Each offseason, we like to run a series of articles here on Niners Nation called "90-in-90." In the post, we take a look at 90 players (or so) on the San Francisco 49ers' 90-man roster throughout the offseason and what we can expect of them the following year. We take a look at their expected impact, whether or not they'll make the roster and things of that nature. For rookies, we're going back and looking at how we did with those posts.
I've linked to the previous articles up above, and today we move on to wide receiver DeAndre Smelter. The 49ers used their fourth round comp pick on Smelter, five months after he tore his ACL. At the time, general manager Trent Baalke said it was likely Smelter would start the season on the NFI list, but he was optimistic Smelter might be able to contribute in his rookie year.
When I wrote up the 90-in-90 breakdown, I spent half of it saying he probably would spend the season the NFI, and half talking about what contribution he would make if healthy. I probably didn't need to hedge my bets. The 49ers activated his practice window late in the season, and then shut him down for the rest of the season.
Baalke got a Smelter question at the NFL Combine, and offered a fairly generic answer:
"He's getting healthy. We opened the window this year to practice, that 21-day window. He did a lot of good things. He's a big, athletic guy that can run. He's got huge hands, a big catch radius. He's a pro pro. He approached it from Day 1 like you want a pro to do it. So we expect good things from him."
The bigger question now is what to expect moving forward. With Anquan Boldin set to hit free agency, there will be a significant opportunity for playing time. Smelter will compete with Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington, Eric Rogers, Jerome Simpson, DeAndrew White, DiAndre Campbell, Dres Anderson, and likely at least one or two more players for significant playing time.
I certainly hope for Smelter to reach the potential suggested in his pre-injury performances, but how much should we even begin to expect at this point? There were comparisons to Boldin, but I am certainly not expecting that kind of production. But I would hope for a solid enough first year on the field. ACL injuries are tough no matter what, but it was a basic ACL tear, as opposed to an injury that involves multiple knee ligaments and/or nerve damage. I would expect some kind of production, but I'm not entirely sure how much specifically.