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10 possible Pats: Harrison Smith

In the days leading up to the NFL draft, ESPNBoston.com will identify players who project as solid fits for the Patriots:

Player: Harrison Smith

School: Notre Dame

Position: Safety

Listed height/weight:6-foot-1 7/8, 213 pounds

Scouts Inc. rank: 2nd

Draft projection: Late first or second round

Why he’s on our list: Safety was a trouble spot for the Patriots last season, and it figures to be a priority in the draft. Smith, who has ideal NFL size, has played a lot of football at a high level and can do a number of things from the position (including some linebacker-type assignments). A team captain who hasn’t had any major injuries over his career, he projects as a prospect who should start quickly and is one of the safer picks in the draft.

Recommended link: Smith is featured on NFL Network's "Path to the Draft" program (video link here).

Key stat: Totaled 50 games played, with 41 starts, in his college career.

Workout stat: Tested well at the combine with a 4.12 short shuttle and 6.63 three-cone.

Steve Muench of Scouts Inc.: “Smith is a three-year starter who rarely gets caught out of position but he’s more than just a fundamentally sound football player. His 4.57 40-time at the Combine is slightly above average and he accounts for more ground in coverage than prospects with the same kind of speed. He does so because of his ability to diagnose routes better than most, and his long arms (32.5-inches) amplify his range. Although he’s not quite agile or explosive enough to stay with a lot of NFL slot receivers in man coverage, he’s capable of staying with tight ends. In terms of his potential to develop into a playmaker, his failure to intercept a pass in three of his four seasons at Notre Dame is admittedly somewhat concerning. On the other hand, he’s shown that he’s capable by intercepting seven passes in 2010 and he has the tools, in addition to his long arms, to get even better in this area. Smith has big hands (10.2-inches) and he can elevate, recording a 34-inch vertical in Indianapolis. Finally, he’s an excellent run defender who takes sound pursuit angles, tackles well and shown than he can hold his own when moved into the box, as he started nine games at linebacker in 2009.”