It’s Time for the Vikings to Use Irv Smith Jr. Like the 49ers Use George Kittle

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The Minnesota Vikings selected Irv Smith Jr. with the 50th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The tight end from Alabama was a highly touted prospect and landed in the Vikings lap in the second round. Now going into his 2nd year as a pro, it’s time for the Vikings to lean on Smith Jr. to be their version of George Kittle.

His skillset is very unique. At 6′ 2″ and 242 lbs, Smith is very athletic. He boasted good 40-yard dash results, along with running the gauntlet with ease. Irv looked like a wideout in a tight end’s body. And that was just at his combine workout… He’s looking even better after a year in the league.



The Vikings’ George Kittle?

San Francisco 49er, George Kittle has been lauded as the next big thing at the tight end position. Rightfully so, because he might already be, but what if Irv Smith Jr. is the next next big thing…?

The thing that sets Kittle apart from many tight ends, is his ability to run routes, catch the football, be great after the catch and run-block. He is, arguably, the best blocking tight end in the league, but is also being super athletic.

Fortunately for Minnesota Vikings fans, Irv Smith Jr. is only one season into his promising career and was playing second-fiddle to Kyle Rudolph, as a rookie. Still, in a loaded receiving corps, Smith Jr. snagged 36 catches for 311 yards.

With plenty of new opportunity 2020, Smith Jr. should be able to show off more of his skill-set.



Receiving

This video may not show anything ridiculous to the naked eye, but it you look closely, it is impressive. Smith’s ability to locate the ball in stride is not a guarantee for tight ends throughout the NFL.

Look at the jab step + quick hip turn he uses at his break… Something like that will cause opposing linebackers and safeties real fits. With his continually improving routes, we should see even more of this.



Irv Smith Jr. isn’t only impressive when running route and catching the ball, as mentioned in my intro. He is also an effective player, after the catch is made. Players of his size are not supposed to move like this, but Smith Jr. does, which draws even more comparison to George Kittle.



After the Minnesota Vikings sent Stefon Diggs to Buffalo, to be overthrown by Josh Allen, they will be looking for others to pick up his production. It might be too much to ask of rookie Justin Jefferson and recent addition Tajae Sharpe, so Irv Smith Jr. should be able to help fill some of that void, left by Diggs.

Blocking

Smith is more than just a pass-catching threat. He likes to get down and dirty in the trenches. He came into the league as a solid blocker, and got better as a rookie. The sky is the limit for this kid.



I mean, just look at some of these blocks:



And this one:



Oh, and let’s never forget this one:



George Kittle 2.0?

So he has the blocking, he has the ball skills and he has the athleticism. Whats stopping Irv Smith Jr. from becoming George Kittle 2.0? George came into the league and was thrust into the #1 TE role for a struggling 49ers offense, alongside an underwhelming WR group.

He put up 43 catches for 515 yards in that rookie campaign, with much more opportunity than Smith Jr. His break out season was year 2 (88 REC, 1377 YDS, 5 TD). The same is coming for Irv, who is still just 21 years old, by the way. With Gary Kubiak now orchestrating the offense, Smith Jr. should get the opportunity to show what he’s got this season as a go-to option for the Minnesota Vikings.

Brendan Hedtke | Minnesota Sports Fan

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