From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a do-it-all wide receiver that I believe could project well for the recently vacated JuJu Smith-Schuster slot role. This receiver led the Boise State Broncos in receiving yardage for back-to-back years (2020 and 2021), and also produced three consecutive seasons of over 700 receiving yards (2019, 20, 21) after getting accustomed to the college level in his 2018 freshman year. Let’s now look at his measurements:
#2 Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State, (Sr.) – 5117, 196 lbs..
Senior Bowl/NFL Combine
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Khalil Shakir||5117/196||9 1/2″||29″||70 3/8″|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
*Pro Day Number
— Solid size
— Good 4.4 speed. Great short-area (north-south and lateral) acceleration/quickness. Great wiggle. Agile. Great COD. Great balance and body control
— Swiss-Army Knife player. Can line up outside and in the slot. Lined up in the backfield on occasion as well. Took handoffs, even direct snaps. Most likely projects as a versatile slot receiver
— Commonly run routes: gos/fades, hitches/stops, drags/shallow to mid-depth crossers/digs, slants, outs, arrows (flat), hitch and now/bubble/tunnel/etc. screens
— Ran some niche slot routes and moves (pivot route, stair step technique for crossing routes)
— Ran some double moves (stutter-go)
— Good foundation of efficient and effective releases with room to grow
— Knows when-where to show/use what to get open; knows how to manipulate a DB’s leverage and eyes with stems and movements, timing is good. Great body (body overall – chest angle) and head usage, strong cuts. More so intelligent and intentional yet automatic than raw athleticism and impromptu flexibility.
— Solid hand usage and body lean to work through or manage contact/physicality in his route stem (looked very good in instances at the Senior Bowl)
— Utilized as a motion man to influence the defense and/or given designed touches (jet motion touch passes, jet sweeps), motion also aided in creating free releases for him and set up particular routes
— RAC/YAC elite. Fluidly transitions from catch to run while building/without sacrificing momentum rate
— Great open field vision. Great duality of being elusive and tough to bring down. Agile and fights for extra yards
— Can win contested catch and 50-50 jump ball situations. Good ball tracking ability.
— Elite hand-eye coordination, Prodigious concentration. Great body control, awareness is apparent. Had some highlight-reel catches (astonishing leaping plucks). Fearless across the middle
— Go-to target/Chain-mover. Held on to impressive snatches through contact at/near the chains (and came up big on some late downs/in key situations), sometimes took punishment
— High-IQ. Reads coverages, understands situations. Picks the right area and moment to sit down in (open) space, knows when to break off his routes, and always scanning and moving to search for a way to uncover
— Hit-or-miss willing blocker with decent form. When he’s invested he can do his job
— Has some returner and special teams experience
— Small arm length. Catch radius isn’t great (makes crazy catches in spite of this)
— Slower 3-cone time for a slot receiver
— More well-rounded than a stand-out athlete
— Must expand his release packages and route tree (could have been limited due to scheme/QB play – also could’ve shown more in games I didn’t watch). Did not see routes of higher difficulty and essential technical ability in game tape. Doesn’t currently classify as a dynamic route running technician as a result
— DBs can stick/hang with him when they make contact to him in his stem and employ physicality. Didn’t see a ton of work vs. press (knows where to position himself for ball location and has shown the ability to win at the LOS and then stack, or handle/outsmart off coverage)
— Lack of breakaway top-end speed (in route) to pull away from defenders may limit his role outside of the slot
— Given a lot of free releases/caught a lot of open, uncontested catches. Had a lot of easy room to run after the catch at times
— Doesn’t give 100% all the way through his route on occasion
— Had some drops. Was also unable to haul in some tough contested catches (fell/dropped from his hands, unable to secure the football on occasion). Sometimes beaten to the punch at the catch point. Can work to improve catch technique in general
— Looked lost trying to engage sometimes as a blocker, can clean up fundamentals. Want-to is questionably variable, needs to show consistency
— 2021 Stats (12 games): 77 receptions, 1,117 receiving yards, 7 receiving touchdowns. 21 rushing attempts, 130 rushing yards
— 2020 Stats (7 games): 52 receptions, 719 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns. 17 rushing attempts, 148 rushing yards
— 2019 Stats (14 games): 63 receptions, 872 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns. 3 rushing touchdowns
— Career Stats (43 games): 208 receptions, 2,878 receiving yards, 20 receiving touchdowns. 71 rushing attempts, 414 rushing yards, 4 rushing touchdowns
— 14.5 yards per reception in 2021, 7.43 receptions per game in 2020, 102.7 receiving yards per game in 2020
— All-Mountain West First Team in 2020 and 2021
— Biletnikoff Award Watch List (2021)
— Academic All-Mountain West in Fall of 2018, 2019, and 2020
— Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Finalist (2020)
— 92.0 Career PFF Grade
— 93.2 PFF receiving Grade since 2019
— 33.2% Target Rate per Route in 2021, per SIS
— Four-star/three-star recruit out of high school
Khalil Shakir was the most strangely intriguing WR deep dive study I’ve completed so far this year. I began Shakir’s study with the thought of him being an early mid-round option to fill former Steelers WR JuJu Smith Schuster’s vacated slot role, as I have spent my scouting time this year researching potential Z and slot receiver prospects for the Steelers from this year’s draft class (there are even more guys that I have been reading up on and watching, but unfortunately I did not/will not get to profile). What I found with Shakir is that I think his projection is of a high difficulty to assuredly make. His game tape, Senior Bowl tape, and combine results serve as pieces of a rather confusing larger puzzle–one in which I’m not sure that all of the available pieces are able to complete the picture, at least a consistent picture that is.
