The San Francisco 49ers spent a fourth round comp pick on wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, five months after he tore his ACL. The assumption right off the bat was that the team would look to place him on the NFI list and potentially use a "medical redshirt" type of option. They have done that before, and it makes sense with Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin holding down the top of the wide receiver depth chart.
After the draft, Trent Baalke was asked about Smelter and the idea of a redshirt year. His response:
"I don't know that 'redshirt' is the right word. He should be ready to go. It all depends what he looks like when he gets in here, what we need to do to get him rehabbed and ready to go. But it's a situation where he may not be ready for training camp, but he may be ready at some point in the immediate future after that. We just got to get our hands on him, see exactly where he's at. But feel confident that the rehab is going very well up to this point. We'll see what we're dealing with when we get our hands on him."
Matt Maiocco recently wrote about the 49ers redshirt picks, and the hopes for many of them. In discussing Smelter, he said, "the 49ers believe he could be activated at some point in camp."
I'm still a little skeptical given the potential for a free year, but at the very least this could be a good sign in his recovery. If he did work his way back at some point during training camp, that adds some intrigue to the competition for roster spots. After Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, the only players that can be viewed as locks, or close to locks, would be Smelter and Bruce Ellington. If Smelter is able to work his way off the NFI list midway through training camp, that is one less wide receiver spot available to a whole host of players.