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Last year was only Smelter’s second at Georgia Tech and he did not disappoint. He initially opted to come to Georgia Tech on a baseball scholarship instead of going pro, as he had actually been drafted in the 10th round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Minnesota Twins. This fact alone displays what a talented athlete Smelter is. After sitting out his sophomore season due to a nagging shoulder injury, he tried out for and made the football team in 2013. After not playing football for two seasons, Smelter was third on the Yellow Jackets in receiving, posting 21 catches for 345 yards and four touchdowns. Although these numbers don’t sound like much, Georgia Tech attempted just 203 passes, compared to 713 rushing attempts.
Smelter posted a .315 dominator rating ((% of team receiving yards + % of teams receiving touchdowns)/2) in his first season of organized football in two years – that’s pretty impressive if you ask me. This season, Smelter led the Georgia Tech in all receiving categories, posting 35 catches for 715 yards and seven touchdowns – this means he had a .435 DR his senior year, which places him in the top 98% of all wide receivers since 2005. So, Smelter has elite production for a receiver.
Next, he has ideal measurables for a wide receiver. Standing at 6’2” and weighing 226 pounds, he is a very physical player. He is at his best when the ball is in the air and he can use his size to go get the ball. His body control in impeccable for someone as inexperienced as him. Smelter is also a very capable route runner, although he doesn’t know the entire route tree just yet. Right now, he is proficient at running the slant, comeback/curl, and nine route. Although he didn’t run it often, I believe Smelter is capable of running a fade route well as well. His jump ball skills and body control should allow him to learn the nuances of the fade quickly. It also helps that Smelter has the largest hands in combine history – his hands were measured at 11 inches. 11 inches! He is dangerous in the open field, as he has good vision and a nasty stiff arm. His speed is very good for his size and will allow him to pick up yards after the catch in the NFL. Finally, Smelter is an excellent run blocker because of Georgia Tech’s triple option offense – this will allow Smelter to get on the field early for the 49ers.
Smelter is a very raw player. As mentioned before, after initially committing to Georgia Tech to play baseball, he joined the football team his junior year after a shoulder injury. He is very impressive for only a second year player, but he can use some development. Because Georgia Tech runs the triple option, Smelter spent a large amount of his time blocking. While he is now one of the best run blockers in this class, his knowledge of the route tree is limited. He also tends to use his body to catch the ball, which can lead to drops. But, these concerns aren’t what caused Smelter to go in the fourth round. He tore his ACL late in the season and is expected to take a redshirt year this year with the 49ers.
Smelter has plenty of opportunity, but almost no shot of contributing in year one due to his injury. Besides newly signed Torrey Smith, the 49ers don’t look to have any long term contributors at the position. Anquan Boldin should contribute this year, but is 34 and could be a cap casualty after next season. After those two, no other receiver on the roster is as talented as Smelter.
It’s pretty easy to see the threats to Smelter not ever really reaching his potential. First, he may not be as explosive after his injury. Second, nobody really knows what the 49ers will do at the position next off-season and since Smelter likely won’t play much this year, nothing is guaranteed to him.
Short Term Expectations
Smelter will not contribute in year one for the 49ers due to his torn ACL. In year two, expect for him to step in as the team’s WR2 or WR3 depending on if Anquan Boldin returns or not.
Long Term Expectations
He should be in line to take over for Boldin within the next two years and would make a nice pairing with Torrey Smith for the 49ers. He could eventually develop into the 49ers WR1, with Smith serving as more of a WR2/deep threat in years three and four of Smelter’s career.
I would compare Smelter to a less athletic Josh Gordon. Both have similar builds and nearly identical production in their final college seasons. Both also only played two years of college football and sat out a year before playing in the NFL. Gordon is the more athletic prospect, as he looks faster and more explosive than Smelter on tape. In the open field Smelter and Gordon are both dangerous with the ball in their hands, and both are also good with the ball in the air. Smelter’s floor is probably half of Gordon’s best season, something around 45 receptions, 800 yards and five touchdowns. At his best, Smelter can be a team’s WR1, but a fantasy WR2.
Projected Rookie Draft Round
Smelter is currently going in the late third to early fourth rounds of rookie drafts. I would seize the opportunity to acquire him at that price point, and would even consider him in the mid second if you can afford to wait a year for him to get on the field.
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