Talent-rich teams like the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers don’t always have room every good player who comes their way. Thus, a player like 2019 sixth-round pick Kaden Smith found himself on waivers early in the 2019 season.
That proved to be a benefit to the talent-needy New York Giants, who claimed Smith and watched him turn into a useful target for quarterback Daniel Jones by season’s end.
Let’s take a closer look at Smith’s potential role with the 2020 Giants.
Position: Tight end
Contract: Year 2 of four-year, $2.72 million rookie deal
How he got here
The 49ers selected Smith 176th overall out of Stanford, and he was part of their initial 53-man roster. With depth at the tight end spot, though, San Fransisco couldn’t keep him when in need of help at another position. Folks at Niners Nation, SB Nation’s 49ers website, didn’t seem thrilled about losing the young tight end.
Smith, with Evan Engram sidelined, became a mainstay for the Giants the second half of the season. He caught all 31 of his passes in the season’s final seven games, 30 of those over the final six weeks. He played 91 percent or more of the Giants’ offensive snaps in each of the team’s final six games.
One interesting note: Smith caught all five of his red zone targets, three for touchdowns, in 2019, per NFL Savant.
Smith’s role depends largely on the health of Evan Engram.
If Engram is healthy, Smith should slide into the role of No. 2 tight end held the past few seasons by the retired Rhett Ellison. In that role, Smith could be expected to be a more productive receiver than Ellison, whose career best in receptions was 25 in 2018.
If Engram misses time due to illness or injury, a good bet given his history, Smith would be the No. 1 tight end in his absence. In that role, Smith would provide better blocking than Engram and would be a reliable, but far less explosive target as a receiver. Smith averaged 8.6 yards per catch last season. Engram has averaged 11.5 yards per catch over his three NFL seasons.
Smith was a nice find by the Giants either way. His presence should give the Giants the option of splitting Engram off the line of scrimmage in two-tight end formations.