As we delve further into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has begun to shift towards the draft. Like we’ve done all offseason, these reports will cover the prospects of the 2015 NFL Draft, placing an emphasis on those who could help the Steelers the most.
Our second prospect breakdown of a wide receiver in this process. We started with the surefire first rounder Amari Cooper and will now flip the script and look at a late round selection – Georgia Tech’s DeAndre Smelter.
#15 DeAndre Smelter/WR Georgia Tech – 6’2 226
– Prototypical size with big hands (11 inches)
– Above average athlete, fluid player
– Exhibits a quick burst off the line, reaches top speed quickly
– Quick to the tuck, accelerates quickly after catch, YAC threat with size/speed
– Good leaper, can high point the football
– Flashes body control, ability to make difficult catches
– Size can make him difficult to be taken down
– Willing blocker, forced to have a nasty streak and shows it on tape
– Tough, will go across middle to make a grab
– Run a more well-rounded route tree than you’d expect a guy from this offense
– Picked game up quickly after making switch to football
– Reputation as a hard-worker
– Dabbled in the return game
– Amazing high school career, multi-sport athlete who dominated everywhere
– Raw route runner, needs to be more refined at the top of his route
– Leaves the ground too often on catches he doesn’t need to jump for
– Limited production in a triple option offense, tough to get a reliable read on him
– Must run through his routes, slows down when he looks back to the football
– Probably lacks long speed
– New to the game, removed from it while focusing solely on baseball, two years of football under his belt in college
– Appears limited to one position in college, the “Z” receiver
– Some serious medical red flags, past and present
– 20 career starts
– 2014: 35 catches, 715 yards 7 TDs
– 2014 All-ACC 2nd Team
– 2013: 21 receptions, 345 yards 4 TDs in first year of football
– Received limited kick and punt return work in 2013
– Played on baseball team exclusively in 2011 and 2012, continued to play in ’13 and ’14, worked as a relief pitcher and outfielder
– Suffered shoulder injury in baseball in 2012, ended his career, reason why he turned to football
– Tore ACL with two games left in 2014
– All-star in football, baseball, and basketball in high school
– Baseball: Threw two no-hitters, two-time captain, three-time all-state
– Basketball: Four-time all-state honors, two -time Georgia Independent Schools Association Player of the Year
– Football: Played QB/RB/WR/S, two-time all-state, holds school records for interceptions in a season
– Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 14th round in 2010, turned them down to go to college
– Dad played basketball for Eastern Illinois
Obviously, there’s quite a story with Smelter. A guy who thought he’d never turn back to football, he found himself staring at the gridiron after his shoulder gave out before his baseball career could ever even get off the ground.
He missed most of the 2012 season attempting to recover and though he did see limited action the next two seasons, his football career overshadowed anything he did on the diamond.
Georgia Tech recruited Smelter as a safety out of high school and once Smelter had nowhere else to go, he turned back to head coach Paul Johnson, looking for an opportunity. He was given it but it was a longshot. In his own words in an ESPN article, Smelter was “number 112 on the roster.”
He earned the reputation as a hard worker who would put in the hours needed to catch up after practice, running routes and working on the JUGS machine. He put himself in position to get an opportunity and once the door opened, he ran with it. To the tune of 12 total touchdowns in two seasons.
He’s a YAC threat who can make people miss in the open field. All starts with that burst as soon as he catches the ball. That “quick to the tuck,” I always refer to with receivers. He turns this Virginia safety inside out en route to a long gain.
That acceleration is really on display on this smoke screen.
Shows toughness to go across the field, absorb the hit from the safety, and hang onto the ball.
Critical catch on 4th and 15 with his team down seven late in the contest.
Above all, to play in the Yellow Jackets’ offense, you better be able to mix it up in the run game. Watching receivers in this offense is tough because passes are so infrequent. Against NC State, Georgia Tech threw the ball just eight times compared to 64 rushes. Limited opportunities.
Smelter is a guy who has caught onto that culture. And he can be straight up nasty. Some big crackback blocks on safeties. He’s even been asked to stalk the corner and work to the safety while the lead blocker replaces and gets a hat on the corner.
Smelter is at the top of the screen in the GIF below.
And a monster crack that opens up a hole to let the Yellow Jackets’ score against Virginia. It’d bring a tear to Hines Ward’s eye.
Smelter has experience running a much more complete route tree than you’d expect. And for a player who is new to the game, it’s a pleasant surprise. It may not be extensive but I’ve seen most of the routes you’ll get in the route tree. The dig, hitch, comeback, slant, post, and of course, the go. It means he’s repping it hard in practice every day.
On the downside, he’s still raw. Can see it at the top of his route. Would really like to see him plant and explode off his outside foot but it looks like his plant is coming from the inside and he’s rolling off. Terrible flat-footed technique with an open gate makes it look like Smelter is running a crisp route but he isn’t.
Though he breaks off some YAC, I don’t like seeing a receiver leaving his feet and stopping his own momentum. In the NFL where every fraction of a second counts, he can’t leave the ground when he’d be able to pluck the ball away from his body. Saw it more than once in limited tape and it’s a slight concern. See it below in a 2013 game against BYU.
For a young man, the injuries are starting to mount. A shoulder injury means less for a receiver than it does a pitcher but it was clearly severe enough to end his career in that sport. Add on a torn ACL that means he probably won’t be ready for training camp and in turn, part of the season.
It wouldn’t be a shock for Smelter to be taken in the late rounds and essentially stashed on injured reserve as a redshirt rookie year as he continues to learn his position. Given what I’ve learned about his work ethic and desire, if there’s a guy who can overcome those long odds, it’s him.
He may be overshadowed because of a taller, healthier counterpart in Darren Waller but Smelter is a strong late round prospect in his own right. If he stays healthy, there is considerable upside. I think he goes a little higher than where most project him.
Projected Round: Late 5th-Early 6th
Games Watched: at BYU (2013), at Virginia Tech, vs Virginia, at NC State
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