Here are Irv SmithJr.’s full NFL stats.
|Year||Games||Targets||Receptions||Yards||TDs||Fantasy Finish||Fantasy PPG||PPG Rank|
The Vikings picked Smith Jr. with the 50th overall pick in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. At the time, they had two star receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, with veteran Kyle Rudolph as their starting tight end. Immediately after the Vikings selected Smith Jr., there were rumors that Rudolph could be traded or released.
However, instead, the Vikings signed Rudolph to a 4-year contract extension for $36 million. The extension guaranteed Rudolph’s 2019 and 2020 salaries, keeping him in Minnesota through at least 2020. Therefore, Smith Jr. and Rudolph would split snaps for two seasons, making it difficult for either to hold down a fantasy-relevant role.
In 2019, Rudolph had 39 receptions on 48 targets for 367 yards while Smith Jr. had 36 receptions on 47 targets for 311 yards. The main difference was that Rudolph scored six touchdowns while Smith Jr. only scored two. Smith Jr. played on 59% of offensive snaps as a rookie, as the Vikings deployed 2TE sets. Even though Smith Jr. didn’t produce much, I saw his usage as rather impressive and indicative of a bright future. Smith Jr. only turned 22 years old in August 2020, giving him lots of time to break out.
2020 Performance and Outlook
Going into 2020, the Vikings had traded away Diggs and replaced him with first-round rookie Justin Jefferson. I thought the selection was a bit odd, considering that the Vikings prefer to run 2TE sets, and Jefferson is primarily a slot wide receiver. Either way, I thought the Vikings would center their passing offense around Thielen, Jefferson, and Smith Jr., with Dalvin Cook leading the way on the ground.
Unfortunately, that plan hasn’t happened through three games. Thielen and Jefferson lead the team with 21 and 15 targets, respectively, followed by Cook with nine. Rudolph and Smith Jr. have six and five targets apiece, splitting the tight end work. Smith Jr. hasn’t broken away from Rudolph at all, with Rudolph leading tight ends in snaps at 69% and Smith Jr. down at 59%. Therefore, Smith Jr. will have no fantasy-relevance in 2020, and you can drop him from your redraft rosters.
Smith Jr.’s dynasty situation is an entirely different story, though. He’s only 22 years old, but tight ends don’t tend to break out until their 25-year old season. It was probably unrealistic to expect Smith Jr. to make a fantasy impact in 2020, given Rudolph’s presence.
In 2021, Smith Jr. will be 23 years old, and in his third NFL season, one year closer to that critical breakout age for a tight end. Rudolph might become a cap casualty at that point, and Thielen will have turned 31 years old. While Jefferson should emerge as the Vikings’ top receiving target, Smith Jr. should become an integral part of their offense.
Therefore, now is the time to buy Smith Jr. in your dynasty leagues. He’s doing nothing right now, but the talent and the surrounding situation are perfect. There’s also an outside chance the Vikings could acquire a new quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft, who would undoubtedly represent an upgrade to current starter Kirk Cousins. Acquire Smith Jr. now while his value is low because you won’t be able to do so later.
Thanks for reading this article. You can find me on Twitter at @DFF_Karp. I love to interact with anyone in the community, so reach out at any time! I take fantasy questions and help with all formats, so keep sending those questions my way.