Bears Draft Watch: Stanford’s Smith Could Bring Depth To TE Ranks

Our Chicago Bears reporter breaks down the team’s prospective prospects for the NFL draft, which takes place from April 25-27. Read the previous scouting reports here.

By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)

The Chicago Bears are continuing in this off-season in a certain charmed place, with an roster that’s pretty stout and without holes.

As free agency signings have slowed down drastically, most teams are looking to make their next meaningful acquisitions in the upcoming draft and as we’ve went into in the past two “draft watch” posts the areas of safety and running back could both use some reinforcements from the college ranks.

Another area that could be looked at as a “pressing” need, despite not previously being established as such, is the tight end position.

Currently on the Bears roster there are a total of four options at tight end in starting Y Trey Burton, starting X Adam Shaheen, backup Ben Braunecker and Zach Miller (who hasn’t been on the field since suffering a gruesome knee injury since week eight in 2017).

Miller is ultimately a guy the Bears will either replace or be given a very minor role because he cannot stay healthy. Unfortunately, the same durability issues are a concern for Shaheen. Shaheen has been a disappointment since being selected in the second round of 2017. Shaheen has the physical tools that could turn him into a potential all pro but so far he has not been able to put it together and the main reason is because of his injury history.

Along with missing three games in 2017, Shaheen missed 10 games in 2018. Shaheen still has time to develop and is in need of such — coming out of college he was considered quite inexperienced — so staying healthy will be so important to his development next season. Burton and Shaheen are expected to be big contributors next season but if either goes down for an extended amount of time then the Bears could be in trouble with such little depth behind the starters.

Enter in tight end prospect Kaden Smith.

Smith was looked at as a top tight end in the class coming into the draft process but his stock has fallen due to a poor showing at the Combine. Smith was a productive player at Stanford and is trying to continue on the recent tradition of tight ends at Stanford. Stanford has produced a tight end selected in the top four rounds of the draft since 2012.

Smith has the potential to become a complete tight end, like Jason Witten, that can be both an inline blocker as well as a formidable receiving option when released on routes. Many tight ends in the NFL have either blocking skills or receiving skills with only a few that can do both really well, lets take a look at a possible tight end option for the Bears in the upcoming draft.

Combine results:

  • 40 yard dash – 4.92 (Fourteenth out of all tight ends)
  • Bench press – 15 (Tied seventh out of all tight ends)
  • Vert Jump – 32” (Tied tenth out of all tight ends)
  • Broad Jump – 9’ (Eleventh out of all tight ends)
  • 3 cone drill – 7.08 (Third out of all tight ends)
  • 20 yard shuttle – 4.47 (Tied fourteenth out of all tight ends)
  • 60 yard shuttle – DNP

Strengths:

  • Physical at the top of his routes
  • Huge catch radius
  • Shows potential to become a great inline blocker
  • Uses his hands and fluid in his hips in run blocking
  • Instinctual and smart when using leverage and getting himself open

Weaknesses:

  • Average release quickness
  • Can struggle against athletic linebackers
  • Has to improve run blocking technique with his frame and base
  • Route running needs some work

Fit With the Bears:

Smith’s fit with the Bears is pretty simple — he would come in and be expected to be a supporter and contributor behind Shaheen and Burton. If Shaheen continues to struggle this year, then Smith would be looked at as is possible replacement for the future if the team did not want to resign Shaheen after his rookie deal expires.

On the field, Smith would be used in a multitude of ways. Standing 6-foot-5 with a large catch radius, Smith is an ideal red zone target and could be used as a receiver, blocker or decoy.

The Bears schematically want to become a team with a formidable and consistent running attack. Some of the reasoning for the inconsistency was because of the injuries to the tight end position. Not having a constant extra blocker was a problem for what head coach Matt Nagy wanted to do. Smith can help out in a lot of ways with his skill set but what he brings most is security and depth in case one of the top two tight ends go down.

Smith hurt his draft stock with his poor performance at the Combine. Initially looked at as a possible late first round prospect, Smith now has fallen somewhere between rounds 3 through 6. Scouts are divided on Smith but the Bears would be a good fit for him since they would utilize his strengths and his experience in a pro system might make his conversion to the pros easier.

The Bears will have other options to draft a tight end if Smith is selected but he is one of the few from this class that has the potential to be the complete inline blocker/receiving threat tight end that makes for a truly standout pro at the position.  

Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR
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