4 Vikings players who need to realize their potential in 2021

(Photo by Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr.
(Photo by Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr. /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr. /

Irv Smith Jr. – TE

Irv Smith Jr. now officially has the keys to the kingdom after the Vikings released prolific veteran Kyle Rudolph as part of their necessary cost-cutting measures earlier this year. The hotly-touted prospect out of Alabama has shown glimpses of enormous promise over his first two seasons in the NFL, and if he can progress further this offseason, then a breakout campaign won’t be far behind.

There is a lot to like about the immense talent at Smith’s disposal. He has solid ball skills, he is a smooth route-runner, and he also possesses the sort of athleticism that is highly desirable in a modern-day tight end.

If Smith is hoping to have things all his own way, he’ll be out of luck.

Minnesota’s head coach Mike Zimmer stated in a recent presser that he expects Tyler Conklin to make his presence felt in 2021 with more responsibility on his shoulders. This should provide Smith with all the urgency he needs and it wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world to see the player put up some career numbers next time around.

Having potential will only get you so far and for so long at the next level. This will be Smith’s third season with the Vikings and this is normally a time when the coaching staff expects to see the biggest strides of all from their skill position players.

What comes next will ultimately be down to Smith. But there is a huge chance for him to emerge as a prominent force in the passing game.