Hype train for Vikings TE Irv Smith Jr. is picking up a ton of steam

(Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr.
(Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr. /

During the last few months, the hype surrounding the potential of Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. has experienced a significant increase.

From the second it was announced that the Minnesota Vikings had selected former Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. in the 2019 NFL Draft, Kyle Rudolph knew his days in the Twin Cities were numbered.

Now, as the Vikings get ready to head into their 2021 training camp, Smith is the top guy on the team’s tight end depth chart, and Rudolph is attempting to keep his career afloat with the New York Giants.

With Rudolph’s departure, many are expecting a big performance from Smith this year. Rightfully so, however, given all of the new opportunities that could be heading to the third-year tight end in 2021.

Will the hype surrounding Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. prove to be real?

Some might think the pressure of being the No. 1 guy could cause Smith to struggle next season. But this is a kid who had a ton of pressure on his shoulders whenever he hit the field in college for the University of Alabama.

Despite heading into his third NFL season, Smith will still only be 23-years-old when Minnesota plays their first game of the 2021 campaign. If he can produce at an impressive level this year, it could be the beginning of a long tenure with the Vikings.

So far, his career numbers have been nothing to run home about. But he’s shown glimpses of his potential as a top tight end during his two seasons with Minnesota.

In his final six appearances for the Vikings last year, he hauled in a total of 19 catches for 216 yards (11.4 average), and five touchdowns. Spread this pace over a full season and Smith would finish with numbers around 50 receptions for 575 yards and 13 touchdowns.

With several other dangerous playmakers in Minnesota’s offense this year like Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen, Smith should expect to frequently find himself in matchups that will likely be in his favor.

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What the young tight end does with these favorable matchups will determine whether the current hype train that he’s riding will fall off the rails or not.