Speed: Lacks the optimal speed desired in tight ends. Struggles to separate or run away from defenders because of this. Definitely concerning when projecting him to the next level against pro level athletes.
Ball Skills: Ball skills are very good. Consistently shown the ability to adjust to the football and make catches away from his body with. Hands are soft and reliable as well. Catch radius is large, so if the ball is thrown in his vicinity, he is probably coming down with it. Occasionally has some concentration drops.
Route Running: Probably the most discouraging part of his game. Smith struggled mildly to separate against man coverage. He regularly could not create any space with his routes. Footwork when getting in and out of his breaks is sloppy. Doesn’t manipulate defenders with his stems, because there isn’t a lot of suddenness in his movements. Relies on creating with separation with contact, yet too easily reroute/redirected when doing so. Will have to sharpen up his routes at the next level, but it doesn’t look like he possesses the short area quickness to separate at high level.
Blocking: Blocking technique is very good. Routinely shoots his hands into his opponents chest plates and latches on. Also sinks his hips and gets under defenders to obtain optimal leverage. Very physical in his approach as well. Doesn’t seem to have the play strength to handle base defensive ends. Shown the ability to wall them off, but isn’t going to move them off of their spot of contain.
YAC Ability: Because he doesn’t possess optimal speed or short area quickness, offers very little in this area. Goes down easily after first contact as well. Much more of a possession receiver, than one who is going to create more yards on his own.
Contested Catch Ability: Natural ball skills, big catch radius, and large frame make him an ideal contested catch threat. Regularly illustrated the ability to high point the ball over defenders. Also often came down with the ball when taking a big shot in the air. This is really the only trait in his skill set that can be considered a trump card.
Awareness: Good processor in terms identifying coverage and finding the soft spots in zone coverage. Also understands preferred leverage based on the scheme when run blocking. However, must polish up his route tree by adding some nuance to his stems.
Competitive Toughness: Displays a nasty edge when blocking. Many reps where he puts his opponents into the dirt and plays through the whistle. Very competitive at the catch point as well. Motor is anything but an issue.
Best Trait: Contested Catch Ability
Worst Trait: Separation Skills
Best Film: Oregon (2018)
Worst Film: Notre Dame (2018)
Pro Comparison: Adam Shaheen
Kaden Smith fits the mold of inline/possession type of Tight End because he is an above average blocker, has a good understanding of defensive coverages, and is very effective in contested catch situations. With that said, he could be solely limited to that type of role. His inability to separate, run crisp routes, and create after the catch is extremely concerning when projecting him as a number 1 tight end. He can improve on how he runs routes, but it doesn’t seem like he has the speed or short are quickness to be overly dynamic. Which is why he projects better as a secondary option, who can be used on a situational basis. A vertical offense would be ideal for his skill set.