Irv Smith Jr. is the wild card for the Minnesota Vikings in 2022

(Photo by Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr.
(Photo by Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr. /
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Minnesota Vikings
Tyler Higbee (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

Kevin O’Connell’s former team utilized tight ends quite a bit

Bringing Kevin O’Connell in as the head coach should bring even more of an explosion to the Vikings’ offense next season. The Rams have been one of the best offensive units in the NFL over the past few years and their tight ends have helped out immensely. Can the Vikings expect the same contributions from Irv Smith Jr. in the same offense?

Last season, Tyler Higbee posted 560 yards on 61 catches and added five touchdowns to his credit. Those numbers were nearly identical to Tyler Conklin’s in his final season with the Vikings.

Higbee split the reps with Gerald Everett in 2020 as the two tight ends combined for 938 yards on 96 catches and racked up six touchdowns. With O’Connell on the coaching staff, the Rams used their tight ends in the passing game much more than their third and fourth wide receivers.

That should stay true as O’Connell brings parts of that offense to the Vikings and has some serious weapons to work with. Jefferson and Thielen will get the bulk of the targets as usual but Irv Smith might end up with the third-most on the roster as long as he is on the field.

Football has evolved into a game that requires steady contributions from tight ends in both the pass and run games. Looking across the NFL, teams who found deep success typically had a big-time tight end at their disposal.

Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller, Dawson Knox, Rob Gronkowski, and Tyler Higbee were crucial to their team’s success over the past few years. The Minnesota Vikings need to find someone that can serve a similar role. Can that be Irv Smith Jr.?