5 Vikings players entering the last chance saloon in 2021

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Xavier Woods
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Xavier Woods /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr. /

Irv Smith Jr. – TE

This has nothing to do with Irv Smith Jr.‘s status on the roster, which is assured. But the Vikings did not draft the tight end to just make up the numbers.

Solid if not spectacular. That would be the best way to describe Smith’s start to his career.

More is now needed.

The Vikings decided to cut ties with Kyle Rudolph this offseason to free up funds to spend elsewhere. This means the door is well and truly open for Smith to prove beyond all doubt he is the man to assume the position long term.

Smith has everything going for him athletically. He also managed to get his touchdowns up as a sophomore, which was another bonus.

Head coach Mike Zimmer stated recently that he expects Tyler Conklin’s role to get bigger in Rudolph’s absence, not Smith’s. This might have been a ploy to lay down the gauntlet to his former second-round pick, but it also makes him fully aware that not producing the goods when it matters will see opportunity knock for someone else.

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The ball is in Smith’s court, so to speak. How he handles this additional pressure should tell us plenty about what his overall future in Minnesota could look like.