NFP Prospect Focus: Zach Zenner and DeAndre Smelter
As we get ready for the Combine this week, draft fans are always looking for players who might be "sleepers". Guys that you may not have heard a lot about but have enough talent to help your favorite team. Two such players to keep an eye on over the next few months are running back Zach Zenner from South Dakota State and wide receiver DeAndre Smelter from Georgia Tech.
Zach Zenner - RB - South Dakota State
Zenner is a highly productive running back at an FCS level school. In each of the last three seasons at South Dakota State, Zenner has run for over 2000 yards. His career total was over 6500 yards!
Zenner played in the East-West Game, and while at that game, he measured 5114 - 218, so he is easily big enough to withstand the rigors of the NFL. He is a good athlete with good play speed. I would estimate that he will run in the mid 4.5's. He has very good balance, plays with strength and has the quick feet and loose hips to make defenders miss.
Zenner has good initial quickness and very good vision/instincts. He gets to the hole quickly, but at the same time, he has the patience to find a seam. He does a good job setting up blocks and shows the ability to create when a hole isn't there. He runs under his pads with power and can consistently get yards after contact. While not a consistent pile driver, he has the ability to get the tough yards.
Zenner is a consistent outside runner at the FCS level and can easily turn the corner. Once in the open field, he is more of a one cut north/south type runner. He can make defenders miss, but in short, he tries to find the quickest way to get yards.
As a receiver, he is used mostly on shorter type routes and has very reliable hands. Once the ball is in his hands, he gets up field. He needs work on his pass protection. He is willing but lacks proper technique. He needs to learn to use his hands better and face up.
Overall, Zenner is very talented. While he will need some development time coming from the FCS level of competition, he has the traits to be an eventual starter in the league. He is a very solid mid round pick.
DeAndre Smelter - WR - Georgia Tech
Playing in a triple-option type running offense doesn't really develop a receiver to play in the NFL. Over the last two seasons at Georgia Tech, Smelter has only caught 56 passes. Smelter came to Georgia Tech as a baseball player and has only played college football for two seasons. Needless to say, he is raw.
Though he may be raw, Smelter has excellent size. I would estimate he will measure in the 6024 - 220 range. He is very athletic with good play speed. His play speed is about 4.50. He has smooth movement and changes direction easily.
In the Georgia Tech offense, receivers don't run a very sophisticated route tree, and they seldom make sight adjustments. You mostly see Smelter run deep go routes, slants, hitches and outs. He displays good route quickness and can break down and get in and out of cuts quickly. He has good hands and does a nice job tracking the ball. I like that he is tough, courageous, and will compete for the ball in traffic
After the catch, he shows a burst and is a powerful runner. He isn't overly elusive, but he can make a defender miss. As a blocker, he can be physical.
Overall, Smelter has the physical traits to play but it is going to take some time for him to develop his overall game. It might be his third year before he is ready to be a regular. For that reason I don't see him going before the fourth or fifth round.
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