DeAndre Smelter only had two seasons to show Georgia Tech fans what he was made of, and he took every advantage of it. After moving to football from baseball because of a bum shoulder, Smelter found his way straight into playing time in his junior season of eligibility. All of the facets of playing the receiver position came much easier to Smelter than most would have guessed, and he was producing right away.
He capped off his impressive first campaign with a two touchdown performance against uga. The hype of Smelter's ability began to grown heading into 2014, and he didn't disappoint at all stringing together some incredible performances along with some highlight reel plays.
He opened the season against Wofford with a five-catch, 132 yard performance including a 71-yard catch and run for a touchdown that showed his blazing speed and freakish athleticism. He then added two more 100-yard receiving games back-to-back against Virginia Tech and Georgia Southern. His crisp routes in the fourth quarter helped him and Justin Thomas connect on two crucial completions to lead the game-winning drive against VT. He added one more 100-yard game later in the season against Virginia.
He unfortunately suffered a torn ACL in the regular season finale against uga and was sidelined for the year. His numbers and tape don't lie though, and Smelter has still received next-level interest despite being hurt all offseason.
Pro Day Results
Smelter was unable to participate in any drills in the offseason due to the injury. He was around to talk to scouts - which he saw plenty of - and talk to reporters. His measurements have been calculated as 6'2", 226 lbs, 32.5" arm length and 11" inch hands. Those are all extremely impressive numbers. His hands are huge and that's shown as a big plus for how dependable his catching has been. With Smelter not being able to be active in drills and routes, his measurables have certainly helped him out.
For the film study, I'll just be posting a general highlight video of Smelter's big plays while at Georgia Tech.
Smelter possesses very above-average size from every aspect. His height combined with long arms and a very solid body allow him to hold a comparable advantage over defensive backs. The way he uses that size is even more impressive. He uses his body well to beat corners off of the line as well as boxing out defensive backs on comeback routes. He uses his length to get up in the air and be at a higher point than any defensive back. He doesn't have Waller's length, but he has a much more solid frame and has proven to take every advantage of his size.
Playing the ball in the air
Smelter caught numerous balls this year while showcasing his ability to catch the ball at its highest point. Combining that with the size allows him to always have an advantage over any defensive back. His leaping ability is good and he controls his body better in the air than almost any receiver I've seen at the college level. This allows the QB to develop a trust in a WR when he knows he can go make a play on the ball even if it's not right on target.
Running after catch
What he especially showed in plays like his one against Wofford or against UNC is his ability to make a play after the catch. He has very good ball carrier vision and a strong stiff arm. Combining that with plus sprint speed and plenty of moves creates a very tough guy to bring down after the catch. Smelter can be very effective in the screen game and even on the occasional end-around.
Receivers from Tech don't typically have this strength anymore when coming out of college due to a smaller route tree, but Smelter did it all last season. He ran one of the most diverse route trees I've seen any WR run during the option attack, and he did it wonderfully. He's good at finding and seemed to be given plenty of option routes on pass plays where he made the right read. He also did a wonderful job at coming back to the QB when there was a scramble. Smelter was found more often than not on a comeback on the right side of the field. His deep play threat makes the DB respect him enough to stay off and allow that comeback.
I can go on with many of the attributes that are a strength of Smelter's because he has plenty of them. He's a high IQ guy who has showed he's going to excel at anything he does -- an utmost professional.
This is a short list. It really is. Among the players heading to the draft from Tech, it's easy to say Smelter has the fewest weaknesses among any of them.
This is only here due to the severity of an ACL injury. As far as I know, he's never been a guy to repeatedly get nagging injuries that could be a long-term problem. If the surgery went well and Smelter doesn't worry about it, he should come back just as strong. There are always the worries though that a player can override that injury and cause other problems afterwards. Here's to hoping that will never be an issue for him.
This is something that could have no impact on Smelter's career at all. It's hard to determine how big of a deal experience is once you've been in the game for a few years, but at the very least, Smelter didn't get the three to five years of college coaching and experience that most guys get before heading into the NFL. As long as he's professional and learns quickly like he's done in the past, he shouldn't have a problem with it.
The one thing that seems noticeable on the field that's a weakness for Smelter is foot quickness. It's not bad, but it seems to be a bit below average for his size. If he can get it up and be able to get into the next gear quicker, Smelter would be much more effective after the catch and in his routes.
This is hard to say due to Smelter not doing any particular workouts and not being able to see specified interests. Any team in the NFL could use a solid receiver. My guess is a team will jump on him that doesn't necessarily need WR help but could use the depth and would benefit in Smelter turns out as a gem. My list is:
- Green Bay Packers - Plenty of talent at receiver but could use a go-to #4 guy with as many WR sets that they run. Would be a late grab.
- New Orleans Saints - A lot of catches from last season gone with Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills' departures. Could step right into substantial playing time once healthy.
- St. Louis Rams - Team full of mediocre receivers. Smelter could work very well here and get experience early.
- San Diego Chargers - A veteran QB who could use a playmaker after losing the guys he's had in the past. Antonio Gates isn't going to get it done alone.
- Atlanta Falcons - Plenty of question marks at receiver past Julio Jones. Roddy White can't stay healthy, and nobody is established past him. Everyone loves a hometown guy.
I only wish what could've been had Smelter been able to finish out the season strong and impressed at the combine. He's a legitimate stud WR coming out of college that I've compared to a more polished Demariyus Thomas at this point in their careers. Looking at it now, that's a high ceiling, but it's something that Smelter could accomplish. He'll need to get back to where he was physically and learn the pro game quickly, but Smelter has the chance to continue the dominance from Georgia Tech's wide receivers in the NFL.
Prediction: fifth round. There's no way he falls out of the draft. It seems more likely that he'll go in the sixth or seventh, but I truly believe someone will reach out in the fifth round and take a chance on what they saw from game film.