One of the lesser publicized storylines of the San Francisco 49ers' training camp practices has the emergence of WR DeAndre Smelter. The team's second-year receiver was limited with a hamstring injury during mandatory minicamp in June, but has been "full go" during training camp as he looks to assert himself as a legitimate receiving threat.
"DeAndre Smelter caught a pass on a wide receiver screen to the left side and showed nice burst after the catch," said Joe Fann of 49ers Media on Monday. "[Garrett] Celek did well to seal off the sideline while Joe Staley pulled to lead the first-year receiver up-field."
Grant Cohn of the Press Democrat said that Smelter played split-end and made three catches during drills on Monday. "First, he beat Jimmie Ward with a quick slant," said Cohn. "Then, he beat Kenneth Acker with a quick slant. And then he caught a tunnel screen pass thrown by Colin Kaepernick. By the end of practice, Smelter was playing with the starters. He seems to be Quinton Patton's primary competition for the starting split-end job."
"[Smelter] looked to be full go on Sunday and came up with a catch from Thad Lewis," reported Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee following Sunday's practice. "At 220-plus pounds, Smelter is by far the most powerful receiver on the squad and he looks it when he's on the field."
The 49ers wide receivers group recently ranked second-to-last by Pro Football Focus. The emergence of someone like Smelter could do a lot to bolster what could be a young but underrated group.
There was some speculation if Smelter would even emerge from deep within the 49ers' depth chart. Most figured that the competition for the wide receiver spot across from Torrey Smith would come down to Patton, Bruce Ellington, and perhaps former CFL hopeful Eric Rogers. If Smelter is starting to make some noise during practices, it could be a huge benefit for the 49ers offense – even if he does not end up at the X-spot.
After spending his rookie season recovering from surgery to repair his torn ACL, Smelter was an unknown commodity for the 49ers. Early on, he drew comparisons to Anquan Boldin, who is now with the Detroit Lions. Smelter's 11-inch hands were the largest of his draft class and he has the size to be a physical threat at receiver for the team. He was a fourth round selection out of Georgia Tech in 2015.
In 2014, he had 35 receptions for 715 yards and seven touchdowns through 10 games at Georgia Tech. That's an average of over 20 yards-per-catch.