Update September 4: ESPN’s Turron Davenport expects Jonnu Smith to claim the starting spot and says he has the highest upside among tight ends. Firsker and Pruitt will be factors as well, but Smith is more likely to score.
Update August 25: TE coach Todd Downing talking about Smith, “He makes it fun. When you have a guy on your offense that can do so many things you can be creative and find ways to get him touches,” per ESPN’s Turron Davenport. Smith is the undisputed starter and is worth drafting at his ADP this season.
In this series we will look at the most important fantasy football position battles for each NFL team. Opportunity is king in fantasy, as you can’t produce fantasy statistics without getting on the field. So, the first step when looking for value plays is to project, correctly, which players will win training camp battles.
In Tennessee, the starting positions are locked in. That includes Jonnu Smith as the starting tight end now that Delanie Walker is gone. The question is, how many targets will he garner? Last season he ended the season with 45 targets to Delanie Walker’s 31 and Anthony Firkser’s 24. Overall, the Titans didn’t throw all that much, as their leading receiver, A.J. Brown, saw just 84 targets.
Smith is a player with good upside, but has been stuck behind Walker and still couldn’t gain a big piece of the target share when Walker was hurt. Going on his fourth season, this looks like a make or break year as it pertains to fantasy football for Smith. He will need to grab a big target share to garner enough opportunities to become a consistent fantasy value.
At this point, Firkser is his main competition for targets, as he had 24 in 10 games compared to Smith’s 45 in 15. The good news is that Smith saw 80 to 90 percent of the snaps following their Week 11 bye last season. Unfortunately, that playing time didn’t see his targets shoot up, as Derrick Henry took over the offense to end the year.
I’m not worried about Firkser as much as I am about the offense as a whole. Henry is the engine for this team and as long as the game is close, the Titans are going to run the ball. If we see more games where the Titans trail late, we should see Smith’s opportunities rise.
I love his potential, but he’ll need to win a huge percentage of the tight end targets while cutting into the starting receivers’ workload to really shine this season. I’m staying away from him this season.