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A Look Inside 2022: Irv Smith | Fantasy Football

What is a post-hype sleeper? It sounds so impressive and so unremarkable at the same time, and those are both accurate. A post-hype sleeper is a fantasy football player that is expected to break out (hype), but the breakout never happened, and now (post) there is potential for the player to exceed their current lower value (sleeper). Irv Smith Jr. is THE quintessential post-hype sleeper tight end.

Smith was projected to be a top-10 TE for 2021. Then he tore his meniscus in the preseason and his hopeful third season was over before it ever started. We passed the hype, and now Smith Jr. is a sleeper tight end drafted as a TE2. 

Note: No Punt Intended aired Wednesday, June 15th, with Special Guest Clinton Holmgren from IDPGuys! We covered the Seahawks, Commanders, and Vikings. 

Irv Smith Jr. is THE Fantasy Football Post-Hype Sleeper TE

Let’s Look Back

Irv Smith Jr. came into the NFL with some excitement because he is so athletic (87th percentile in 40-yard das). He did not have much production in college. However, the University of Alabama offense that does not feature tight ends. In his first two seasons as a professional, he totaled a 66/676/7 stat line in 29 games played and 14 games started.

There is nothing special about that stat line, but we know tight ends take time to develop in the NFL. Travis Kelce broke out his 3rd season (age 27), Darren Waller broke out his 4th season (age 27), George Kittle broke out his 2nd season (age 25), and Mark Andrews broke out his 2nd season (age 24). Smith Jr. is going into his 4th season but only played two seasons and will be turning just 24 years old this August. 

The most interesting stat from Irv Smith Jr.’s career is that in 2020 (2nd season), he was 2nd in the NFL in passer rating when targeted (134.4). Of course, that was with Kirk Cousins as his quarterback, and Cousins is still the Minnesota Vikings’ starting quarterback in 2022.

The hype for Smith Jr. comes from his last four games in 2020 when he was the TE3 in PPR with 9.1 ppg (15/183/3). He performed better in fantasy those four weeks because Kyle Rudolph was injured. Smith Jr. led all Vikings’ tight ends with a 71% snap share during those final four games.

Looking Forward to 2022

Last year’s season-ending injury has depressed Irv Smith Jr.’s draft value for 2022. He should recover from the meniscus tear by the start of the 2022 season. Kyle Rudolph left the Vikings after the 2020 season, and Tyler Conklin left this offseason. Smith Jr. is the clear TE1 on the Vikings for 2022, and he will not be competing for snaps with any other tight end.

There is also a new head coach and offensive coordinator, and the offense should be more pass-focused. Smith Jr. should see his targets (3.3 p/g in 2020) and target share (12% in 2020) increase in 2022. You should expect low-end TE1 production, but with the potential of a top-8 TE season,  if he scores enough touchdowns. He did have a 25.5% target share in the redzone in 2020.

In June, Underdog Fantasy, a best-ball league, is the best ADP to use for redraft. Irv Smith Jr. is drafted as the TE15 at pick 141 (pick 12.09). I always recommend the “great or late” tight end strategy in redraft leagues. If you miss out on the top-5 tight ends (Kelce, Andrews, Pitts, Kittle, or Waller), wait until the double-digit rounds to draft a tight end.

Irv Smith Jr. should be one of your late tight end targets because the draft cost is minimal. He is going to play a lot and has shown what he can do with significant playing time. Irv Smith Jr. has more potential to significantly outscore his ADP than any of the tight ends drafted around him.

A Look Inside the Minnesota Vikings

Editor’s Note: We asked our writers to focus on one player, but we don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Zach focused on Irv Smith in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the rest of the Vikings, prepared by either Josh Hudson or Ryan Weisse

Kirk Cousins: Slow and steady wins the race. If you want the QB12, draft Kirk Cousins. He is not going to finish Top 5 but he will not miss the Top 15. He is the QB12 in fantasy football. While that sounds boring, he still has weekly upside. In a new offense that should resemble the LA Rams, we may even see more pass attempts for Captain Kirk. He is also tied to one of the best young wide receivers in football. The long and short is: You want a piece of Justin Jefferson, and Cousins is the cheapest entry point. -Ryan Weisse

Dalvin Cook: With new head coach Kevin O’Connell coming from the Sean McVay school of utilizing workhorse RBs, it’s safe to say Dalvin Cook should remain an RB1 with overall RB1 upside. The only real question is how many games will Cook miss? Cook has never played more than 14 games through his first five seasons in the league. – Josh Hudson

Alexander Mattison: With rumors swirling that Cook will lineup at wide receiver more this season, that could mean a more significant role for Mattison. He has RB1 upside in games that Cook misses and may now have standalone RB3 value. Regardless, if you draft Cook, who hasn’t played a full season in his career, Mattison is a must-have insurance policy. -Ryan Weisse

Justin Jefferson: Short answer? Draft Justin Jefferson. Long answer? Draft Justin Jefferson. Don’t overthink slam dunk selections.

Adam Thielen: Predicting Adam Thielen for 2022 is hard. He is turning 32 years old. Justin Jefferson will hog targets. KJ Osborn is up and coming. And now Irv Smith is back, and they plan to use Dalvin Cook at wide receiver. That cuts Thielen’s slice of the pie very small for someone with a top-36 ADP at his position. He will need TDs to save his fantasy value, but he has scored 24 in the last two seasons. If he hits double-digit scores again, he is still a WR2 in fantasy. -Ryan Weisse

KJ Osborn: With a new offensive scheme, there might be hope that the Vikings can support multiple targets in the passing game. If you follow the Rams’ offense, Osborn will play Van Jefferson’s role. He’ll likely be Boom or Bust, but if Thielen were to get hurt, he is a solid WR3. You can basically land Osborn for free in fantasy drafts or wait him out on waivers. -Ryan Weisse

We hope you enjoyed our look at Irv Smith for fantasy football this season. You can find all of our A Look Inside articles here!
If you’re prepping for your dynasty drafts, you can also find our rookie consensus rankings here if you’re preparing for your dynasty drafts!