I found most difficult to evaluate his technical ability. Of course, this is indubitably a major key component to a wide receiver’s success in the NFL. Shakir didn’t show extensive technical ability in his game tape as a totality because of his route tree (could have been limited by his scheme/QB play, as I mentioned), but this is in direct contrast to certain occurrences in-game and at the Senior Bowl, where he did show flashes of great technical ability. The flashes he’s shown suggest that he has the potential to develop in that respect. If an NFL team views his foundation as such, he will surely provide good value in the Round 3 range, where he is mostly projected to be selected at present. I will get into how this line of thought may work for the Steelers in the conclusion.
Shakir’s present-day skillset is a valued commodity for modern-day NFL franchises. He is a chess piece that can wear a number of hats and do so effectively. He projects for a predominantly slot role, and he should also be given manufactured touches in a Deebo Samuel-like capacity (he isn’t as built as Deebo). This is why he will likely be a valued addition to a roster from day one. Get the ball in his hands, worry about his technical development as you go.
Now to the clips.
First set of merged clips has four examples of Shakir’s “body nuance” (what I wrote in my notes) when running routes.
Clip #1 is from 2020, Boise State vs. BYU. Accompanying the first clip in the set is All-22, in the attached clip below. Shakir is out wide at the top of the screen boundary side. He angles his stem inside off the line right away. He does so to avoid the underneath defenders in front of his way, running through the space between two of them. Next, he angles his path toward the outside, also swiveling his head to signal an out-break to the deep boundary safety in an attempt to get him to bite up and toward the sideline (the defense seems to be in Cover 6; a.k.a. Quarter, Quarter, Half – the safety in the boundary has the “half”). The move does indeed result in the DB thinking to shoot forward. So, Shakir is able to engage back vertically and put on his best jets to get past the DB and track the pass back inside. Catch and touchdown. Kind of a Corner-Post look for the route–Shakir made it happen on this play.
Clip #2 is from Boise State’s 2021 game against UCF. In it, Shakir is the point man in the tight bunch trips set at the top of the screen. He uses his hands to work through the contact from the DB in his release, all the while leaning into the DB to lead him vertically so that he can set him up for his eventual break to the outside. This set up leads into a stair step, which is what ultimately allows Shakir to propitiously create as much separation as he does. Shakir snaps square toward the sideline as the defender carries vertically, because that’s where Shakir was sending him while putting weight into him. Shakir’s break could’ve been even more flat, but it’s hard to fully tell from this angle if he worked his way back to the LOS and drifted too much on a rounded path, or not. He finishes the play by mentally prepping for the trailing defender on his back hip, so he catches the pass then ducks the tackle attempt, now able to turn upfield for YAC.
Clip #3 is from his 2021 game vs. UTEP. Shakir is in the slot at the top of the screen boundary side. He and the outside boundary receiver switch release in front of the first down marker. Shakir flips his route upfield, and because the outermost boundary DB followed the outside WR on the in-breaker, Shakir finds himself in unoccupied, blue “smurf turf” down the sideline. His QB sends him a pass that he makes an absurd one-handed catch to bring in, jumping to stab it out of the air.
