NFL Free Agency Fantasy Fallout: Projecting Jonnu Smith as a starter without Delanie Walker
With Delanie Walker out in Tennessee, Jonnu Smith could be a breakout tight end.
The Tennessee Titans are going to need a lot of money to re-sign both Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. That quest continued on Friday afternoon when they released Delanie Walker. Walker had only played eight games in the past two seasons, so Fantasy managers won't miss him, but his absence will open the door for Jonnu Smith.
Smith didn't exactly set the world on fire in Walker's absence, but that's mostly been because of low pass volume. Over the past two seasons, he's turned 74 targets into 55 receptions for 697 yards and six touchdowns. If we assume that the Titans will throw even a little bit more than they did in 2019, Smith should be a borderline startable tight end.
The Titans attempted 448 passes in 2019, I've projected them for 494 in 2020, which would still be among the lowest totals in the league. Assuming the Titans continue to send 21% of their targets to tight ends, that's 104 targets to be split between Smith and Anthony Firkser. With that in mind I've projected Smith for 79 targets.
Smith averaged 8.6 yards per target in 2018 and 10.0 in 2019. An increase in targets often means a reduction in efficiency, and I've projected Smith for 8.77 yards per target. I also pulled back on his career touchdown rate of 7.7%. This leaves an initial Smith projection of 59-693-5.4 which ranks him eighth among tight ends (soon to be ninth when Austin Hooper signs).
This is not a particularly optimistic projection for Smith compared to what he's done so far in the league. I could see him being better and I could certainly see him being worse. A lot of that could ride on how successful the Titans offense is at duplicating their 2019 success. We'll know more about that once we see where Henry and Tannehill will be playing.
Here are the rest of the 2020 Tennessee Titans projections. You'll notice Ryan Tannehill is projected and Derrick Henry is not. They're both free agents, but I currently feel more confident Tannehill is going to be a Titan in 2020. If we get more news on either that could change.
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