The 49ers selected Stanford tight end Kaden Smith with their first of three scheduled picks in the third round.
On Friday, the 49ers selected wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd. The 49ers believe Hurd can play some tight end because of his size. Smith should compete for the team’s primary backup role.
Position: Tight end
Selection: Sixth round (No. 176 overall)
Smith turned pro after a junior season in which he missed his final three games with a foot injury. He was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection and was a Mackey Award finalist after catching 47 passes for 635 yards (13.5 average) and two touchdowns in 10 starts.
“Smith gives good effort as a run blocker but will need to improve his technique and core strength to turn losses into stalemates on the pro level,” analyst Lance Zierlein wrote on NFL.com. “He has the focus and toughness to work over the middle, but he's unlikely to outfox man coverage.”
He is not a great athlete, shown by his 4.92 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. He bench-pressed 225 pounds just 15 times.
The 49ers do not have much depth behind starter George Kittle, so they were looking to improve in this area. Veteran Garrett Celek will not make it easy on Smith to replace him, though.
Smith will compete with Celek and Ross Dwelley, an undrafted rookie from a year ago, for a spot on the 49ers’ 53-man roster. The 49ers will also require him to play on special teams in order to earn a spot in uniform during the regular season.
What they’re saying
“I watch a lot of Stanford football, for some reason. The one thing that always struck me with Kaden, he makes big plays in big moments. A lot of contested catches. Somebody’s all over him, and he has an ability, I think he has a big catch radius. The nice thing about Stanford football, they’re playing traditional football. They’re in-line. He’s up on the line of scrimmage and blocking people. He’d done some of the things we’ll do here” – 49ers GM John Lynch.
“When your speed isn’t great, you’re not going to send him on a bunch of speed routes. There are a lot of good tight ends who run around there (his time). Some guys who got drafted earlier aren’t that much faster than him. Speed is not the issue. Depending on how you want to use him, he’s effective in the passing game. He can be a good blocker for us, too” – 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan on whether Smith’s lack of speed is an issue.
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan discuss #49ers draft pick Kaden Smith, who ran a 4.92 (second-slowest of all TEs at the combine). “Hopefully, he can put some pressure on Kittle,” Shanahan quipped. pic.twitter.com/JX7C5OoEUA— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) April 27, 2019
“I'd describe myself as a well-balanced tight end. I'm still improving my running game and I think I'm making strides with that. But I think my passing game is where I excel right now. I'm great up the seams but I want to get even better at the top of routes with bursting out instead out rather than just turning around and expecting the ball. I need to get separation” – Kaden Smith, describing himself as a player.