Clip #4 is from 2021: Boise State at Fresno State. Shakir is in the slot at the top of the screen, working against off coverage. Post-snap, he gives an overt inside stem with his body and head turned to signal an in-breaking route to the DB. This makes the DB react with movement forward and inside. Shakir then plants hard with his left leg and shifts back outside, now having created ample separation to be able to receive a pass before the DB can recover to his location at the sideline.
Moving on, these two united clips depict Shakir’s body control, concentration, and hands in contested situations.
The first clip in this set comes from the 2021 UTEP game. Shakir is #2 in the slot of the trips set at the top of the screen to the field. His pace is slightly above a jog post-snap. He then ups his tempo as he reaches the DB and swipes at the DB’s attempt to engage contact. He leans around the DB, working on trying to stack him. As this is taking place, a throw has been put on Shakir’s back shoulder and is incoming, so Shakir pushes by the DB and splits off of and away from him, turning to position himself for the football. Shakir makes another one-handed catch that he brings into his chest before rolling to the ground. Awareness and reactive body control.
The second clip in this set is from Boise State’s 2021 matchup with Nevada. Boise State’s QB heaves a prayer before being hit, and Khalil Shakir answers that prayer. Guarded by two defenders, Shakir (top of the screen) tracks the pass and creates enough space to make yet another one-handed catch. His hand-eye coordination is off the charts. These types of circus catches weren’t a singular rarity for Shakir in college. I hope that many more are in store for his NFL career, because I can’t wait to see what he pulls off next.
In this set of dual clips, Shakir’s intelligence and awareness stand out.
First, from Boise State vs. BYU in 2020, Shakir is at the bottom of the screen. He gives a few this-way, that-way turn-cuts in his release. What made this play one to write about is the fact that he keeps his eyes up and his feet moving. He travels across the field to where his QB was able to flee, and the QB lofts a target. He could have just as easily given up on his route (after he settled in a spot as seen) or ran it at an inadequate pace, but by reading the situation and keeping himself moving, he made himself available to bail out his QB for the 3rd down reception. This is an underrated trait for any great slot receiver. Mix it with the ability to pick up the gritty yards and be recognized as a “chain mover,” as well as block, and you have yourself a reliable, invaluable slot target.
Second, from Boise State’s 2021 game at Utah State, Shakir is at the top of the screen to the field. He runs a dig route, and again like the last clip, he keeps his feet moving and his eyes up to lead him towards his QB and open space. He signals to the QB that he is open, and he receives a pass. After securing it, he exhibits marvelous short-area burst and heart to evade defenders and try to stay up all the way until he’s crossed the plane. Effort illustrated, even if he didn’t complete his goal; he was close. The two clips represent what I just mentioned at the end of the last stanza.
Next, we have a clip #1 that is similar to the YAC display from the last paragraph. It comes from the 2021 UCF game. Shakir is running a shallow dig/drag-crosser from the top of the screen. After meshing with a teammate, he works his way back toward the LOS and receives a pass. He brings it in with two defenders on top of him, then immediately closing for tackle attempts. Somehow Shakir is able to slip them thanks to his nimbleness and contact balance, which keeps him on his feet. He then cuts to protected space thanks to his blocking teammates, and finishes the play by powering his way through to the end zone.
Clip #2 shows more of his nimble agility and short-area burst. It comes from the UTEP game. Shakir is in the slot at the bottom of the screen. He lines up the defender in front of him post-snap, before breaking inside on a shallow dig/drag-crosser path. He catches the pass then begins to lose yardage heading away from defenders, but he then sinks low on a dime with choppy feet to re-direct course and explode vertically to the first down chains, turning this into a positive play. He spins at the end of the initial contact to pick up as many extra inches as possible. Shakir always tries to gain that little extra amount at the end of his runs.
Now we have some plays exhibiting Shakir’s feats primarily as a ballcarrier. What’s interesting about these two clips is that Shakir is handling direct snaps. He was given the football in a number of creative ways at Boise State. You name it, they probably tried it (not actually obviously). This is why I mentioned a Deebo Samuel-type usage for the NFL level. For better or worse, the NFL is a copycat league. When a franchise employs an auspicious tactic, other teams look to study and implement that tactic for themselves. Finding creative ways to get your explosive playmakers touches, regardless of their “position,” is just another trend in the long list of occurrences. Khalil Shakir is a prospect that NFL teams will likely look at as a guy capable of providing that type of playmaking to their offense.
