedigreed to be the star wideout, once again leaving Steve to be the team's #2 receiver.

Coming out of high school, Smith was the 6th best wide receiver prospect in the nation. Known for being able to play both WR and CB, he was seen as a burner with great skills. Upon arriving at USC, he proved himself to be valuable in his freshman season and played a very solid 4 years for the Trojans. He struggled with some injuries his Junior season, but was healthy for the rest of the time he played in the cardinal and gold.

Strengths

Like most other offensive players that come out of USC, Smith has seen extensive time in an NFL-style/quality offense. Over his four years there, he became known as the go-to and possession receiver, as DJ occasionally got a case of the dropsies. Smith always ran very precise routes and found ways to get himself open, and he caught everything thrown at him. He's a good blocking receiver, which would fit in quite well with what Nolan is looking for.

Smith also plays very smart. He protects the ball well after catches, and knows how to get around the disadvantages of being small. He's calm, experienced and confident, and could be used on special teams in a pinch.

Weaknesses

Smith is only 5-foot-11, 175 pounds - at under six feet, his height is a liability against even some of the regular sized corners in the NFL. While his elusiveness works to his advantage, this clearly makes him a possession receiver as he cannot fight for jump balls. Also, given his small frame, some scouts are surprised at his lack of speed - they say he plays slow, and depending on who you ask, some say he can separate and some cannot. This very well might end up being a case of the stopwatch vs. the film, where the clock says he can't do it but the film says he can. I'm biased, but I'll trust what I saw on the field.

Another knock on Smith is that he never served as the No. 1 receiver at USC and thus never played against the top corners of the Pac10. While this is somewhat true, Smith had to take on the role of primary receiver this past season for one game while DJ was out. In this game (against Washington State), Smith had 11 catches for 186 yards and 2 td's - sounds like to me he knows how to play as a primary receiver.

But yes, he's small, and he's not that quick. But wasn't that said about a certain No. 80 before?

NFL Projection

Smith has the potential to be a very good #3, a good #2 or a good slot receiver in the right system.