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Could Kaden Smith Be A Replacement For Vernon Davis?

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Hogs Haven takes a look at 2019 NFL Draft prospects that could contribute to the Redskins

Pac 12 Championship - Stanford v USC Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Kaden Smith, TE
School: Stanford | Conference: PAC-12
Experience: RS-Sophomore | Age: 21
Height / Weight: 6-5 / 253 lbs
Projected Draft Status: Round 2-3
NFL Comparison: Hunter Henry

College Statistics

Smith eclipsed 77 yards receiving in six of his nine games in 2018, but a nagging foot injury kept him out of his last three games, including the Hyundai Sun Bowl.

Player Overview

Listed as a junior, Smith is actually a red-shirt sophomore, who came to “The Farm” as the nation’s #2 HS TE prospect (Scout.com). He chose David Shaw’s program over Alabama, but Smith had to redshirt as a true freshman after suffering an injury in the spring of his senior year of HS.

Listed at 6’5/259 (and 6’6/242 by other sources), Smith is more of a flex than an inline, but can do both. Smith has had to share targets with other tight ends, including Colby Parkinson, the nation’s top TE recruit in 2017.

Is Stanford “Tight End U”?

The tight end position has been highly valued over the last two drafts with eight prospects drafted in the top 50 picks between 2017 and 2018. Expect that trend to continue in 2019.

With apologies to Iowa and Notre Dame fans, no team in the country does a better job of recruiting then developing tight ends than Stanford, who has sent Coby Fleener (2012), Zach Ertz (2013), Levine Toilolo (2013), Ryan Hewitt (2014), Austin Hooper (2016), and Dalton Shultz (2018) to the pros.

In the era of spread offenses, many college teams don’t even have a tight end. Few schools treasure the position the way Stanford does in head coach, David Shaw’s pro-style offense.

Stanford tight ends coach Morgan Turner said. “We’re one foot in the O-line room, one foot in the receiver room. You have to know what the O-line’s doing on all their calls. We have to work with the tackles, but we also have to be able to split out and play any of the receiver positions.”

For more information, read At Tight End U., Stanford unit in position to excel.

Athletic Traits

For pure draft geeks, I think Smith’s best comp might be Jake Butt, who came from the same Harbaugh/Shaw system. However, injuries have derailed his career to the point some might ask WHO? So, I went with Hunter Henry. They share a similar build and like Smith at Stanford, Henry came from a run-heavy offense at Arkansas. I think most of Smith’s athletic testing numbers will be close to Henry, who is a good, but not elite athlete for the position. Each are functional blockers, smooth route runners, and can pluck the ball from the air.

The Film

Here is his highlight tape:

Here is a film room session with Matt Waldman:

See more of his work here.

Strengths

  • Strong hands and the toughness to make a living in the middle of the field as a chain-moving safety blanket.
  • Size, length, and speed are all up to NFL standards.
  • Good catch radius, with mismatch potential as a down the seam threat.
  • Lined up wide, in slot and as both move and in­line tight end.
  • Well coached, in a pro-style system that emphasizes blocking and winning the LOS.

Weaknesses

  • Good, but not great traits for the position.
  • Inexperienced, with just 23 career games.
  • Appears lacking in lower body power and as a result is more of a mirror blocker than a drive blocker.
  • Might lack the athleticism and separation to uncover against NFL safeties and some linebackers in man coverage.

What Others Are Saying

Tony Pauline (from September) - “I mentioned that scouts presently rank Smith as the top tight end prospect in the nation; most believe he’s a first-round talent. In many ways, Smith is a bigger version of ex-Cardinal tight end Zach Ertz. Smith is an oversized receiver with outstanding pass-catching skills and the speed necessary to split the seam. While Smith needs to brush off his game and find the end zone a little more, he definitely has top-40 potential.”

Football analytics guru, Kent Lee Platte of Relative Athletic Score (RAS) fame, takes a look at the 2019 TE class. ”Kaden Smith showcased some decent speed and athletic ability, but what sets him apart from the other tight ends in this class is his phenomenal body control and strong hands. Not comparing the two as players overall, but it reminds me of how Anquan Boldin would rip the ball out the air, owning the football the moment it came in his vicinity and daring you to try and take it away.”

At the Pac-12 Media Day (last summer) Stanford head coach, David Shaw described Smith as “the next Zach Ertz,” but even better: “He’s developed earlier than Zach, he’s bigger than Zach.” Growing up in the Dallas suburb of Flower Mound, he idolized Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. He even wears Witten’s old number, 82.”

How Would He Fit On The Redskins

Tight End may become on polarizing topic for Redskins fans. On one hand, they have a very good #1 TE in Jordan Reed (ProFootball Focus’ #14 graded TE), a very good #2 TE in Vernon Davis (PFF’s 43rd TE), and even a pretty good #3 Jeremy Sprinkle (PFF’s 70th TE).

However, the salary ramifications of that is that while the Redskins are on the hook for just over 6 million for their running backs, and just over 13 million for their wide receivers, they have over 17 million tied up for their tight ends in 2019.

Some Redskins fans feel it is time to part ways with the often injured Reed, and even more feel it is time to cut the aging Davis. Most get uneasy about promoting Sprinkle to second on the depth chart.

It could be a good time to draft Kaden Smith, a young player who appears to offer more upside as a receiver than Sprinkle. Despite the coaching and development he got at Stanford, as just a red-shirt sophomore, he probably isn’t ready to start as a rookie. Instead, he would replace Davis as a rookie, and be groomed to be the eventual, long-term replacement for Reed.