The first direct snap is from the 2021 Utah St. game. Shakir follows the pulling O-lineman. Standard pickup, nothing crazy. I made note of it because it was the first game I watched in which I saw him taking direct snaps.
The second clip is a direct snap from the Broncos’ game against New Mexico in 2021. They even have a jet motion runner attached on the type of jet-read with a power OL puller. Shakir envisions a path and gets little/skinny to streak through it. Big gain.
Here’s some more instances of Shakir’s ball-carrying prowess.
First is from Boise State-Fresno State, 2021. Shakir takes the jet sweep and knifes behind his blockers for a first down.
Second is from Boise State-Wyoming in 2021. Shakir exhibits his elusiveness on the tunnel screen for another first down. He works his way back into the alley, catching the pass then following his big linemen upfield. He jump-cuts a defender out of his shoes on the way.
Point is: Get Shakir the ball in space and let things happen. He appears to have a feel for play design and how to play off of his teammates, on top of his own athletic ability.
Onto Clip #7. I put these two clips together as situations of Shakir being a go-to target.
First, from the 2020 BYU game, Shakir (bottom of the screen) and a teammate mesh on short crossing routes. Shakir receives the pass and his toughness aids him in holding onto the football, despite taking a shot from behind. He serves as a chain-mover on 4th down.
Second, from the 2021 New Mexico game, Shakir is to the field at the top of the screen. He runs a switch release with the outside receiver post-snap. He slows up as he reaches near the sticks, standing upright. Then he gives a mean stutter-go to the poor DB who bites on the movement, despite there being little time remaining in the seconds before half. Khalil’s QB sends him a strike deep after rolling out.
Finally, combo set #8 depicts one of Shakir’s main “bad” issues that I observed when studying him. This issue is his catch technique.
First of the two clips comes from the Utah State game. Shakir is at the bottom of the screen, he gives a shoulder shake then heads toward the sideline of the end zone. Now I know there is contact and a flag, but look at Shakir’s technique for the catch attempt. He goes up under-armed, with his elbows facing down. He doesn’t extend his arms, and he claps his hands together when trying to grab hold of the football. Bad technique demonstrated.
Second of the two clips is from the game against New Mexico. Shakir is in the slot at the bottom of the screen, field side. Post-snap, he waltzes off the line into a delayed freeze position. Then, he cuts inside on the in-breaker. He attempts to catch the pass with the right side of his chest/shoulder pad in a trap fashion, which results in a drop as it hits his body and ricochets off.
Shakir often lets the football eat him up with poor arm extension, and hand orientation. His lack of arm length paired with instances of bad technique is something that could give him trouble in the NFL. He must focus on cleaning up his technique–concentration on this problem will be key.
Overall, my takeaway from Shakir’s report is that he could be a potential JuJu slot replacement, and I think he would fit the role nicely. That is: if the Steelers plan to get creative with their personnel and further adapt to the times based on some of the flashes they’ve shown under OC Matt Canada, with a focus on putting their playmakers into positions of success (2020 was much more promising than 2021 IMHO; we’ll see what Matt Canada can do with more of a clean slate to work with in 2022). Then, Shakir is a WR from this year’s group of prospects to help do just that. If I were the Steelers, I would look to select Shakir in the third round considering his question marks and related value estimation, but based on his entire body of work both on and off the field, he could be selected before that spot by an NFL team. As I mentioned in the introduction, Shakir has shown flashes of technical potential. So, the Steelers would be able to utilize his day-one, shallow-to-intermediate and ball carrying competence, while developing his overall technical ability and possible deeper route tree into the future span of his career.
He is also regarded as a person of the highest-caliber character off of the field. That and his solid testing numbers and Senior Bowl showing will patently provide his grade a boost, and encourage teams to select him soon. I don’t think Round 2 is out of the question with Shakir, but I personally would be hesitant of selecting him that early depending on best player(s) available.
Shakir reminds me of Jarvis Landry a little bit.
Projection: Mid-Late Day Two
Depot Draft Grade: 7.8 Potential Starter/Good Backup (3rd Round)
Games Watched: vs. BYU (2020), @ UCF (2021), vs. UTEP (2021), @ Utah State (2021), vs. Nevada (2021), @ Fresno State (2021), vs. Wyoming (2021), vs. New Mexico (2021)