Vikings Receiving Weapon Poised For Breakout Fantasy Football Season

Irv Smith Jr.

Getty Irv Smith Jr. was recently named the NFL's best sophomore tight end and a fantasy football breakout candidate.

Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. has become one of the most talked-about tight ends in the NFL entering his second year.

He’s already been christened as the NFL’s best sophomore tight end, and most recently was named a fantasy football breakout candidate by Pro Football Focus.

Smith entered elite company after his rookie year, becoming the fifth tight end in NFL history to surpass 30 receptions and 300 yards in their age-21 season. He joins Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and David Njoku after catching 36 passes for 311 yards and scoring two TDs in 2019.

Here’s what PFF’s Andrew Erickson expects from Smith in 2019:

Irv Smith Jr. is entering his second year in the NFL after an encouraging rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings. The former second-round pick from Alabama was the highest-graded tight end (65.0) among the 2019 tight end draft class who saw at least 40 targets. Smith also owned the sixth-best catch rate (78.3%) among all qualifying tight ends.

His PFF receiving grade versus man coverage (63.9) ranked 20th and his yards per route run ranked 16th (1.26) among tight ends with at least 10 targets versus man coverage.

Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak told media during the offseason he sees “big upside” in Smith, who will likely become even more involved in the offense in his second season.

“I think there’s a big, big upside here. I love Irv as a kid and a competitor he really enjoys coming to work every day so and he’s benefited from sitting right there next to Rudy everyday and watching a seasoned pro go about it,” Kubiak said. “So I think there’s a lot more there and Irv is going to give it to us and I got to make sure that I get him in position to do that.”

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Where Should You Draft Irv. Smith Jr.?

Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. of the Minnesota Vikings

GettyIrv Smith Jr.’s value is tied to Kyle Rudolph’s involvement in the Vikings offense.

Zone Coverage’s Bo Mitchell recently did a deep dive into Smith’s fantasy value as of July 6. The hype train is real with Smith’s draft ranking as high as the mid-teens but expectations should be tempered.

Smith has gone undrafted on some boards and for good reason; until he is proven to be the No. 1 tight end in Minnesota, his opportunities in the passing game will be limited. Kyle Rudolph was relied on less in 2019 but did reemerge as a vital red zone target for the Vikings. Smith has more value in a PPR league versus a standard league.

Mitchell said that Smith should only be drafted as a backup tight end to begin the season. His value could emerge later in the season but until he takes the next step forward, it’s advised to use one of your final three picks on Smith.

Of course, if you’re in a league with many Viking fans, you may have to reach with many eyes on Smith this season.

READ NEXT: WATCH: Irv Smith Jr. Running WR-Caliber Routes in Offseason Workout


Follow Trevor Squire on Twitter: @trevordsquire