Tight ends will be targeted, heavily
When things are cooking in a Gary Kubiak offense, tight ends are targeted profusely in the passing game. In 2019, the Vikings targeted tight ends 22.5 percent of the time between Kyle Rudolph (48), Irv Smith Jr. (47), and Tyler Conklin (10).
Certainly, that is not a tiny amount. Yet for perspective, Minnesota had a total of 105 tight end targets last season while Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce himself received 136 targets.
In the 1996 season with the Broncos, John Elway and Co. engineered 31 percent of all pass attempts to tight ends. This was Kubiak’s second year as an offensive coordinator. With Stefon Diggs’ offseason departure, the Vikings suddenly have a need and/or excuse to engage tight ends more in its offense.
The optimistic take is that rookie Justin Jefferson will cruise in and sop up all the Diggs production, but rookies rarely perform at that degree of success. It could happen, although it probably will not. In the scenario that Jefferson hauls in 500 to 800 yards, the targets and yards must go elsewhere.
Insert Smith and Rudolph.
Minnesota got an appetizer-sized portion of what the two men were capable of in 2019. With Kevin Stefanski promoted to the Dawg Pound and a tight-end friendly coach as a replacement, expect Smith and Rudolph to be showcased this year.