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Dark horse Pro Bowl pick for the Vikings in 2021

This offense is home to some of the league’s best weapons. Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson can do a ton of damage against any defense in the league. They also garner a lot of fantasy football attention thanks to their prolific production.

The offensive line improved this year during the draft as they spent their first-round pick on tackle Christian Darrisaw and one of their third-round selections on guard Wyatt Davis. They did lose long-time tight end Kyle Rudolph to the Giants during free agency. Rudolph was a favorite target of Kirk Cousins and although he was extremely productive for them over many years, I don’t think this offense will skip a beat without him and may in fact be better positioned for another young star to emerge. Irv Smith Jr. will be taking over as the starting tight end and is my dark horse prediction for a Pro Bowl in 2021.

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At only 22, Irv Smith Jr. has put up solid production while competing for snaps and starts in his first two years in the league. He started in 7 games in each of his first two seasons and had 30 or more receptions with 300 or more receiving yards. He became more of a touchdown threat in 2020 as he finished with five touchdowns as opposed to only two in his rookie year.

Although he will be the fourth option on this team, he will be the beneficiary of an even more dangerous play action offense which will be operating behind a revamped offensive line. With opposing defenses spread thin trying to account for Cook, Thielen, and Jefferson in the passing game, Smith Jr. can operate in the middle of the field and take advantage of mismatch opportunities.

During a recent appearance on the NFL Network Irv Smith Jr. discussed his goals and expectations for the coming season:

“I have very high expectations, especially for myself. I don’t want to put an exact number out there because I don’t want to say I’m gonna score 15 touchdowns or however many, but it’s gonna be a lot. I’m going to be scoring a lot, making a lot of plays and helping my offense in any way, helping my team. I just want to be able to be a playmaker out there…”

Irv Smith Jr. on NFL Network

The third-year tight end seems to be focusing on his contributions to the team in the red zone, which is a part of the field where I expect him to emerge as something better than a third or fourth option for Cousins. I would expect that the play action with Cook could help Irv Smith Jr. to become the first or second option as the offense works around the goal line, with Thielen also being a favored target.

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