Smith will progress substantially, but he will not “break out”
Rudolph, deservedly so, “steals” Smith’s targets. It’s just how an NFL offense works. Rudolph has been infinitely clutch throughout his career and it would be buffoonish for him to lose targets because another promising tight end is on the team.
Because the two tight ends will likely end up splitting targets, Smith probably won’t fully blossom until Rudolph departs the Vikings.
Onlookers will continue to see exciting glimpses of Smith’s prowess and he will even statistically progress from the numbers he put up during his rookie season. Yet he will not enter the realm of Zach Ertz production-type numbers until he is the undisputed TE1 on Minnesota’s depth chart.
Therefore, a fair assumption is that Smith will hover around that 500 receiving yards and the three to six touchdown range so long as he shares the tight end room with another competent player in his position group. And, yes, these projections are a statistical improvement from what he finished with during his rookie campaign with the Vikings.
There is still time since Smith is still only 21-years-old. He will likely become the maniac fans expect him to be in about three to four years. People should just always remember that he is basically a muscular wide receiver in terms of his stature.