49ers

2019 NFL Draft: 49ers snag Stanford tight end Kaden Smith in sixth round

2019 NFL Draft: 49ers snag Stanford tight end Kaden Smith in sixth round

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.

[RELATED: Hurd, Samuel bring speed, power and versatility to the 49ers]

Kaden Smith

Position: Tight end
College: Stanford
Height: 6-5
Weight: 255
Selection: Sixth round (No. 176 overall)

Scouting report

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.

Projected role

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.

“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.

Kyle Shanahan explains why Dante Pettis was not 49ers' punt returner

Kyle Shanahan explains why Dante Pettis was not 49ers' punt returner

INDIANAPOLIS -- No punt returner in the history of college football was as dynamic as Dante Pettis.

But in two seasons since the 49ers traded up to take him in the second round of the 2018 draft, Pettis has gotten only 11 opportunities to return punts.

All of Pettis’ chances came during his rookie season. While his play time at wide receiver dwindled to non-existent over the second half of the recently completed season, he was not even able to make a contribution special teams.

Why? Coach Kyle Shanahan said it was as simple as this: Richie James was better.

“We didn’t think he was our best guy,” Shanahan said of Pettis at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Pettis set the NCAA record with nine punt returns for touchdowns. After Pettis visited the 49ers, the club selected him with the No. 44 overall draft pick. As a rookie, he fumbled twice while averaging just 3.0 yards on nine returns. He also sustained a knee injury on an early season return against the Los Angeles Chargers.

In 2019, James was reliable. He was fifth in the NFL in return yards and did not have a fumble on 33 punt returns while averaging a respectable 8.0 yards per return.

Shanahan said he wants Pettis to put up a battle to compete with James for the job in 2020. He said he has expressed that expectation to Pettis, too.

“He knows that,” Shanahan said. “I think he’s got a chance to be (the punt returner). But we felt more comfortable with Richie. And I hope Dante tries to take that job from him.

“It’s his decision. He’s got to show it. I guess, it comes down to my decision, but he should make it for me.”

Pettis averaged 17.3 yards on 27 receptions and caught five touchdown passes as a rookie. But his production dropped off in his second season, as he caught just 11 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He will be fighting for a spot on the 2020 team.

Shanahan said he wants Pettis to be on a mission during his second offseason to come back as a stronger, better and more-focused player. He said Pettis took a “documented” step back in his second season.

[RELATED49ers' receivers could change in 2020]

Shanahan said second-year players who struggle after promising rookie seasons can go either way.

“They keep being like that, and they usually filter out,” Shanahan said, “or it’s a wakeup call for them and they come back and you see It in April. They treated January to April so much different than the year before, and then it usually changes their career.”

Tyrann Mathieu explains how Chiefs stopped 49ers at end of Super Bowl

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AP

Tyrann Mathieu explains how Chiefs stopped 49ers at end of Super Bowl

The 49ers entered the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV with a 10-point lead over the Kansas City Chiefs, before eventually falling, 31-20. Even as they began squandering their lead, San Francisco had its chances to become champions. 

Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers found themselves in a 24-20 deficit with 2:44 remaining. The eight-play driving ended in four straight incomplete passes and Jimmy G being sacked on fourth down. 

After the Chiefs scored on a two-play drive to increase their lead to 11 points, Kansas City cornerback Kendall Fuller intercepted a Garoppolo pass intended for rookie Deebo Samuel down the field with only 57 seconds remaining. The rest is history. 

"We knew that obviously they were gonna try to get the ball to [George] Kittle," Chiefs defensive back Tyrann Mathieu said Thursday on Fs1's "First Things First." "But most importantly I felt that Deebo Samuel was their guy." 

[RELATED: Five defensive backs 49ers should watch during combine]

Mathieu said he and Fuller actually went over the route where Garoppolo was picked off ... one series prior to their prediction coming true. 

"On the interception that Kendall Fuller caught, we had actually communicated the series before about that same route concept," Mathieu explained. "We just thought that they were gonna put Kittle at No. 3 and try to force him the ball down the middle."

General manager John Lynch reiterated his confidence in Garoppolo on Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine, and coach Kyle Shanahan certainly has gone over every situation from his latest Super Bowl loss this offseason. The two know they can't dwell on the past, though. 

It's time to look ahead and focus on making another run at the Lombardi Trophy.