Minnesota Vikings second year tight end Irv Smith Jr. spent most of last year surprising most as a great inline blocker, but Minnesota rarely used him to his fullest potential. Coming out of college Smith Jr. was praised as the best route running tight end in his draft class, and it flashed at certain points in the season. He showed what he was capable of when he averaged twenty yards per reception against the Raiders, and again in week seven when he averaged twelve yards a reception.
A couple months ago the Vikings announced that they’d promoted Gary Kubiak to the full offensive coordinator position. From 2006-2016 Kubiak was involved in the offensive play calling for the Texans and the Broncos. In that span, the tight end position was top three in receptions on the team for eight out of the ten years. Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith jr combined for one hundred and four targets Last year or 20.6 percent of the target share. With the loss of Stefon Diggs expect that number to increase.
With Kyle Rudolph aging it would be wise for the Vikings to steadily increase Smith jr’s workload. Last season he averaged 6.4 yards per-target, which is less than one yard more than that of fullback C.J Ham. To say the Vikings didn’t use Irv Smith to the best of his abilities is a massive understatement. It’s great that he has surprised as an in-line blocker, but if he could have a Travis Kelce or Austin Hooper like impact on this team it would behoove the coaches staff to nurture that part of his skill set.