Irv Smith will be one of the favorite breakout candidates in the Fantasy Football industry this season. The 22-year-old will no longer share targets with Kyle Rudolph, which makes him draftable as early as Round 9 as a borderline top-10 tight end. While Smith took a small step forward in 2020, he could take a leap with consistent targets. Six times in his short career he's received at least five targets in a game. In those games he averaged 11.6 PPR Fantasy points, which would have made him the No. 5 tight end in Fantasy last year. Don't draft him that high, but he's an excellent choice if you miss out on the top eight at the position.
Smith says dietary changes helped him get in better shape this offseason, Mark Inabinett of al.com reports. The third-year pro made a strong impression on Vikings OC Klint Kubiak, who said Smith was in "phenomenal shape" when he showed up for the team's offseason program in May. Smith was only 20 years old when the Vikings made him a second-round pick in the 2019 draft, and he'll celebrate his 23rd birthday Aug. 9, one month before the start of the regular season. Given his age, draft status and Kyle Rudolph's offseason departure to New York, it's no wonder Smith is one of the popular breakout candidates at tight end this summer. Granted, he'll still be sharing an offense with RB Dalvin Cook and WRs Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, so even an every-down role won't necessarily lead to more than a handful of targets per game. Smith is anticipating a larger role, while Vikings coach Mike Zimmer believes backup tight end Tyler Conklin is the one who needs to step up. "Honestly, I don't think it's any bigger role for [Smith] whatsoever," Zimmer said. "I think it's a bigger role for Tyler Conklin."
Smith caught two of three targets for 30 yards during Sunday's 37-35 win over the Lions. Smith wraps up his second season with 30 catches (43 targets) for 365 yards and five touchdowns across 13 games. It's worth noting that the 22-year-old dealt with lingering groin and back issues during much of the 2020 season, missing three games entirely while having his snap count limited in three other contests. With that context in mind, along with the difficulty tight ends often face from a developmental standpoint early in their careers, Smith's relatively strong showing could result in him becoming a popular third-year breakout candidate for 2021.
Smith secured six of nine targets for 53 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings' 52-33 loss to the Saints on Friday. The second-year tight end posted season highs in receptions and targets while also tying a personal best with his touchdown grabs of two and four yards in the third quarter. Smith has come on over the second half of the season, having recorded multiple grabs in five consecutive contests while also posting all five of his scoring catches during that stretch. The 2019 second-round pick will look to close out the season in strong fashion versus a Lions defense he found the end zone twice against back in Week 9 in a Week 17 rematch.
Smith reeled in three of four targets for 37 yards during Sunday's 33-27 loss to Chicago. With Kyle Rudolph (foot) unavailable for the Week 15 divisional tilt, Smith posted his fifth start of the 2020 campaign while tying for third on the team in targets. Tyler Conklin turned out to be the more profitable tight end option against the Bears, however, producing three catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. Smith has offered an inconsistent floor and a limited fantasy ceiling in his second pro campaign, with no more than five targets or 64 receiving yards in any game this season. The Alabama product has also been held under 25 yards on six different occasions, scoring a touchdown in just one of those instances.
Smith could take on a more pronounced role Sunday against the Bears with teammate Kyle Rudolph (foot) having been ruled out for the contest. Rudolph -- who is missing his second straight game -- had been getting some extra targets while Smith missed three out of four games between Weeks 10 and 13. The 22-year-old returned last week and caught four passes for 63 yards and a touchdown in the 26-14 loss to Tampa, but his 35 percent snap share was a season low, with fellow tight end Tyler Conklin getting more playing time (57 percent) and more targets (five). Smith should see his role increase now that he's off the injury report, facing a Chicago defense that's given up the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|10||11/14||@Los Angeles Chargers||22||7.88|
|11||11/21||Green Bay Packers||5||5.78|
|12||11/28||@San Francisco 49ers||1||4.50|
|16||12/26||Los Angeles Rams||8||6.33|
|17||01/02||@Green Bay Packers||5||5.78|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||45||33||338||4||20||10.24||57|