The San Francisco 49ers needed tight end depth in the 2019 NFL Draft. Behind George Kittle they have Garrett Celek and no one else. They might have found another piece of the hierarchy with sixth-round selection, Stanford tight end Kaden Smith. And Smith wants to one day compete with Kittle for that starting role.
Kaden Smith, a rookie tight end wants to take the starting job of a tight end who just set the record for receiving yards by the position? A tight end who was five yards away from most yards by a tight end in a single game?
Yes. And it’s awesome.
Smith spoke with Matt Maiocco on George Kittle and couldn’t have been more complimentary of the 49ers veteran, but with that respect he also wants to compete. Smith said Kittle called to congratulate him on the selection and coming to the team, but then he laid it out:
“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 according to Maiocco, “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.”
So, why awesome? Well, the 49ers could have drafted someone fine with where they were under Kittle and happy to be the No. 2 tight end. Someone who looked at Kittle’s insane year and says “no way I’m cracking that.” Or they could have drafted someone like Smith, who by all intents and purposes, has nothing but respect for Kittle, but has a drive to be No. 1. They also could have drafted someone who said it in the most disrespectful way, but that’s about as respectful as you can put it. Healthy competition is the best competition.
Now you could be saying “Shouldn’t everyone be thinking that?” Well, yes, but if you look at some other positions, draftees admit defeat far earlier than they should. If you’ve seen the The Brady Six, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Several quarterbacks were fine sitting and learning and the word “competition” never entered their minds. It’s probably what led to most of them being out of the league.
So can Kaden Smith compete with George Kittle? Well, he’s got a long ways away to becoming Stone Cold Kittle, but the fact he has a drive to try and surpass who he may look to as a mentor indicates the 49ers drafted the right guy. Or, at the very least, the right mindset.
If Kittle is what makes Smith’s motor go, what inspires him to do well, the 49ers tight ends could be one of the more elite units for years to come.