4 important Minnesota Vikings stats to watch for in 2020

(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) Irv Smith Jr.
(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) Irv Smith Jr. /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Irv Smith Jr. /

Irv Smith Jr.’s targets

The number of targets Irv Smith Jr. receives in 2020 is vitally important for two reasons. First, the quantity of times the ball is thrown at him will indicate how soon the Vikings plan to fold him into the offense as their top tight end. Second, should the number be large, it will be a tell-tale sign that his teammate Kyle Rudolph‘s role is becoming minimized.

Rudolph has been the undisputed No. 1 tight end for Minnesota for over eight years and he’s compensated very generously. If Smith starts to gobble the veteran’s snaps, receptions, and touchdowns, then the end is near for Rudolph, at least with the Vikings.

It should be noted that in no way is Rudolph’s performance waning as he helped end the season for New Orleans Saints just seven months ago by catching the game-winning touchdown.

However, it is unlikely Minnesota would carry two alpha-male tight ends for much longer. Of course, Rudolph is a fan-favorite and his departure will probably bring teary-eyed anguish.

Yet, the salary cap outlook for every NFL team right now and moving forward is potentially tumultuous thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rudolph could be on the chopping block if the Vikings are forced to shave salaries in 2021.

Smith’s targets comparative to Rudolph’s in 2020 should serve as tarot cards for what future plans Minnesota has for their tight ends.