Irv Smith Jr. is primed for a big season with the Vikings in 2020

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Irv Smith Jr.
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Irv Smith Jr. /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Tyler Conklin and Irv Smith Jr. – Minnesota Vikings /

Finishing on a good note

The 2019 season got off to a bit of a slow start for Irv Smith Jr. as he grew into an unfamiliar role. He became more of a blocker than he was at Alabama, but he was able to catch on and earn playing time.

Through the team’s first six games, Smith never played more than 38 snaps in a game. His highest snap rate was week 6 against the Eagles when he was on the field for 54 percent of the offensive snaps. However, his usage only grew from that point forward until the final game of the season when the Vikings rested starters.

Smith never dipped below 56 percent of the offense’s snaps until that Week 17 game against Chicago. As his playing time increased, so did his production. He received multiple targets in every game since the Week 5 win over the New York Giants. Smith became more of a weapon for Kirk Cousins and was a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.

With a good blend of speed and size, Irv Smith Jr. is essentially a big slot receiver for the Vikings. They threw a lot of tight end screens to Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Conklin, but Smith would have been a much better option.

He began stretching the field and tearing apart smaller defensive backs in the passing game. Smith showed the speed to beat linebackers and the size to overpower defensive backs. His route running was also on full display, something that cannot be taken lightly.

After showing incredible growth at just 21 years old, Smith is ready to take the next step as one of the best receiving tight ends in football.