49ers

Kaden Smith ready to learn from, and eventually compete with George Kittle

Kaden Smith ready to learn from, and eventually compete with George Kittle

Kaden Smith’s stock as a draft prospect dropped at the NFL Scouting Combine when he ran the second-slowest 40 time among all tight ends.

The 49ers ended his fall on the third day of the NFL draft when they selected Smith with the first of their three sixth-round draft picks.

Shortly thereafter, 49ers tight end George Kittle, who set the NFL single-season record for tight ends last season with 1,377 receiving yards, reached out to welcome Smith to the organization.

“Right after I got drafted, he texted me: ‘Good luck. He’s happy I’m on the team,’” Smith said of Kittle. “He’s pumped up.”

Smith is plenty excited, too.

Smith played college football just up the road at Stanford. After having contact with the 49ers just once during the pre-draft process and not attending the team’s local pro day in Santa Clara, the 49ers came out of nowhere to select him with the No. 176 overall pick.

The 49ers were determined to add depth behind Kittle, and Smith ended up being the guy they tabbed to give coach Kyle Shanahan more options for two-tight end formations.

“I saw what he did last year, and I’m really excited to come in and learn under him, eventually fight for his spot,” Smith said of Kittle. “I’m not really sure what my role is, yet. I’m just going to go play football, enjoy it, have fun and keep learning.”

Smith (6-foot-5, 248 pounds) declared for the draft after a two-year career at Stanford in which he caught 70 passes for 1,049 yards and seven touchdowns. He missed the final three games of last season with a foot injury and ran a disappointing time of 4.92 in the 40-yard dash.

“I ran at the combine and ended up not running at pro day,” Smith said. “I was just ready to get back to football and figured a team would draft me, based on my skills and I was ready to go.”

Shanahan said Smith’s speed – or lack thereof – is not much of a concern for him. General manager John Lynch, who played his college football at Stanford, watched Smith routinely come up with big catches as part of Stanford's NFL-style offense.

“When your speed isn't great, I'm not going to send him on a bunch of speed routes,” Shanahan said. “But there’s a lot of good tight ends who run around there. Some guys who got drafted early aren't that much faster than him. Speed's not the issue depending on how you want to use him. He's effective in the pass game and we think he could be a good blocker for us, too.”

Said Smith, “I get open. At Stanford through nine games, I had 47 catches, so separation isn’t really a problem for me. And blocking, too. Understanding staying low and going against some bigger guys and doing well against them.”

[RELATED: Davis waits on reinstatement to revive football career]

Seven-year veteran Garrett Celek was the 49ers’ top backup tight end last season. But his production dropped, as he caught just five passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games.

Ross Dwelley, who appeared in 11 games last season as an undrafted rookie, and Tyree Mayfield, an undrafted rookie from Wyoming, are the only other tight ends on the 49ers’ 90-man roster.

49ers' Kyle Shanahan discusses 'unacceptable' Myles Garrett incident

garrettfight2usa.jpg
USATSI

49ers' Kyle Shanahan discusses 'unacceptable' Myles Garrett incident

If you’ve been avoiding the internet for the past 12 hours, you might have missed one of the most controversial incidents of the NFL season.

In Thursday night’s game between the Browns and Steelers, a physical game ended in an ugly fashion when, after a hit on Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett responded to Rudolph charging the 6-foot-4, 271-pound lineman by swinging and hitting Rudolph in the head with his own helmet.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan hopes his team can learn from this situation, which has resulted in Garrett being suspended indefinitely through at least the rest of the season and playoffs if Cleveland qualifies.

"The main thing is you cannot lose your cool,” Shanahan said on KNBR’s “Murph and Mac” show. “It's a very physical game and stuff. To play in the physicality like that, guys go to some dark places, but you have to control that, and obviously, he didn't there, and it looked like he had no idea where he was.

"That's going to cost their team. They've got a really easy schedule going forward. He's one of the best players in this league. That was one of the complete, most unacceptable things that I've ever seen on tape."

Several 49ers players reacted on social media to the fracas at the end of Thursday night’s game, including a strong take from fullback Kyle Juszcyzk.

"Yeah, I think that bothered a lot of players," Shanahan said. "I mean, this is a very dangerous game, and it's dangerous enough just playing in the rules. For someone to do that, that's completely unacceptable, and I think anybody who was watching that, player, fan, anybody, I'd be very surprised if they don't feel that exact same way."

[RELATED: Why Myles Garrett's suspension is good news for Raiders]

I highly doubt we'll be seeing helmet swinging from any NFL players going forward, but especially not anyone wearing a 49ers uniform.

Fred Warner does it all for 49ers' defense in Kwon Alexander's absence

warnerusa.jpg
USATSI

Fred Warner does it all for 49ers' defense in Kwon Alexander's absence

SANTA CLARA – Not only did the 49ers lose linebacker Kwon Alexander to a season-ending injury in Week 9, but linebacker Fred Warner did not play well that night against the Arizona Cardinals.

Warner responded Monday night with what 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh described as the best game of his two-year NFL career.

“I thought he was just on it,” Saleh said. “He played violent.”

Warner recorded 10 tackles, including the first two sacks of his career, and forced a fumble that DeForest Buckner scooped up and returned for a touchdown. He became the first player with that stat line since Chicago defensive lineman Akiem Hicks on Dec. 4, 2016.

Warner did it all for the 49ers’ defense in the club’s 27-24 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night at Levi's Stadium while taking on more responsibility with rookie Dre Greenlaw taking over for Alexander.

“That was really cool to watch, just him pick up the slack that we lost from Kwon and play with that much passion,” 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa said. “It’s fun to have him on the field.

“It was usually him calling the plays and Kwon being the energy guy. And now it’s him doing both. He calls the play. He gets us lined up. And he brings the energy, so he’s really important.”

Warner displayed his ability to rush the passer, which is a new look for the 49ers’ defense. Saleh said he believes the threat of Warner coming on blitzes will prove beneficial to the team’s defensive linemen.

“The most important thing for us is, by them having to account for him, especially using a lineman, is now you’ve got your four D-linemen in one-on-one situations, our four horses,” Saleh said. “If they’re in one-on-one situations, you’re pretty confident that one of them is going to win. They’ve got to bring in extra people to protect and now it’s are we blitzing or are we rushing four?

“It’s just a cat-and-mouse game. When you have to account for him, you’re freeing up your four horses in the one-on-one situations.”

[RELATED: Lynch frustrated by 49ers' receivers drops but won't panic]

Warner and the 49ers return to action against the Cardinals on Sunday at Levi's Stadium. The 49ers' defense had its worst game on Oct. 31 in a 28-25 victory over Arizona, a game in which Warner had two missed tackles. Saleh said he expects more performances from Warner like the one he had against the Seahawks.

"He had a very good game and now it goes back to consistency being the truest measure of performance. He’s got to go stack it up and do it again," Saleh said.