4 Minnesota Vikings players entering boom or bust seasons in 2022

(Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images) Za'Darius Smith
(Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images) Za'Darius Smith /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Irv Smith Jr. /

Irv Smith Jr. – TE

If Irv Smith Jr. was hoping to hit the ground running this offseason, another injury to the tight end casts further doubt on his ability for a bounce-back campaign. The Minnesota Vikings are expecting their No. 1 tight end to be back for Week 1, but it might take some time for the player to find his feet after missing the entire 2021 season with another problem.

Smith has all the athletic attributes needed to become a success. His ball skills are first class and he can become a matchup nightmare if utilized currently.

Having an offensive-minded head coach in Kevin O’Connell should be all Smith needs to take his game to greater heights. But the Vikings will not want the former second-round pick out of Alabama suffering yet another frustrating campaign on the sidelines.

This could also have big-time ramifications for Smith, who is in the final year of his deal. If the worst happens, then Minnesota might have no option other than to go in a different direction next year.

That is the worst-case scenario, obviously. Smith certainly has the dynamic traits to become an integral part of Minnesota’s gameplan and given there is now a legitimate wide receiver trio to cover, space should be plentiful across the middle and perhaps in the red zone.

Smith has the tools. It’s putting a consistent run of games together that remains the big concern.