Many expected the 49ers to address the need at wide receiver within their first few picks of the 2015 NFL Draft. Instead, they waited until late in the fourth round and selected the physical but extremely raw DeAndre Smelter from Georgia Tech.
It shouldn't have come as a surprise, however, as just days before the draft GM Trent Baalke said the 49ers would not be "pressured" into taking a receiver early. In what felt like a "I do what I want!" moment, Ballke continued his trend of taking a risk on a prospect with a recent knee injury.
Smelter tore his ACL in late November against Clemson.
Weight: 226 lbs
Arm Length: 32 5/8"
Did not participate in Combine or Pro Day workouts due to a late November ACL tear.
- Very physical receiver, especially at the top of his routes.
- Will use his wide frame to "box out" defenders.
- Natural ability to pick up yards after the catch.
- Tough, physical runner makes it tough for smaller defensive backs to tackle him.
- Excellent when working back towards the quarterback. His size gives him an excellent catch radius, which will help QBs who are throwing on the run.
- Willing downfield blocker.
- Very raw in technique as he only played two years of college football.
- Durability is a question mark. Former pitcher who initially signed with GT to play baseball. "Retired" after several shoulder injuries. Suffered late season ACL tear that will likely keep him out through most of the 2015 season.
- Wasn't asked to run a complete route tree at Georgia Tech given they're primary a triple option offense.
- Needs to learn to catch the ball with his (giant!) hands rather than letting the ball travel into his body.
- Although a willing blocker, Smelter lacks the technique to be consistent at the next level often making his best blocks on crack-backs vs. unsuspecting defensive backs.
Doing your homework:
Watch Smelter's game from 2014 vs. Virginia below.
You can see other games from Smelter over at DraftBreakdown.com
What others are saying:
- Check out Niners Nation's David Neumann's comprehensive film breakdown of Smelter.
- Matt Maiocco suggested (and is probably right) that Smelter will begin the season on the NFI list meaning he'll miss at least the first six games of the season.
- According to Eric Branch of the SF Chronicle, Smelter's 11" hands are the largest of any receiver at the NFL Combine in the last 10 years.
DeAndre Smelter wasn't drafted to play this year. His selection speaks volumes of what Trent Baalke and Co. think they can get out of the current crop of young receivers (Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton) and new veterans Torrey Smith and Jerome Simpson. Smelter has the body-type of Anquan Boldin and could be groomed as Boldin's potential replacement.
There's a lot that will have to go right for Smelter before we can feel good about that thought, however. First, he must get healthy. The nagging shoulder injuries and now the knee are a concern. Second, he must learn how to be an NFL receiver, which is tough for any rookie let alone one who's only played two years. The good news about his limited experience is that any bad habits he might be developing can be coached out of him before they become permanent. Additionally, his route running and education of a complete route tree will be pivotal in his development.
There's no doubting Smelter's physical ability. He got by in college by willing to out work his opponents and be more physical at the point of attack. That won't be so easy in the NFL and he'll need to be a student of the game to learn how to win in other areas including how to read defenses.
My biggest complaint is nothing with Smelter himself. Using a fourth round pick on a receiver that was likely going to be available in the sixth or even seventh round is tough to swallow. Especially when you consider it's very unlikely he sees the field in 2014. There's upside there but the 49ers have yet to realize much of any reward for the risky draft style they've embodied over the last few years. I guess you could say they're due.