Suffering a torn ACL before declaring for the NFL Draft is probably the worst thing that’s happened to WR DeAndre Smelter. Despite his misfortunes, however, he’s working towards becoming a starter and one of the San Francisco 49ers’ top receivers.
In college, Smelter didn’t have eye-popping statistics, but what was often overlooked was his untapped potential. His build, at 6-2, 226, and 11″ hands could be that of a great wide receiver, and one that the 49ers desperately need as they are trying to jump-start their offense, finishing 31st in average yards per game. In terms of speed, he is very similar to WR Torrey Smith, with a 40-yard dash of 4.4 seconds. Unlike Smith, however, Smelter also has a very soft touch, which could come in handy when receiving bullet passes from whoever is behind center.
Since he used to play baseball, his hand-eye coordination is matched by few players in the league. It also means that he has killer instinct to go along with his toughness and competitiveness. Additionally, his football IQ is high, meaning he will be able to find open spots and catch a few inaccurate passes if need be.
In a fast-paced offense where the running abilities of QB Blaine Gabbert and Kaepernick are dangerous, Smelter becomes a huge threat. He has the speed to burn almost any cornerback that guards him and catch difficult passes. His athleticism, size, and hands are all positives the Niners should be excited about.
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His size will allow him to box out receivers and his lateral speed will enable him to burn them when he makes cuts across the field. He’s the type of receiver to find a way to get open when a play crumbles or fall apart.
Although he hasn’t played a single game, his football IQ is extremely high, so there is a smaller probability that he makes a crucial error against veteran cornerbacks. It is also unlikely that he crumbles in the pressure of a big game.
Since Smelter is a competitor, he will be vocal, and perhaps become an offensive leader for the Niners, especially after they chose not to re-sign WR Anquan Boldin, who led the team in receiving yards for three straight season.
Smelter could be the hero the 49ers need at the offensive end. In the 2016 off-season, the 49ers did not sign any big names. That’s likely because Chip Kelly thinks he has what he needs to be competitive. Smelter will be a crucial piece in the resurrection of the 49ers offense.