While the 2019 NFL season for the New York Giants has not gone the way the team, nor their fans, would have hoped for in terms of win/loss success, there is undoubtedly reason to be optimistic moving forward.
Daniel Jones has proven, to this point at least, to be more than worthy of the sixth-overall draft pick. Jones and the Giants other 2019 first-rounder Dexter Lawrence have joined Saquon Barkley as true franchise cornerstones for the Giants as the team looks ahead to the future.
Numerous early-round draftees have the Giants arrow pointing up as the 2019 season comes to a close. However, a little-known sixth-rounder, who didn’t make his first NFL career start until Week 12 of this season, may be on the cusp of pushing a former first-rounder out of town due to his string of stellar performances.
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Kaden Smith Continues to Impress
Kaden Smith arrived at Stanford with lofty expectations, ranking as a 5-Star recruit out of high school. Yet, questions about his size, athleticism, and moderate production at the collegiate level caused the one-time highly-thought of prospect to fall to the sixth-round of the 2019 Draft.
The San Francisco 49ers scooped Smith with the third-pick in the sixth round. However, Smith’s tenure in San Fran would not be a long one. Smith was waived on September 14th of this year. Two days later, the Giants would claim the tight end off waivers, looking to add depth behind mismatch nightmare Evan Engram, and jack of all trades, Rhett Ellison in their tight end room.
Little did the Giants know, they would be adding, potentially, their tight end of the future.
With injuries hampering the position, Smith would be pressed into starting duties in Week 12 against the Chicago Bears. The rookie would respond by hauling five of his six targets, including one for a touchdown. Since then, he’s had performances of 70-receiving yards, along with a two-touchdown outing just one week ago.
Smith has proven to become a favorite target of quarterback Daniel Jones during his time in New York. In the three games that Smith has started with Jones under center this season, the tight end has averaged an impressive 7.3 targets for 5.6 receptions, 40.6 yards, and most importantly, one receiving touchdown per game.
Will Giants Entertain an Evan Engram Trade this Offseason?
To put into a better perspective how good Smith has been of late, fellow Giants tight end Evan Engram also hauled in three receiving touchdowns from Jones this season prior to being placed on season-ending IR. However, that was over an eight-game span, compared to Smith’s three-game stint with Jones at the helm.
More important than the difference in touchdown production between Smith and the former first-round pick is Engram’s availability, or lack thereof. Engram has yet to play a 16-game season over his three-year career, while he’s taken the field in just 19 of the 32 potential games over the past two years.
Yet, say what you will about Engram, he’s still one of the biggest receiving mismatches in all of football. Not many pass-catchers in this league possess the combination of speed (4.42, 40-yard dash), and size (6’3”, 240 lbs.) that Engram does.
However, the same things that would make Engram a viable centerpiece for the Giants moving forward will also entice other NFL teams, would Engram be shopped around.
Plus, if last season showed us anything, it’s that Dave Gettleman does not value the pass-catcher the same way other franchises do.That’s something that goes back to Gettleman’s days in Carolina.
Daniel Jones has performed superbly without Engram in the lineup. While the lack of Engram on the football field has opened the door for not only Smith but rookie wideout Darius Slayton to emerge, as the G-Men operate out of more three-wideout formations without Engram in the lineup.
Engram’s addition to the evolving passing-attack in New York would be a welcomed one for the ever-developing Jones.
However, Engram’s most enticing purpose for the G-Men moving forward may very well be serving as a potential puzzle piece in a trade. This could help acquire more talent on the defensive side of the ball, or add offensive linemen, in return helping protect Jones while he looks Kaden Smith’s way in the red zone.
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