Breaking: Stanford’s Kaden Smith entering NFL Draft early
Published on Monday, 12/31/18, at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
Stanford third-year sophomore tight end Kaden Smith has decided to forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the 2019 NFL Draft. Smith will announce his decision on New Year’s Day in Palo Alto.
I spoke to him after Monday’s Sun Bowl in El Paso.
Smith told BrianEdwardsSports.com, “I’ve been dreaming about this opportunity since I was a kid. Can’t wait to get to work.”
As a redshirt freshman last season, Smith helped the Cardinal to the Pac-12 Championship Game and garnered first-team all-conference honors. He finished 2017 with 23 receptions for 414 yards and five TDs despite not getting significant playing time until late October.
Smith caught the eyes of NFL scouts and fans across the nation by keeping Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game vs. USC with a pair of spectacular TD catches.Trailing the Trojans 24-14 late in the third quarter, Smith somehow got a foot down on this sensational grab below:
K.J. Costello to Kaden Smith. 24-21 USC. pic.twitter.com/tFgmxf3dFE
— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) December 2, 2017
Then in the fourth quarter, Smith went up in traffic and snagged another TD pass (seen below). Unfortunately for the Cardinal, it was stopped on third and fourth-and-goal from the one midway through the fourth quarter of a three-point game, and USC eventually captured a 31-28 win. However, Smith’s TD grabs helped Stanford’s betting supporters (hand raised!) cash tickets as a 3.5-point underdog.
This stupid good from Kaden Smith. pic.twitter.com/1p4YlDzXbd
— Chris Hummer (@chris_hummer) December 2, 2017
Smith, a product of Flower Mound, TX., where he starred at Marcus High School, was Scout.com’s No. 2 ranked tight end nationally coming out of HS in the 2016 class. 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.
He was a five-star recruit by PrepStar and had a four-star rating by Scout, Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN. Rivals had him as the third-ranked TE in the class. Smith had 144 receptions for 2,260 yards and led Marcus to three consecutive district titles during his prep career.
Smith was a preseason All-American TE in every publication that I viewed coming into this season. He’s considered one of the best in this year’s deep TE class alongside Iowa’s Noah Fant, Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger, UCLA’s Caleb Wilson, Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr., Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson and Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam.
When Smith sought input from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee, he was informed that he would be picked anywhere between the second and fourth rounds.
Smith now joins Wilson and Fant, who both declared earlier this month, as three TEs who have officially announced their intentions of turning pro early. However, Sternberger and Okwuegbunam are expected to do so soon. If one of the group might return to school, it could be Alabama’s Smith. Another underrated TE who could join this class is Vanderbilt junior Jared Pinkney, who had 50 catches for 774 yards and seven TDs in 2018.
Smith had 47 catches for 635 yards and two TDs in 2018, earning All-Pac-12 second-team honors. He had five games with at least six receptions, catching nine balls for 112 yards and one TD in a 41-38 home loss to Washington St. The next week, Smith had eight receptions for 107 yards and one TD in a 27-23 loss at Washington. His play against the Huskies garnered him John Mackey Award Player of the Week honors.
Smith’s consecutive 100-yard receiving games put him in elite company in the pantheon of Stanford’s many all-time greats at the position. He was the school’s first TE to do so since Alex Smith in 2004 and his three 100-yard receiving games for the season hadn’t been accomplished since Zach Ertz’s collegiate playing days.
Smith was one of three finalists for The Mackey Award this season, but an injury sidelined him for Stanford’s final two regular-season games. Without Smith, the Cardinal beat UCLA 49-42 in what would’ve been a game in which he could’ve posted excellent numbers, as roommate K.J. Costello threw five TD passes against the Bruins.
Stanford finished the regular season with a 23-13 win at California to finish 8-4 overall and 6-3 in conference play. The Cardinal edged Pittsburgh 14-13 at the Hyundai Sun Bowl earlier today, but the Panthers covered the number as 3.5-point underdogs. .
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. updated his TE rankings on Dec. 12. Kiper had Smith as the third-best TE behind Fant and Irv Smith.
When Drafttek.com updated its TE rankings on Nov. 11, Smith was projected to go No. 55 overall late in the second round. The website has dropped Smith significantly in its latest update on Dec. 27, moving him down to No. 107 overall.
The only justification for such a move was his late-season injury, which isn’t any sort of long-term issue. If Drafftek’s latest projection proves to be true, some team will be getting a major steal early in the fourth round.
Smith (6-5, 259 pounds) is the son of Mark and Janell Smith, who live in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. His older sister Ashtyn resides in San Diego.