Georgia Tech – 6’2, 227lbs
After spending the first 3 years of college as a relief pitcher, Smelter made the switch to football in his junior year after a lingering shoulder issue derailed his big league dreams. 4 years removed from the sport, DeAndre stepped onto the field as a raw, but talented prospect.
After spending less than a year learning a position that generally takes years of refinement, he worked his way up from the bottom of the roster and played in 12 games as a Junior. His stat line was by no means impressive, but he did show some flashes.
Smelter’s Senior season was a large step in the right direction, as he was able to move in front of Darren Waller as the #1 receiving option on the team. He seemed likely on his way to a 1,000 yard season until an ACL tear cut his college career short. His statistics are again by no means eye popping, but keep in mind that Georgia Tech runs a power running option offense that doesn’t generally emphasize the wide receiver position. Notable GT alums Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas both didn’t break 1,000 yards receiving playing in the same offense until their senior years. I’m not by any means saying that Smelter is the next Megatron, but it’s an important statistic to examine nonetheless. It’s also important to note that on the other side of the GT alumni spectrum we have Stephen Hill, so it’s clearly not safe to automatically assume the lead receiver won’t end up as a tremendous bust with hands made of buttered stone and who can’t run a route to save his life.
A big, strong, physical receiver, Smelter has the prototypical size and build you look for in a #1 wide receiver. He’s able to use his size to box out defenders and make catches at the high point. He has a rare combination of power and balance which allows him to not only gain separation, but also makes him difficult to bring down after the catch. He’s a strong and willing blocker. Huge hands to go with terrific hand eye coordination.
I truly believe the most important aspects of Smelter’s game is his intelligence and work ethic. He’s been working hard at refining his craft, and it shows in the technical nuances in his game that you generally see from savvy veterans. He can get leverage on a CB by dropping his hips and taking a hard break into the route. He can bait defenders. He can find the opening in a zone. Look up any report on the kid and one of the first things someone mentions is his terrific work ethic.
The depth chart in SF is wide open. Anquan Boldin is likely gone, leaving Torrey Smith as the only reputable WR left in the corps. Chip Kelley will brings with him an offense that has been utilizing large, athletic WRs in the slot in order to create mismatches (see Jordan Matthews). This doesn’t necessarily mean that this would be the role that Smelter could fill, but it’s pretty clear that he’ll at least have a chance to compete for a starting role.
ACL tears are not nearly as career threatening as they used to be, but the injury is still worrisome. He already had average foot speed so it’s unsure how much, if at all, the injury affects that aspect of his game. Limited experience as a wide receiver, and he didn’t run a large spectrum of routes in college. He has some deep speed, but he’s not a burner. He’s a bit slow out of his breaks at times, and he shows more of a building speed than a sudden burst of quickness.
Dez Bryant / Terrel Owens
Smelter has everything you look for in a stud wide receiver. He has tremendous size, soft hands, intelligence, work ethic, and is fluid in his movement. He’ll have plenty of opportunity to move up the depth chart. It still remains to be seen how much his ACL tear will affect his play, and only has 2 years of real game experience as a wide receiver. His quick progression as a receiver and natural instincts on the field have me hedging my bets on him becoming a very valuable player sooner than later. If he didn’t suffer the injury last year, I think we could easily be discussing him as a potential top 50 dynasty asset.