Giants Player Profile | Kaden Smith, TE
After a breakout junior year for Stanford in 2018, tight end Kaden Smith chose to forego his senior season and instead declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Smith's college resume at Stanford wasn't extraordinary by NFL prospect standards, but still impressive and exemplary of his talent and natural physical gifts. In 25 career games, and just ten starts his junior year, Smith tallied 70 receptions for 1,049 yards and seven touchdowns.
Smith came out of the 2019 NFL scouting combine as a projected late Day 3 selection, praised for his all-around versatility as an intelligent receiver and blocker, but faulted for lack of elite NFL athleticism. He was selected in the sixth round, where the San Francisco 49ers took him at pick No. 176.
Smith made the 53-man roster as a rookie but was waived on September 14 to make room for running back Jeff Wilson. The Giants claimed Smith off waivers the following Monday, and he made his Giants debut in limited action against the Patriots in a Week 6 primetime game. Smith caught his first pass as a Giant in Week 10.
He dropped a critical two-point conversation attempt in the second quarter, then hauled in a 1-yard catch on the Giants last drive of the game in the last 20 seconds for his first career reception.
Two weeks after starting tight end Evan Engram's season ended with a foot injury, Smith made his first NFL start in Week 12 against the Chicago Bears.
He established some chemistry with quarterback Daniel Jones right off the bat, hauling in five receptions, including his first NFL touchdown in the second quarter, which gave the Giants a 7-3 lead.
Smith became a regular target for Jones as the full-time starting tight end for the last five games. The very next week against Green Bay, Smith took another step forward with a six-catch 70-yard performance in the snow.
Smith finished his rookie season with his best football. He emerged as an overtime hero in Week 16 against Washington when he racked up 35 yards for two touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime.
Smith put up the best receiving performance of his career in the Giants' season finale against the Eagles with eight catches for 98 yards.
Even though Engram is expected back, Smith should still have an opportunity to contribute in 2020.
Smith did a good job working himself open last year for Jones and also demonstrated great efficiency as a blocker, allowing just one pressure in 158 snaps played in the final eight games of the season.
Engram is the more athletic and talented of the two tight ends with greater big-play ability as a vertical threat. Still, Smith is a versatile two-way tight end with the ability to pick up first downs and set the edge as a blocker, which could be heavily valued for the new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's system.
If Engram again misses time to injury in 2020, the Giants can rest easy knowing that they have a reliable backup who may not possess elite receiving talent, but one with a high football IQ and efficiency in several tasks.