We are officially now in the hype season, or as we call it, NFL training camp. This is a time where you will hear plenty of praise for players from coaches, teammates and beat reporters. Maybe it’s a simple as someone slimming down and adding muscle or a receiver got contact lenses finally or last season a player’s shoes were too tight, but now they’re nice and comfy. Whatever the hype, as fantasy players, we hear it as affirmation about a player we like or hollow praise about a player we don’t like.
Throughout camp we’ll keep an eye out for the hyped player of the day and see if the praise is something we should take notice of or disregard. For today, that player is Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr.
Smith, like many rookie tight ends, wasn’t quite ready for primetime last season, but he was able to get work despite Kyle Rudolph ahead of him on the depth chart. On the year, Smith played in 14 games and caught 36 of 47 targets for 311 yards and two touchdowns while Rudolph caught 39 of 49 targets for 367 yards and six touchdowns. We also saw their snap counts grow toward nearly even from Week 10 on.
Smith was taken in the second round last year even though they already had Rudolph because they wanted a versatile tight end who could line up outside and in the backfield, becoming an offensive threat instead of a blocking tight end who sees targets in the end zone.
A year ago, Irv Smith Jr. was “swimming” in all the new information he was supposed to learn.— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) August 19, 2020
Now, the Vikings are looking for more ways to get the ball in his hands. Story: https://t.co/8GbZe13ApD
Not many TEs can easily shake Eric Kendricks in coverage. Nice route from Irv Smith Jr. here: pic.twitter.com/H0rVbdCMq4— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) August 17, 2020
Is the hype real?
Smith Jr. truly is a tight end who can excel offensively when moved around the formation. His ability is worth being hyped. And, the Vikings will likely use more two tight end sets now that he has a better grasp on the playbook. His offensive ability is better than Rudolph’s and that should show itself more this season. The question for fantasy players will come down to how much usage can he get in 2020?
Is the hype too much?
Smith Jr. is the Vikings tight end of the future, but will he prove to be their tight end of this season? For fantasy, we need him to see at least 80 targets and get red zone targets as well. Rudolph was the most productive touchdown maker of the two of them last season, and likely isn’t going away as a red zone threat. Their targets were close though, as Smith saw 10 red zone targets to Rudolph’s 11 last season. A more experienced Smith could tip those targets in his favor this year.
In the end, Rudolph might take a back seat to Smith in offensive production, but his presence will still cut into Smith’s opportunities. For a true breakout this season, we’ll likely need Rudolph to miss games, but Smith is close to the fantasy promised land and with Stefon Diggs now in Buffalo, there is a real chance he’ll have some fantasy value this season.