Jonnu Smith: 2021 Dynasty Profile

Looking Back

The fantasy community had high hopes for a Jonnu Smith breakout last season and did in some ways despite some injuries and the Titans’ infamously low passing volume. He still finished as the TE15 in PPR and TE9 in standard, but 2020 was also a terrible year for tight ends. Smith got most of his work from his dominance in the red zone, finishing number five in targets and scoring at a 20% rate with eight touchdowns. His 448 yards on 41 receptions certainly left truthers wanting more.

2021 Outlook

Fortunately enough, the breakout seems possible for 2021 after Smith finds himself in New England on a lucrative four-year deal. Yes, the Patriots signed Hunter Henry a day later, but we shouldn’t be concerned about a “committee” because Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels have proven they can utilize two tight ends as their top receivers. It’s important to keep in mind that that the Move Tight End and Inline Tight End are essentially two separate positions that can be used independently and simultaneously.

Furthermore, the Patriots want to run their offense through the run. Utilizing two tight ends in the 12-personnel will give them the ability to have an effective running game, and the versatility to still pass. New England ranked third in rushing attempts, but it’s not as if they didn’t want balance. They just didn’t have anyone to throw to. Belichick went out of his way to pay for receivers to fix that problem. Despite the additions of Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor, Jonnu Smith should be the top pass-catcher to own.

Dynasty Analysis

Smith immediately becomes the most versatile player on the Patriots’ offense due to his blue-chip blocking, explosion after the catch, and athleticism in the red zone. Hunter Henry is a great receiver and will command targets, but Smith is the superior blocker and has fewer injury concerns. The better blocker translates to more opportunity. It shouldn’t be news to anybody that NFL quarterbacks sometimes have to check out of runs to pass, or vice versa, so just being on the field matters. If a player has the receiving chops to be an effective weapon, coaches can even scheme plays just for them in these scenarios. Receiving Chops like shown below.

Jonnu Smith begins lined up outside of the left tackle, flares to the flats, then he cuts upfield and makes a one-handed snag above a defender. If you were wanting Henry over Smith because Henry was a better receiver, I wouldn’t be so sure. Smith was dominant in the red zone despite low volume as previously mentioned. Time and time again he was Tannehill’s go-to guy to score even with coverage because he has the athleticism to win jump balls.

The Patriots have lacked production from their tight ends since Rob Gronkowski’s retirement in 2018, and a reliable chain mover since Julian Edleman was healthy in 2019. Jonnu Smith can fill both of those voids. It’s also been no secret that McDaniels isn’t afraid to dink and dunk underneath, and now has a real playmaker with the explosion to turn a five-yard catch into a 25-yard gain. He’s already proven to be a monster after the catch like this play against Houston.

Smith catches a dump-off that would’ve been an easy first down and turns upfield with the burst to completely burn this Cover 2 Zone defense. Smith gets the ball sitting in a linebacker’s hook/curl assignment, but blows past him before he can make a play. Cover 2 means two defenders covering both sides of the field deep, so this places the safeties backpedaling near the numbers. Jonnu Smith has so much speed for his size that he’s able to split the defense and shrug off two defenders on his back into the endzone. A two-yard gain just becomes a 61-yard touchdown.

Some talent you can’t teach, and Jonnu Smith certainly has this talent. Regardless of what you think of other Patriot pass-catchers, Smith is now the most athletic. He has the opportunity to play every snap and assist in the running game while being a reliable go-to receiver regardless of who’s under center. Rookies love to rely on bigger targets like tight ends, and Cam Newton’s best years were when he had large receiving targets like Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen, and Devin Funchess. This is why signing two tight ends make sense for New England. They can feed both because they have a young QB who could use a security blanket and a veteran who struggles with accuracy.

Jonnu Smith is criminally undervalued right now and can be drafted as cheaply as the TE16 in the 14th round in both Dynasty PPR SuperFlex and Non-SuperFlex. That puts him behind a rookie like Pat Frieurmuth, who is unlikely to be of fantasy relevance this season. This should make him a top target for any GM who wants a sleeper TE1 for cheaper than their ADP. No matter if you want to win now, or rebuild later, Smith is still 25 and on a four-year contract with a franchise who knows how to win, so grab him this now before he costs your more later.

Come find me on Twitter @SportsJag to give me a hot take or see any of my future work.

jmay

Talking about Fantasy here, so my girlfriend doesn't leave me. Copy Editor & Writer @DFF_Dynasty.

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