49ers may try to play Smelter this season

DeAndre Smelter

DeAndre Smelter’s Golden State Warriors hat at Georgia Tech’s pro day may have been an omen for where he was headed. (AP)

Former Georgia Tech wide receiver and San Francisco 49ers draft pick DeAndre Smelter tore his ACL in late November, and didn’t have surgery until December, but San Francisco officials aren’t ruling out the possibility of him playing this season.

“It’s a situation where he may not be ready for training camp, but he may be ready at some point in the immediate future after that,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. “We’ve just got to get our hands on him, see exactly where he’s at, but feel confident that the rehab’s going very well up to this point.”

In a conference call with Bay Area reporters Saturday, Smelter said his rehabilitation had advanced to the point that he can do straight-line running.

Baalke spoke further about Smelter at a news conference following the end of the draft.

“He’s big, he’s physical, he can block, he can run after the catch,” Baalke said. “He’s got huge hands, size-11 (11 inches from thumb tip to pinkie tip) hands, he’s a physical receiver.”

As Smelter was unable to perform pre-draft drills, Baalke was asked what sort of 40-yard dash time he estimated Smelter could run. Baalke estimated in the low-to-mid 4.5 second range.

“He moves pretty well,” Baalke said. “Heck of an athlete.”

Smelter has a potential mentor in Anquan Boldin, like Smelter a physical receiver.

“I know he’s a big, physical receiver that plays the game the way it should be played,” Smelter said. “I’m planning on learning a lot from him.”

Baalke’s wide receiver draft history

Smelter can redeem Baalke’s rather dismal track record for drafting wide receivers. Since Baalke became general manager prior to the 2010 draft, the 49ers have selected one wide receiver in each. The most productive has been 2010 sixth-round pick Kyle Williams, who caught 47 passes in 39 games with nine starts but is perhaps best known for two critical fumbles in the 2011 NFC championship game.

2010 – Kyle Williams, sixth round. Five seasons, 39 games, nine starts, 47 career catches.

2011 – Ronald Johnson, sixth round. Never played an NFL game.

2012 – A.J. Jenkins, first round (30th overall). Three seasons, 28 games, three starts, 17 career catches. Traded after one season.

2013 – Quinton Patton, fourth round. Two seasons, 10 games, no starts, six career catches.

2014 – Bruce Ellington, fourth round. One season, 13 games, no starts, six career catches.

Baalke was player personnel director for the 2008 and 2009 draft, overseeing pro and college scouting, when the 49ers hit on Josh Morgan (sixth round, 2008) and Michael Crabtree (10th overall pick, 2009).

Morgan has played 93 games with 61 starts and 209 catches, a superior career considering his lowly start. Crabtree has played in 79 games, starting all but two. He has made 347 catches, including 85 in 2012.


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