Irv Smith Jr. 2021 Fantasy Sleeper Upside Surges After Vikings Release Kyle Rudolph - Roto Street Journal
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Irv Smith Jr. 2021 Fantasy Sleeper Upside Surges After Vikings Release Kyle Rudolph

Cap casualties are falling like flies across the league and most are overpaid veterans who aren’t currently living up to their lofty price tags. That exact scenario just played out in Minnesota, when the Vikings cut veteran tight end and NFL good guy, Kyle Rudolph. Cutting bait with the tight end will save the team over $5 million against the salary cap. With Rudolph no longer in the fold, former Alabama Crimson Tide stud and 2019 second-round pick, Irv Smith Jr., will take over as the Vikings’ clear TE1, making him a 2021 fantasy sleeper with high upside at a very inconsistent fantasy position.

Since the Vikings chose Smith Jr., Rudolph has seen a drop in offensive production. The year before Smith arrived, no other tight end had caught more than five balls on the Vikings’ roster. Since then, Smith had 36 receptions to Rudolph’s 39 in 2019, then Smith caught two more balls than Rudolph in 2020.

With a foot injury costing Rudolph the final four games of his Vikings’ career, Irv finally got a chance to swerve. The physical freak recorded 15 receptions for 183 yards and three scores. Only Travis Kelce put up better stats from the tight end spot during the final four games of the season.

While we aren’t expecting George Kittle or Kelce-esque numbers from Irv, he will most likely be the third most targeted player on the offense behind Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, and should produce fantasy TE1 numbers, if healthy.

When asked what kind of offensive output Smith Jr. would have as Minnesota’s clear TE1, Arif Hasan of The Athletic, told his readers to pump the brakes on the tight end.

“I’m not sure I’d project a 1,000-yard season for Smith, and I’m frankly a little disappointed in his output this year,” Hasan said.

“Knowing that tight ends typically break out in Year 3, I’d expect the Vikings to give him the kind of snap load that would see a good tight end earn upwards of 500 yards and six or so touchdowns. His additional capability as an H-back as well as a motion man on jet sweeps or an arc-blocker on split zones make him valuable enough to put on the field in any situation, so we should be seeing quite a bit of him,” Hasan continued.

Even with Hasan pouring some water on the hype, expect Irv Smith Jr. to catapult up The Wolf’s 2021 Fantasy Football Rankings & Big Board on his next update. As of now, Smith Jr. is ranked as his TE19 (-3 vs ECR), behind the likes of Robert TonyanJonnu Smith, and Jared Cook — all of whom are now 2021 unrestricted free agents.

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